Geoff Lewis from TopGuest begins by describing a Williamsburg Hipster, a trendsetter who knows what’s cool before it’s cool. The idea of a “hipster” first emerged in 1999, and by 2003 it was the cover story in “Time Magazine.” Now the hipster is so mainstream, Lewis suggests, that maybe 30% of the people in this room are hipsters.
What hipsters have proven is that when everything is different in exactly the same way (cool before it’s cool), it is no longer different (or cool).
Therefore, Lewis believes that the word “loyalty” should be replaced with the word “engagement.”
As it stands most Americans carry multiple cards for loyalty programs in their wallets. But the system needs re-engineering. How? he asks. Through Badges— (Everyone laughs at the obvious joke. Badges are not the answer.)
To explain what the answer is, Lewis begins by taking a look back at the history of loyalty programs. He shows a picture of Lassie— the canine embodiment of loyalty, a cultural touchstone. He shows imagery depicting loyalty that he says echoes everything Lassie embodies – devotion to career, the olden days, sterile happiness.
Ultimately, the main idea is that loyalty gets rewarded. It functions generally on the promise of a big payout. For example, culturally you’d get a great retirement package if you stayed with one employer.
In 1999 loyalty programs peaked. AA Advantage devalued their currency significantly. People began to wonder if they really would get a big payout at the end. Seeds of distrust were sewn.
We’re in a new world now, says Lewis. Due to social media and mobile devices, for the first time companies have more information about their users and consumers then ever before. The only form of engagement available before now was the monetary transaction. But obviously any social action you take, everywhere you go can be tracked. How people move in a space can be tracked through security cameras. All of this data can be pooled into a data base and studied.
Lewis claims engagement programs began with Tasti D-lite- The first instance of a loyalty program tapping into social media. Customers would receive rewards linked to social actions. It was on a very small scale, but now AA Advantage and other large loyalty programs are losing the “loyalty” and becoming engagement programs.
It’s exactly what Topguest does. They transform loyalty programs into engagement programs. With their 260 million members they work with many of the largest names in the loyalty business.
They stay transparent with their users to access the most information that they can. They also monitor social actions. All kinds. Likes, check ins, status- achievement moments in games. Lewis notes how a friend request is its own a moment of achievement. It gives a little adrenaline rush.
An engagement program is catered to individuals. For example, if someone posts a status about how great American Airlines was getting them to their connection and now they are waiting for their next flight, TopGuest can tweet back a perfect reply from American Airlines—”Check out our lounge.” This will give people a chance to see what they might “win” down the road as well as reward them for praising the airline publicly.
Engagement, he explains, is personal to every user. The experience is based on data and customized in real time.