Loyalty Cards status quo

In the world of business transactions, consumers and merchants alike are continuously and relentlessly inundated, the costumer with cards, rewards, points, friends programs, and the like (see Tesco) to incentivize, the vendor with programs, numbers, tools, spreadsheets, and more with the intention of informing. Every card, every pin number, every loyalty membership for a particular store is just one more item to keep track of and one more thing that gets lost in cluttered drawers while the prestige of being a member is a quickly waning one with the prevalence of every corner store now setting up its own customer programs, be it even something as simple as a punch card that allows you a tenth drink free when you have already purchased nine at the full price. How is this new age problem going to be solved? By turning our cards into just another app, another side effect of the smartphone? It sure looks like its headed that way, though we aren’t quite there yet. At the moment apps just add a layer of complication and extend transaction time needlessly. For the time being, the answer seems to be to simplify, simplify, simplify. Now Buzzoek is doing that all with one card, one card that the user already possesses.

The idea was born out of frustration with current solutions

The idea to strip down all the complications and logistical troubles associated with having a plentitude of cards of all the same shape and size, tangible objects so easily forgotten, then lost, to a back corner of a disorganised desk space comes from John Staunton. After gaining experience working across widely different fields, he co-founded Buzzoek a year ago. Buzzoek aims to address various angles of customer loyalty and payment options. Primarily, the focus for consumers is on simplicity: simplicity in engaging with merchants, as well as simplicity in being rewarded for loyalty.  For merchants, the main point is to turn the transaction which is the antiquated crux of the shopping experience into so much more than that: an enjoyable and above all memorable experience. Every business will be able to see this realised differently to their own specifications, but general direction and guidance is no doubt possible. Payment providers need to find new models of how to distinguish themselves to deliver exceptional service across the board. Buzzoek also provides the stores using their technology useful insights to help them understand and differentiate their customer base along new lines allowing them to better serve their customers and grow their business.  Meanwhile, the customer is able to use one card for all rewards and loyalty points, making every visit a fun experience, instead of a laborious chore.

Online and offline converging

There is a growing paradox between the anonymity of sitting at home, shopping online, yet receiving a hyper tailor-made experience, while going to a brick-and-mortar retailer where customers are treated generically and interaction is nothing close to the custom-fit ease consumers have grown accustomed to. With declining sales numbers in the physical stores becoming a continuous trend, and consumers shifting their focus to the world of online purchases, retailers need to offer their customers something more than just a transaction, some interactive experience that it is – as yet – not possible to replicate in the cyber world. This means daunting changes ahead for merchants, particularly in the realm of how retailers act and interact with their customer base, not least among them online, tying their shopping experience in with social media.

On the customer side of things, the consumer is overwhelmed with the aforementioned myriad of point systems, rewards clubs, membership cards, and loyalty promotions. In reality, these loyalty cards and the like seem to not further any brand loyalty, but rather are just part of the towering wave of entirely irrelevant offers. Offers that mean nothing to the consumer and need to be painstakingly sifted through to find something actually pertinent and personally valuable.

The services working together with business owners – providing everything from payment processors, internet and phone service, marketing, merchandising, brand agencies, etc. – must also adapt and expand their services to maintain their status with businesses, by providing new and more convenient value-adding services. With more and more shopping moving online, providers including Square, PayPal, Adyen, etc. have changed the playing field, and if older service providers want to stay in the game, that means to evolve to suit the changing needs of today’s consumer.

One way that payment-form can change, is that it merges to become one with loyalty rewards systems. People use and love rewards and the shopkeepers providing them profit from building relationships with their customers.  However, in recent years the urge to modernise undermined the need for simplicity and streamlining, resulting in messy rewards apps that involve several steps to complete, instead of stripping down the process to its bare essentials and minimising time and effort spent on rewarding return customers. Even large corporations, which could afford to invest and develop sophisticated loyalty card solutions, have not done so, reverting to using either archaic stamp cards or convoluted mobile apps.

