Mastercard Masters Brand Loyalty Equation

“Loyalty360 is a megaphone for best practices and a magnifying glass for industry trends.” - Stephanie Meltzer-Paul, Executive VP Global Loyalty, Mastercard.
Mastercard provides businesses with the tools they need to strengthen customer relationships and drive brand loyalty. Stephanie Meltzer-Paul was recently named Executive Vice President of Global Loyalty for Mastercard and brings with her a wealth of expertise in the loyalty space.

CEO of Loyalty360, Mark Johnson, spoke with Meltzer-Paul about what she plans to bring to her new role at Mastercard, as well as trends and challenges in customer loyalty today. 

Over the past decade, Mastercard has evolved its suite of services beyond consumer cards into broader payment adoptions. Mastercard provides end to end services in brand loyalty, analytics, consulting and more to help brands drive profitable relationships with their consumers. The company works across all verticals, from finance to retail to travel to restaurants. Leveraging its expertise in data and technology, Mastercard works with its clients to build cohesive, personalized loyalty programs from planning to implementation and beyond.

Services include:

  • Loyalty program management
  • Offers and promotions
  • Benefits and Insurance services
  • Campaign management
  • Consulting
  • Personalization
  • Insights
  • Analytics
  • Marketing services
  • Innovation
  • Measurement and optimization
Mastercard acquired loyalty platform SessionM in 2019. SessionM helps clients drive stronger relationships with their customers by building their loyalty programs and offering comprehensive campaign management. The company also works with brands to grow their businesses and drive higher customer engagement.

Mastercard’s commitment to its clients is all-encompassing. Says Meltzer-Paul, “Mastercard doesn’t come in for a short-term assignment and leave. We are there from end to end to help brands build their business over the years.”

An Insider’s POV
Before she was a Mastercard executive, Stephanie Meltzer-Paul was a Mastercard customer. Within her previous role leading digital guest experience for Inspire Brands, Meltzer-Paul spearheaded the loyalty program and mobile app for Dunkin’. Her previous partnership with Mastercard at BJ’s Wholesale gave her an inside look from a customer’s perspective. This gives Meltzer-Paul the advantage of personal insight into what customers are looking for from Mastercard, as well as an understanding of technological compatibility between clients.
Customer loyalty is no longer just about points. Today, loyalty must be a frictionless relationship between the customer and the brand. It’s experiential and every touch point is an opportunity to deepen customer engagement.

“How brands manage loyalty is changing,” says Meltzer-Paul. “It’s no longer just earn and burn. It’s a natural relationship between consumers and brands.”

Every company defines loyalty differently, so brands looking to build these authentic relationships must start at the beginning to understand their goals. Just because “my competition is doing it” or “it’s the new trend” is not a reason to implement a loyalty program. There needs to be a formal discussion around the goals of the organization, and a strategy built around achieving those goals.

But the answer is not necessarily a formal loyalty program. Sometimes the solution comes in the form of benefits management. Sometimes it is data services. How can a brand know?

That’s where Mastercard comes in.

By working with businesses from the planning stage and on, Mastercard can help develop a program that is both authentic to the brand (not just based on what’s “cool” or “popular”) and drives business goals.

Evolution and Adaptation Breed Success
Mastercard cites three examples of what is working well in the industry that can be incorporated into nearly every brand’s loyalty efforts:
  1. Omnichannel approach
  2. Authenticity
  3. Test. Test. Test.
Taking an Omnichannel Approach
During the pandemic, Mastercard client Barry’s Bootcamp was forced to close its doors to the public. In order to maintain its business, the fitness company shifted its class schedule to online classes. The company quickly realized that its survival depended on its workout culture and its ability to adopt new technology to keep its community moving and coming back for more. Floored by the commitment of its clients throughout the pandemic, Barry’s is also launching a new tiered loyalty program. Designed in conjunction with Mastercard’s SessionM, which helps clients develop customer engagement and loyalty platforms, the company hopes the new loyalty program will also attract new members to sign up for in-studio classes and the Barry’s X app.

A Value Exchange Beyond Dollars
When designing a loyalty program, Mastercard puts the consumer first. The program must feel authentic to the business and be consumer-centric as it achieves business goals.
Plus, while there has always been a digital aspect to customer loyalty, the pandemic accelerated the shift to digital. Today’s brands need to pivot to meet their customers where they are through convenient, seamless digital experiences. Mastercard works closely with brands to ensure the CX and UX are frictionless and seamless along every point in the customer journey to achieve just that.

Today’s customers also expect more personalization efforts and expect to be known when they have provided their data.  Consumers are more attuned than ever to what a brand stands for beyond its offerings, so operating authentically requires a brand to relate their company ethos into their loyalty strategies.

For example, a statistic from Mastercard Retail and Commerce showed that 62% of consumers say it is important for businesses to behave in sustainable and eco-friendly ways. It is important for brands to think about their stance, their company ethos and their customers’ beliefs, and mirror those values when planning customer loyalty efforts.

Using Data to Supercharge Your Efforts
Being able to test how consumers will engage is crucial to a program’s success. Mastercard's Test & Learn tool helps brands identify key drivers of performance to take the ambiguity out of decision making. Even if a company has an existing loyalty program in place, it is beneficial to look for ways to optimize performance.

Staying at the cutting edge is important, but only when it gets to the heart of what matters to the consumer.

Brands should prioritize smart technology so that they can deliver right-time, right-size experiences. This includes personalization, data management, analytics, rewards and KPI measurement.

For example, SessionM provides its clients with 360-degree views of consumers to build what feels like an individualized loyalty program complete with personalized communications. However, a brand must collect the right data to give proper insight for personalization – zero, first, second and third-party data is all valuable, but may not all serve the same purpose. In some cases, even when a brand does not have a formal loyalty program, it can still successfully capture data along different points in the customer journey to create a personalized experience.

Measuring the efficacy of a loyalty program varies from brand to brand based on company goals. Companies define success differently. But if a company is clear with the objectives of the loyalty program from the beginning, it can design fit-for-purpose solutions. Define the overarching goals of the loyalty efforts first, then work backward to find solutions and determine the KPIs to measure success.

Says Meltzer-Paul, “Loyalty is a journey; it is a living and breathing thing. We work with brands in terms of ‘what’s next,’ because business is always evolving. And if your business is evolving, your loyalty strategy has to evolve with it.”

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