In today’s ultra-competitive credit/debit landscape, the benefits offered can make a substantial difference in a consumer’s mind. Like many other aspects involved in the buying experience, rewards programs are quickly evolving to meet escalating consumer expectations.
This past week, we had the opportunity to talk with Andrew Gates, Loyalty Consultant with CO-OP, about how CO-OP Member Rewards is staying a step ahead of the competition to offer members a uniquely gratifying experience. Here are his valuable insights from our discussion.
Q. How does Member Rewards differ from a typical credit/debit loyalty program?
A. We are making it easier than ever for members to earn points, without adding cost for the credit union. Where CO-OP makes a big effort is primarily in the merchant-funded space. It is safe to say that we have the most robust merchant-funded rewards program in the industry. In terms of national online products, CO-OP is leading the way with the soon to be released browser plugin, which allows a member to get their rewards from the merchant they are buying from without going through a third party or a rewards website. It makes things more convenient for the member because the logo of the program shows up everywhere they can earn bonus points, including search results in Google, Bing and Yahoo searches.
Q. Are there any other points of differentiation?
A. Tackling the local merchant arena is much harder in general because there are so many “mom and pops” out there—but that’s where our members shop and want to earn rewards. We will soon have close to 30,000 merchants involved in our local merchant program—and we’ll continue to grow and expand over the coming months. We also make it easy for our clients to add their own local merchants through an online boarding tool – which increases the value to the member.
Q. What effect does merchant funded have on the increasing value of rewards?
A. At the end of the day, what we are trying to do is deliver value to the member where and when they want it. By partnering with merchants, there is funding for more customized incentives. We give them greater access to our members in exchange for the ability to offer a better deal. We expect the deals to get more and more exclusive as our data set gets better and richer. So instead of a member going to Groupon for a local deal, they will turn to their credit union.
Q. How is Member Rewards uniquely suited to today’s modern consumer?
A. Today’s modern consumer is looking for value through increased personalization. They are okay with appropriate usage of data if it is being used to deliver a personal experience. When you look at how people are using the Internet—especially millennials—they are putting everything out there. So from our standpoint, the two critical items are delivering value in a timely, relevant fashion and in the way they want it.
Q. Are there any precedents to learn from when delivering such an innovative rewards program?
A. The hot one right now is mobile. Ultimately, when you download your credit union app, you have access with ease. What people don’t want is to have to think when they go into a store. “Do I use my card? An app? PayPal?” That’s why Visa and MasterCard have been successful for so long and mobile wallets have had a hard time taking off. The former takes extra thinking. So we want to provide something that is available almost without thinking. But at the same time, the controls have to be in place so I can turn it off or that I’m not inundated with offers every time I walk into a store. This is a fine line to walk, and we are working to understand that. This is also where personalization comes into play, because for example, I will likely be more open to receiving alerts than another person. It’s not one size fits all.
Q. What about credit unions that might be uncertain about how to market to millennials without “turning off” their existing membership base?
A. I don’t believe the non-millennials are that different anymore, in terms of what they want to see from their credit union. The world is moving forward together on this, millennials and everyone else. Each person is an individual, so giving people the ability to manage how they are alerted and set their own preferences is critical. I think the biggest difference between millennials and the rest is that millennials use technology and expect certain features and personalization. The rest of us are surprised and delighted by it.
For more insight on managing your rewards program, visit our Member Rewards page of our website or check out related posts in Insight Vault.