Zsuzsa Kecsmar is the Co-founder, CMO and Head of Partnerships at Antavo, an enterprise loyalty technology provider that builds loyalty programs for brands across various verticals, including retailers and shopping malls.

Loyalty360 CEO Mark Johnson met with Kecsmar to discuss the company’s growth during the pivotal 2020/2021 years during and following the pandemic and how the changing consumer landscape has impacted brand loyalty.  

Could you give us a brief history of Antavo, an overview of the company today, and how you partner with brand clients? 
Kecsmar: Antavo is a loyalty management platform, meaning that we provide sophisticated and flexible technology for  enterprise companies’ loyalty programs. This has been our company’s focus since 2016, though the company was founded back in 2012 with lead generation in mind.  

In the past 100 years, the main goal of loyalty programs was to incentivize a purchase. But in 2022 this is not enough anymore: to be successful, companies have to engage with their customers outside of the buying cycle. This is why gamification, experiential rewards, and lifestyle loyalty programs are so important.

For example, one of our clients is a mountaineering product retailer. The company’s mission statement is to promote the idea of hiking, so their loyalty program was designed to do so, and, indirectly, to use their products. This was made possible by integrating the Strava tracking app into the loyalty program, which tracks the hiking progress of members, and prompts the loyalty platform (powered by Antavo) to issue rewards when said members reach a new height or milestone.

2021 was a big year for Antavo with significant revenue growth, an expanded client portfolio, and the release of your annual Global Customer Loyalty Report. Can you tell us a bit about your “key wins” from the last year? 
Kecsmar: 2021 found us ready. After the pandemic, digital transformation has accelerated and companies around the globe were looking for best-in-class solutions to revitalize themselves. Antavo had the technology, product and processes, as well as the know-how to help them. 

We signed with one of the largest pharma companies in the world, and millions of farmers will use their crop sciences loyalty program powered by us. We also signed with one of the biggest airports in the world, and their frequent fliers will be able to enjoy benefits at that airport.

It’s also worth mentioning that not all of our clients are looking to launch their first loyalty program. Many companies have established programs, but they wish to switch to a more reliable platform or revamp the existing loyalty logic.

What do you believe was your key to success in 2021, and how has that guided your plans for 2022? 
Kecsmar: We focused on the core product. Many companies are building a sales organization, but instead of stretching ourselves too thin, we want to be a top global loyalty technology provider. We spend 60% of our revenue on R&D, and we are releasing quarterly product releases since 2018. It’s a big commitment to constantly develop the product, but it benefitted us in the end. 

Recently we started producing short event streams of the latest developments in video format, accompanied by screencasts. Here is an example of the latest Q1 2022 product release:


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What are your existing clients and new opportunities asking you for in terms of technology, strategy, and support – and how is Antavo adapting to meet client needs? 
Kecsmar: Gamification mechanisms, especially challenges and badges, are a recurring topic, because many of our clients are looking into ways of adding value to their program and building a more eventful relationship with their customers, without relying too much on discounts. 

We also receive a lot of inquiries about ease of use. Companies are leaner than ever before, and they wish to ensure that managing the program won’t become a second job in itself for the team. 

Lastly, clients often ask about how to combine loyalty programs with other features, such as early access, so they can really engage with their brand fans.   
 
What do you feel is working in your clients’ loyalty programs and strategies? Can you provide 2-3 examples?
Kecsmar: Creating a reward catalog where some of the products or gifts can be purchased with points works really well for businesses that wish to increase the redemption rate.

Granting freshly registered loyalty program members an instant reward (like a short-term discount or a one-time benefit) is also a popular feature.

In general, companies are looking for a simple yet engaging loyalty program structure that offers a memorable experience, preferably via an app.

A new trend on the horizon is the influencer program that harnesses the power of referrals and community word-of-mouth, as well as help program owners identify potential brand ambassadors. 


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In 2021, Antavo not only expanded its client roster, but also onboarded a number of strategic partners. How does Antavo typically approach partnerships, and how do your clients benefit from these new partnerships? 
Kecsmar: Partnerships have played a key role in our success during 2021. These partnerships fall into various categories:

  • Loyalty consultants, who create the structure of the loyalty program - what tiers to use, how points should be distributed, should there be points at all? Having a loyalty strategy in place is essential for us to start working with our customers, so if they don’t have a loyalty strategy just yet, we send them to one of our partners.
  • Technology companies such as CDP and marketing automation companies (like Bloomreach or MAPP) are another cornerstone for our partnership. When a digital transformation project happens, companies usually wish to revamp their whole tech stack, and together with our tech partners, we are an attractive fit.
  • System integrators provide a team of engineers who are helping with the implementation and connect the systems together. We are educating these System Integrators, like Acxiom, EPAM or Astound, so they showcase great competency when working with Antavo’s tech.
  • And let’s not forget about industry organizations like Loyalty360 who are helping loyalty experts to gain visibility around Antavo, as we are very grateful for that. You are one of the drivers on the market, and we are very happy to work with you.
How does Antavo define and measure the success of your clients’ customer loyalty efforts? Are there specific metrics/KPIs you recommend? 
Kecsmar: The KPIs that can define a program’s success are not defined by Antavo, but by the program owner itself. It usually depends on the goal they had initially when launching the program. In terms of measuring the health of the program, we consider acquisition metrics (enrolment rate), engagement metrics (activity rate) and redemption rate for understanding whether the program delivers value. KPIs we see related to a commercial experience can include customer lifetime value, total spend, frequency, AOV, depending on the business we work with.

 
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Powered by Antavo’s loyalty technology, BMW Inside Edge rewards program offers company drivers a revolving selection of rewards to help them save time, save money, and enjoy the ride, including free coffee, complimentary skincare, access to apps and thought leadership content that facilitates their work, and more.
 
What is the next “big thing” for Antavo and is there anything we should be on the lookout for in 2022? 
Kecsmar: Get ready to hear even more about Antavo, as we are ramping up our investment into the product even more. 

We will also keep releasing various industry reports through 2023, as they provide invaluable insight for CMOs, loyalty managers and CRM managers. Antavo’s Global Customer Loyalty Report 2022 was a huge success, and by the time this interview gets published, we may have released three regional reports as well, analyzing the loyalty trends in APAC, North America and Europe. 

In just 15 weeks after publishing, more than 2400 people requested Antavo’s 2022 report - it’s our most popular piece of publication ever.
 
 

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