How Is Blockchain Impacting The Gifts, Benefits, Rewards, And Loyalty (Gbrl) Industry?

Raj N Phani, Founder, ZAGG ProtocolPassionate about exploring the blockchain eco-space, Raj has spearheaded the growth story in organizations such as PricewaterhouseCoopers and eYantra Industries

Companies come and go, what gives them the power to sustain and succeed is one of the most important and empowered assets - the customer! One might argue that customers are not the only driving force behind the success of a company, and rightly so; they are not the sole determinant, but a game changer nevertheless.

In order to continuously enhance one's customer base, retain, engage, and keep their faith intact, businesses have to work aggressively in coming up with means to satisfy the basic human nature ­ the need to be acknowledged and the desire to be appreciated. Businesses have, over and above providing qualitative products and services, always tried to increase their base of loyal customers by running programs to engage the customer constantly with their brand. Gifts, Benefits, Rewards and Loyalty programs (GRBL) have become such a common exercise with merchants and retailers across verticals that it has today, become an industry in its own right.

Millions of companies across the planet are working on zillions of ideas to gain and maintain customer loyalty on a daily basis. Imagine the sheer amount of investment in the form of time, money, human resources that are spent on customer retention and engagement strategies.

It is said that businesses that have loyalty programs are 88 percent more profitable than competitors who do not. This is probably why there are as many loyalty programs around in the world as there are companies. One can find benefits and loyalty programs ranging from airline companies' tiered points programs, which involve partnerships with rental car companies, hotels, restaurants, and shops, to Amazon's upfront fee program, Amazon Prime, which provides free shipping and allows members to apply rewards points from participating companies toward purchases. Amazon has an unbeatable record of retaining over 95 percent of their customers after just one year.

Most businesses have evolved from spend-and-get models and have entered into the new generation of online rewards. They are adopting omni-channel and multi-channel programs that reward customers for every interaction they make with and for the brand ­ spend referrals, shares on social media and more. As many as 64 percent of brands reported an increase in their loyalty program memberships due to the level of sophistication that they had added to them.

In the offline space, Starbucks is said to have revolutionized the business of coffee and it is not just the wide range of lip-smacking coffees and short bites that goes towards making them one of the best in their industry, it is their three-tier loyalty program, which has now been acknowledged as a best-in-class program. Post implementation of the Starbucks Rewards customer loyalty program, the company reported an increase in revenue of U.S. 2.65 billion. And when they went mobile. Today the mobile app generates around 6 million sales per month.
In India, one of the best state-of-the-art loyalty programs, "First Citizen", crafted by Shoppers Stop, reflects the retail giants' focus on digitizing their customers' journey. Which is also what brought them to the ubiquitous mobile as a part of their broader omni-channel strategy, and today their First Citizen program is considered the best in business.

While the industry is unquestionably evolving and growing, the age-old dilemma of accumulated points versus the number of benefits realized from these innumerable loyalty programs persists. It will continue to do so unless there is a way to make those points count and add value.

A disruptive technology, blockchain creates a unique algorithm generated token, when a loyalty point is either issued or redeemed

As per a survey, U.S. 160 billion is the annual value of unredeemed loyalty points; U.S. 45 billion have been left unused on gift cards in last 10 years while 31 percent of credit card holders have never redeemed their credit card rewards. There are several reasons why the remaining programs end up unused, forgotten, and eventually not serving the purpose that they were made for. These include:

• Companies, are unable to sell the value proposition of the program to the customer
• The customer is already part of several other programs, domestic and international, each having their own point systems and different means of access (name, mobile number, email ID, etc.) and they lose track of them
• Each program has a different system of points and varied redemption options, which are cumbersome to keep track of
• Customers believe that the potential to earn real benefits from the particular program is not worth the effort
• Most programs are maintained on the businesses' database, and the customer is only left with a card or an email to keep track of them
• Once the programs are rolled out, companies rarely follow up on their redemption with their customers
• Companies seldom build a good program that can be accessed on mobile, providing ease of access
• Businesses are not investing in data analytics to gain insights into what the customers may expect as a part of the programs, which means that the benefits of the program are often random and without any real or personalized value The redemption process is long and time consuming
• Most programs demand that the redemption happens only at a specific store/stores, curtailing the customers' reach

Businesses and corporate may have the right intention, but they lack the expertise to design personalized GBRL programs and do not have a wide merchant network to enable easy redemption of points.

What they need is one unified platform that will enable them to continuously engage with their affiliates and customers, and enable the customers to reap all the benefits of a multitude of disparate GBRL programs from an integrated globally-accessible space, while also keeping their identity unique and critical data sacrosanct. What they need is block chain to piece all the missing bits of the puzzle together.

A disruptive technology, block chain creates a unique algorithm-generated token when a loyalty point is either issued or redeemed. Grouped into blocks, these tokens become a ledger of transactions that can be accessed across a network of businesses, customers and merchants. These blocks are decentralized and secure and act as one single wallet or app for the customers to view and access all their loyalty programs from, without having to keep track of disparate terms and point systems. Companies can also add many more affiliates and partners without added complexity and enable the customers to redeem their accumulated points from a wide range of stores. They can leverage these technologies to also gain meaningful insights into the customers' behavior and create more specific, personalized programs.

ZAGG Protocol is the first truly global block chain-based solution for the GBRL industry. It is a one-stop solution for businesses to engage with their customers effectively at an affordable cost. Customers get the dollar value for their accumulated points, which are all accessible on one platform. Merchants onboard their GBRL financial assets on them, providing an opportunity for end-users to aggregate and trade them seamlessly.

Now businesses will find it easy to create personalized customer engagement and retention programs in the digital space. And as for customers, well, let us just say that all those cards and vouchers taking up precious space in their wallet are no longer required; points accumulated across a multitude of merchants can now be tracked and redeemed with the power of block chain anywhere in the world at the click of a button or can be exchanged for ZAGG tokens.