From Plastic to Fantastic - Managing Loyalty in the mobile age




Loyalty cards – how many do you have in your wallet? If you’re like most of the shopping, eating and drinking public, the answer is probably ‘too many’.

Or even worse - from the point of view of those who want your loyalty – the answer might be ‘none’. Despite the acknowledged success of loyalty programs over the last decade, many consumers now have ‘loyalty fatigue’ – fed up with bulging wallets full of plastic cards, not to mention flooded email inboxes full of special offers that they somehow have to remember until they are next in the store or venue.

A new approach

Which is why smart retailers, hospitality venues and QSRs are turning away from traditional loyalty management and recognising the power of the ever-present mobile phone to offer rewards, discounts and special deals.  

The reasons for offering loyalty programs haven’t changed –  to win new customers; to encourage repeat business and to increase sale value. But with mobile transforming the delivery of those programs, they are more cost effective and the results better than ever achieved with plastic.

What is ‘mobile loyalty’?

In simple terms, mobile loyalty uses a virtual card, held on the customer’s phone, usually in Apple Wallet or Android’s Google Wallet.  Hooray - no more stacks of cards to carry around. But mobile loyalty is more than a straight replacement for card-based programs; it is ‘loyalty on steroids’ offering smarter, more effective management to the provider, and a vastly improved service to consumers.  

What does it offer?

1)      Active data – the virtual card shows live data, meaning that the balance will always be up to date and customers always know exactly how close they are to their rewards. Other key data, such as expiry date and terms and conditions will also be accurate – particularly useful for the provider if these change, as they can be certain that all members have received the updates. You can even change the design of the card and have it sent out to all members at the press of a button.


2)      Automatic sign up – traditionally, to join a loyalty program, a customer fills in a written form at the register; taking up their and the staff member’s time, not to mention delaying any customers waiting to be served. Mobile loyalty offers a simple and efficient self-service signup  - no more written forms, no misreading of details, no queues at the register.  Posters or tent-cards in store offer an incentive reward for joining, and have the QR code on them, which takes users to the sign-up website, where the card is generated and put straight into their mobile wallet.  


3)      Location specific offers – for many years loyalty systems have used CRM data to understand customer profiles, and tailor offers accordingly. But, the one piece of information that they didn’t have was the customer’s location. The problem with offers sent by email, or even by post, is that the customer has to remember/keep/file them until they are in the store or venue. Perhaps the biggest advantage of mobile loyalty is the ability to send a message to the customer’s phone when they are near your store. Using iBeacon technology, stores and venues can send messages and offers to their loyalty members when they know they are close by. They can even tailor the message as they move closer, encouraging them to come in and engage.


Switching from traditional to mobile loyalty systems offers multiple benefits for the customer and the provider. The great news for providers is that they can be implemented with minimal changes and in all likelihood with the equipment you already have.  For those who are moving into loyalty programs for the first time, using mobile technology breaks down many of the barriers to entry and allows for a swift implementation and fast ROI.

So if you’re in the loyalty game, it’s time to change the game and make the switch from plastic to fantastic.


Andrew Paulett is the Director of Positive Outcomes, a specialist retail, hospitality and QSR consultant and software provider. To discuss the benefits of mobile loyalty in more detail, please connect with Andrew via LinkedIn, or at