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How the Right Loyalty Program Can Help During a Pandemic

Marketing

How the Right Loyalty Program Can Help During a Pandemic

A little more than a year ago, Majid Al Futtaim unveiled Share, its app-based lifestyle rewards program. A few months later, Covid-19 struck. Communicate sat with Kashmira Motiwalla, Head of the Share loyalty program at Majid Al Futtaim, to discuss what that meant for the newly-launched initiative.

What impact did the pandemic and the lockdowns have on Share?

For us, the biggest lesson from Covid was about empathy and creating a real sense of community.

Customers want to engage with programs that are about real loyalty and not just deal loyalty and transactions. We’re not a frequent flyer program where you deal with customers maybe once or twice a year. We’re in their lives on a daily basis, with groceries, entertainment, fashion, luxury items in the mix; and we felt that, at that moment, they really needed to know that we were there for them. This wasn’t about getting them to go buy something in Carrefour because the rest of our assets were shut. Just because they don’t have the ability to do what you want them to do right now doesn’t mean that you don’t engage with them.

So, we focused very much away from transactions and buying to just let customers know that we were there, alongside them. For example, we asked customers to write in and tell us how they were coping, provide tips, share what they were doing. And we offered Share points to them for that. That was a way of giving back to the community. We also opened the family point-sharing functionality up to everyone. You could share your points with anyone you thought needed them the most, and people really took to that with about five million points shared from member to member.

This made a huge difference and validated for us the program’s whole concept. Our vision is about creating great moments for everyone, every day. And we believe that the best moments are the ones that we share with the people we love. That’s really why we built the loyalty program around the concept of sharing and called Share, rather than Majid Al Futtaim Loyalty or MAF Rewards. The pandemic really gave us an opportunity to bring that notion to life.

Share has a very large and diverse audience. How did you manage this aspect during this crisis?

Our reach was probably not as personalized because everyone was affected by the crisis in some form or manner and most of our communication was to everyone. But, as we move beyond the lockdown, our communication becomes much more personalized to the behaviors that customers are demonstrating.

Now, one of the challenges that we face is that we’ve got a diverse ecosystem and typically, you come into that ecosystem from a particular point of view. So, we cater to what the customer is doing now, but we also try to introduce them to something else that we think might be meaningful. Our vision is to get more and more personalized to the different segments that we have. For example, many loyalty programs have tiers and they’re always the same tiers. We’re looking to see how we can create tiers that are much more discreet and have to do with the behavior you display, not a one size fits all.

Have you observed major durable behavioral changes?

From the program perspective, we’re seeing a return of spending back to pre-Covid levels. But it’s a self-selecting process because these are the people that have the most affinity to our currency and therefore they’re the first movers.

In the very early days of Covid, we saw a massive use of Share points as currency instead of cash. It was very reassuring for us that customers value the currency. The fact that they can earn points across such a large ecosystem is another factor; within our ecosystem, we have everything that meets their needs.

If there’s anything that bears out for Share, really, it is that fact that in the year that Share was launched, customer loyalty went up by almost ten points. We have the highest awareness amongst loyalty programs. For a program that’s just been around for one year, that’s quite an achievement.

How much of an opportunity and how much of misfortune was the fact that Share launched just before the pandemic started?

We would never take advantage of anyone’s grief, but Covid gave us an opportunity to really reach out to our customers. It also probably gave us an opportunity, during the slower months when the assets were shut, to step back and reflect back on our long-term strategy as well. And what we saw was such a strong validation of what we want to build.

We believe the future is not just about a loyalty program for a particular brand; we believe it is about creating an ecosystem that engages with our customer and their day-to-day life. When the customer wants to do something, we want them to turn to Share because Share is a trusted partner for them, brings them the best value, brings them everything that they need in their life, understands them, and provides a seamless experience.

Covid allowed us to see that we were on the right path. Yes, revenue targets were obviously affected but I’m hoping that the kind of relationship that we were able to build with our customers will allow us to bring it back quicker.

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