How to make loyalty programs convenient

The question then becomes: How can vendors receive complex and multi-faceted information and insights about the businesses they are running in a simple way? How can consumers receive offers pertinent and relevant to them rather than a generic one-size fits-all discount? How can the payment system evolve to meet the changing needs of today’s customers?

According to Buzzoek four requirements need to be met:

  1. A solution for today’s merchant needs to be very low cost and have minimal installation effort – including any hardware installation and loyalty program creation and set-up. We’ve managed to get it down to under 2 minutes.
  2. Shopkeepers need help & hand-holding to create a customer interaction approach that suits their business (whether giving rewards, helping charity, or creating memberships) or something completely different. Here, having a consultative salesforce rather than pure salesmen makes all the difference.
  3. Businesses should have the option to work together to create offers – for example, buy a coffee and get a discount in the hairdresser next door… but they shouldn’t be forced to. Flexibility is paramount in any solution.
  4. The online and offline world need to be seamlessly linked, providing a consistent multi-channel experience. Embrace online, don’t fight it.

Merchants care about actionable recommendations

For merchants what matters most in the end is not a complex graphical representation of the data on hand, but rather what actions need to be taken. This does in no way imply that the analytics or algorithms applied would be simple, only that their advanced data is reduced of its apparent complexity and presented in a clear and understandable manner. Founder John Staunton learned through personal experience that more is not necessarily better when it comes to providing merchants with figures and graphs.  Instead, what is happening is once again an inundation in information;  merchants, too, want a minimalist approach, broken down into 3 actions points on which to focus each week, for example, and to be delivered the relevant information rather than logging into a platform and seeking it out among huge troves of other, undoubtedly interesting but less immediately personally relevant, information.

End users only need one loyalty card

Back on the consumer side of things, it remains of the utmost importance that loyalty cards don’t gather dust in corners, but are actually used. With Buzzoek the answer is simple: Use a card the customer already carries, such as a public transport card (e.g. the OV Chipkaart in the Netherlands) or any other kind of NFC device. They can be used instantly without registration, and can be scanned through the material of your wallet so you don’t even need to remove them from their holder. They can be used instantly without registration, and can be scanned through the material of your wallet so you don’t even need to remove them from their holder.

In keeping with the theme of convenience and ease, it is possible to download an app or register via a consumer dashboard to access several other features, like tracking points, receiver personal offers, donating rewards via social media platforms or even gamifying loyalty. It is also possible to reduce paper waste and wallet clutter by providing consumers with e-receipts. Of course this is all a customer choice, and all optional, none of the information is required from the consumer.

Toeing the line between convenience and privacy is increasingly tricky in our connected world, especially since so much useful behavioural information is out there based on geo-positioning which could be used to look at customers in a much more meaningful way. Because of this delicate balance, it is important that customers always remain in control of how they are tracked and are able to opt out easily. Customers can remain anonymous forever, and still receive loyalty rewards, although the rewards are better when information is shared. This however is up to the customer to decide, not for anyone else to dictate.

Addressing untapped potential of behaviour-based offers

The information collected should be used to provide customers with behavior-based offers and benefits, all of which will ultimately be combined in one step with payment, rewards, coupons, discounts, gift cards, vouchers, etc. Here payment providers have as yet untapped potential, since they know who spends what and where. However, passing on this information is something the public is still staunchly opposed to, so new possibilities may still open up here in the future. When it comes to Buzzoek, data is stored in a secure cloud and accessed by APIs, and though rapidly accessibly, strongly protected. However, there is the further option for consumers to set up a profile and attach an image to their card for visual identification confirmation.

All in all, with intent to simplify and enhance the transactions that still happen in brick and mortar stores, Buzzoek features experience improvements for the consumer and merchant alike. Exciting new developments to watch!

Follow Buzzoek on Twitter @buzzoek

John Staunton BuzzoekJohn Staunton
Co-founder & CEO Buzzoek

John is a rocket-scientist that decided to take his engineering skills back down to earth, and he’s life-hacking the hell out of it. Don’t ever let him show off his guitar-skills. Start a conversation about rugby instead.

(Image Credit: Nick Webb)

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