As several industries are starting to use increasingly technological products and offerings, it has become clear that technology literacy is a must.

Perhaps nothing in the modern-day reflects this notion other than the untapped potential of cryptocurrencies and nonfungible tokens (NFT), an area that Adhish Kulkarni wants to capitalize on.

Kulkarni, SVP and GM of Digital Engagement and Loyalty Solutions for loyalty strategy provider Evolving Systems, spoke with Loyalty360 for the latest edition of Loyalty Live, and focused on how he believes loyalty programs will evolve in the years to come, with the aforementioned crypto and NFTs playing a massive role in his plans.



Loyalty Evolved
As loyalty stands, Kulkarni sees a few areas of improvement for the future.

“I see a convergence coming in and the ability for people to use loyalty currencies across the board and be able to integrate into reward portfolios that come from various areas,” he explains. “I think more openness and connectedness will be one characteristic.”

Beyond that, he thinks a trend will emerge of traditional, structured loyalty programs will devolve, while loyalty becomes embedded in nearly every part of the customer journey. The customer will experience loyalty in a more constant and “integrated” way from start to finish. 

Finally, Kulkarni hopes to see an enhanced view of customer value, stating that “It’s no longer about how much you spent with me or how long you’ve been with me, but [it’s about] trying to evaluate if you’re a brand advocate and trying to understand other ways of defining value.”

Evolving Systems Always Adapting
When asked how Evolving Systems is different from its competitive set, Kulkarni has clear answers. Three things make them different, with each case displaying the supplier’s dedication to adaptation.

First, Evolving Systems has continually worked on its platform to handle big data streaming. Kulkarni sees this as a necessity due to their work in the telco space, “where there is a ton of data to process.” 

Second, Kulkarni touches on gamification.

“[It] has become a bit of a hot topic now,” he says. “We’ve been seeing it and building features into it that enable marketers to gamify many aspects of the customer journey very easily in the same interface.”

Lastly, Evolving Systems operates with various partners, so Kulkarni says the company is focused on making its platform very open and integrative with a broader ecosystem. By allowing this, they can keep up with the new technology and functionalities that constantly affect the loyalty industry.

Looking to Crypto and NFTs
While acknowledging how broad the landscape is in the digital currency world, Kulkarni can’t contain his excitement for its potential in loyalty.

“One area where crypto is already being used by brands — like Rainforest Café, Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, and Burger King — is as rewards.” 

With the hype in the market around crypto, he believes crypto is a clear choice as a rewards mechanism. 
Moving to NFTs, he clarifies that they can be more than just digital art, listing membership cards, collectibles, and interactive digital content as potential rewards, as seen in the NFL and other sports and gaming conglomerates.

However, there are risks he cites, such as volatility and governance. 

“None of that is insurmountable, but brands need to know they’re playing in a new space,” he warns. “For some brands, it might not be the right thing, but for some forward-looking, digital, youth-centric brands, this might be an exciting step for them.”

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