Card-linked loyalty 101
We catch up with intu's commercial director Trevor Pereira, to understand intu’s new loyalty programme, intu Pocket
Trevor Pereira has a very broad remit. He’s the commercial director at intu - the largest shopping centre landlord in the UK. intu owns 17 of the country’s most popular retail destinations (as well as three in Spain) and welcomes 400 million visitors every year. Responsible for overall visitor experience, Trevor looks after everything from facilities management to marketing, whether that’s on or offline. He has one key goal – to get more people visiting intu centres and to keep them there longer, for the benefit of intu’s rent-paying customers.
His role, he says, mirrors the broader trend towards omni-channel experiences being seen across the retail industry. “We’re trying to find the best way to blend our visitors’ digital experiences and habits with their physical shopping experience at an intu centre”, Trevor explains. “We want to reach people in a way that’s relevant to them wherever they are”.
intu’s new loyalty programme, intu Pocket, is one of the key ways in which intu is achieving that. We sat down with Trevor to find out why card-linking works better than open banking alternatives, how to get customers (or brands) onboarded and what a good loyalty programme looks like.
Why did intu need a loyalty programme?
Before we built intu Pocket, we had a big user database, but no effective way to keep them engaged. On the digital side, we had an app where we’d highlight retailer products and make them available to view on our website, but there was no mechanism for us to actually track their loyalty and engagement. Because we’re in the space between the brands and the shoppers, we don’t transact with our visitors directly, and that meant that they were largely anonymous to us.
Our motivation for building a card-linked loyalty programme was to get closer to the people visiting our centres. We wanted to take their shopping experience beyond a single transaction with a brand. By rewarding their spend in our centres, we’d encourage them to come back more often.
Why did you choose card-linking?
We had a number of people inside the business with experience of traditional cashback and affiliate programmes. Their experience in the space and our research showed that card-linking was the only way to recreate an online reward mechanism in the physical store.
Card-linking enables us to consolidate lots of in-centre rewards, and is the simplest possible way for us to reward visitors. It’s the most direct route for us to speak to our rent-paying customers and get their offers into visitors’ hands.
The changes in Open Banking regulation were a major consideration. While we did look at some Open Banking solutions, the regulatory framework around them was incredibly complex and there was a lot of uncertainty about how that would change in the future. Fidel’s card-linking API was much faster and easier to implement.
What was the process of building the Pocket app? Were there any challenges?
We started with the basics - wrote a business proposition, set some goals and got executive support and sign off.
One issue we faced was understanding the regulatory environment around cash distribution. Our legal team helped us understand that landscape and the role we and our partners played in the ecosystem.
How easy was it to get merchants onboarded?
We built a proposition deck that explains the benefits and we have a team working with key brands to introduce them to the platform. The response has been really encouraging - we’ve got around 40 brands and over 200 stores signed up now, and that’s growing every day.
The sell has been quite straightforward - the concept of card-linking makes sense to brands, especially if they’ve engaged with cashback online before. Previously, the regulatory environment and tech wasn’t there – but now it is, the idea of our visitors spending as they would normally and get rewarded instantly really resonates.
It’s strengthening our relationships with our rent-paying customers, whether they are retail, F&B or leisure operators, as we’re generating more sales for them. The granularity of the data and the flexibility of the programme means they can use it tactically. Brands can set up different offers for specific times of the day or week, or even for individual stores across their portfolio or spending thresholds.
What has the response been like from intu’s visitors?
We were really encouraged by how quickly and positively our visitors have reacted to the concept of card-linking. The conversion rate from those that download the app and become members, to actually linking their card and spending, has beaten our initial targets.
The prevalence of electronic wallets and things like Apple pay means customers are quite comfortable with entering their card details into their phone.
At the moment, we’re going centre by centre and promoting intu Pocket via email and social to each database. We’re also about to trial SMS promotion to visitors while they’re in the centre.
How are you measuring success?
Our twin focus at this stage is on getting brands and visitors onboarded, and we’re tracking well against those targets. Next, we’ll start to look at spend metrics.
One of the real benefits of card-linking is that it helps us get a clearer idea of the value of our database. We’ve experimented with other ways to gather data about customer behaviour in our stores, like tracking movement using anonymised WiFi signals. From that, we’re able to see how often they visit and how long they stay – but we’ve never been able to see transaction data or spend. Now, we have that as another tool to understand the behaviour of our visitors and the value of our database.
How do you plan to develop the programme?
Our next step is to work more closely with brands to see how tactical use of rewards can influence behaviour while visitors are physically in-store. At the moment, we’re largely using static offers as an incentive to get more footfall to our centres, but when we have more scale we’d like to see how we can move customers around using the app.
In a digital world where everything is at your fingertips, the important thing is to give people a reason to interact with your brand. We’re really interested in using traditional loyalty tools and new tech like Fidel to provide those nudges that keep our brand front of mind.
To find out more about how Fidel helped intu build the Pocket app and drive a 47% increase in customer transaction value, read the case study.
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