2021 Loyalty Expo Engaging for Carlos Dunlap-Beard and Tom Baker, Clarus Commerce

Different interview, same tune: The 2021 Loyalty Expo was a delight for all who attended!

Loyalty provider Clarus Commerce, who had several brand partners up for awards, had a significant presence during the expo and certainly came out of the experience pleased.  

Vice President of Business Development Carlos Dunlap-Beard and Vice President of Strategic Partnerships Tom Baker were both at the Expo and recently spoke with Loyalty360 CEO Mark Johnson about their presentation at the expo, brands they were impressed with, and how the holiday season will impact the loyalty industry.

State of the Industry
On the first day of the Expo, brand members were treated to a special “State of Customer Loyalty” panel featuring Brierley’s Don Smith, Cheetah Digital’s Jillian Dimoff, and Clarus Commerce’s Carlos Dunlap-Beard. 
A hot topic was premium programs, and as Dunlap-Beard describes, these are paid memberships that grant access to better rewards, more focus, and of course, higher customer expectations. Naturally, brands were curious how they could roll out a fresh take on loyalty as opposed to free programs.

“Today has become such a subscription-based economy,” says Baker, explaining that consumers pay for different needs through various subscriptions. “When you think about it, a paid tier is not very different.”
Dunlap-Beard noted that premium programs also interested brands who wanted to better engage with their audience.

“A lot of what they were looking for is ‘I think I have a decent program, but I believe I’m missing something,’” he recalls. “’How can I better engage my set of program members who I like and want to keep?’” 
Ultimately, Dunlap-Beard was happy to see brands relying on experienced and resourceful strategic partners like Clarus Commerce to develop their programs. 

Brands Step it Up
Amidst the many positives of the conference, both Dunlap-Beard and Baker were perhaps most impressed with the number of brands taking bold risks with their loyalty programs. 

For Carlos, a highlight was Bank of America’s work on the technological front via the AI program, Erica. Similarly, he enjoyed Del Taco’s app-driven “Del Yeah!” loyalty program for its newfound ease of use. 

Baker was a fan of Day 1’s “Challenges in Assessing Customer Loyalty Partners” brand member roundtable with Tim Horton’s Matt Moore, Caesar’s Entertainment’s Mostafa Boutajrit, and Hertz’s Ryan Mitchell. 

“When Caesar’s talked about the partnership they made with Atlantis, it seemed unusual since they aren’t part of the Caesar system,” explains Baker. “But Mostafa said it worked out really well, and customers appreciated it because they know [customers] do different things, and they want to be involved in different aspects of their life.” 

Dunlap-Beard sums up many presentation’s themes well, saying, “So many brands have gotten away from what’s easier for them and towards what’s best for the consumer.”

Holiday Trouble
Coming out of the Expo, both Clarus Commerce representatives believe the holiday season will be a momentous occasion for those in the loyalty industry. 

“Retention will be a huge focus over the course of the next six months – there’s going to be disruptions, everyone admitted that,” says Baker, discussing logistical issues impacting businesses for the coming months. 

Dunlap-Beard agrees with Baker, though he hopes that “brands that took the time during the pandemic…to reinvent their strategy and innovate” survive the holiday season and come out stronger, asking themselves how to “do” loyalty and engagement better to retain an understandably upset consumer base. 

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