In a Nutshell: Acquiring new customers can be much more expensive than retaining existing ones. Mastercard Loyalty works with businesses to develop programs that increase customer loyalty and engagement. Mastercard’s loyalty programs are customizable to meet the unique needs of companies worldwide. CardRates is recognizing Mastercard Loyalty with our Editor’s Choice™ Award for its commitment to helping businesses build customer engagement.
Black Friday, which falls on the Friday immediately following Thanksgiving, is one of the busiest shopping days of the year. Many businesses view Black Friday as the unofficial start to the holiday shopping season, and companies offer incentives to shoppers on Black Friday to entice them to purchase their products and services.
Brick-and-mortar retailers and online stores aren’t the only businesses that offer consumers discounts on Black Friday. Coffee shops extend deals to those seeking to caffeinate before their marathon shopping spree. Restaurants also offer Black Friday deals to capitalize on the increased traffic of holiday shoppers.
Mastercard Loyalty powers many of the offers and incentives consumers receive from businesses on Black Friday or any other day of the year, as well as card benefits and insurances for Mastercard cardholders. We spoke with Mastercard’s Senior Vice President of Merchant Loyalty, Kyle Clark, to learn more about the company’s efforts to help businesses maximize their relationships with their customers.
“We can help elevate the touchpoints and interactions that a business has with a customer every day,” Clark said. “Ensuring those experiences are valuable is the foundation to loyalty.”
Mastercard acquired SessionM in 2019 to further its loyalty capabilities for brands. Clark said the SessionM acquisition provided Mastercard with an extension of the market-leading loyalty services the company has offered since the early 2000s. SessionM was a standalone business in the customer engagement and loyalty space prior to being acquired by Mastercard.
Clark said the mission of Mastercard’s loyalty services is to enhance every interaction beyond the transaction to create organic and long-lasting relationships with customers.
“We’re a global leader in the consumer engagement and loyalty space,” Clark said. “We have more than a trillion points under management every year. We power more than 1,000 loyalty programs, and we touch more than 650 million consumer profiles across our solutions.”
Helping Companies Understand Their Customers
Mastercard’s loyalty services serve numerous verticals, including banks and financial institutions, retailers, quick-service restaurants, airlines, telecommunications companies, and fueling stations.
Clark said loyalty is an outcome, and it takes more than points and rewards to build long-term customer loyalty. Mastercard helps companies harness the power of data management to understand more about their customers’ behavior.
“In terms of data, what’s really important to drive outcomes and go beyond purchase transactions is understanding more about the customer,” Clark said. “That includes having a 360-degree view of a consumer’s interactions and demonstrated behaviors across a company’s channels. Are consumers making purchases in a store or through a website? What are they purchasing? Understanding, responding to, and anticipating preference is critical to driving better engagement.”
Companies that understand their customers can be proactive and personalize customer-facing messages and offers. Clark said consumers expect to have tailored interactions with companies, and personalization is an essential component of simple and effective interactions.
Companies that don’t monitor the effect of their messaging and advertising efforts may be unable to pinpoint which of their strategies is most effective. Clark said companies must measure their efforts to build loyalty. Measuring loyalty initiatives better positions a company to capitalize on opportunities for enhancing customer relationships through interactions.
“Bringing all three of these areas together — data, personalization, and measurement — is what it takes to drive the frictionless experiences that consumers are expecting,” Clark explained.
Predictive intelligence plays a role in measuring loyalty programs and anticipating customer behaviors.
Clark said advanced analytics can help companies personalize customer experiences.
Consumers value keeping their data private and secure. Clark said Mastercard’s perspective is simple: you own your data, you should benefit from it, and Mastercard will protect it.
“It’s our responsibility to protect customer information,” Clark said. “We’re transparent and authentic about how we use data.”
Configurable Programs Align with Business Needs
Mastercard engages with a company’s employees when building loyalty programs. Clark said his team primarily works with individuals within a company’s marketing department to determine the offers and campaigns to present to consumers. Mastercard’s loyalty group also works with information technology employees to integrate information into a company’s mobile and web platforms.
“Loyalty is typically a marketing function, but we intersect with technology to make sure the data is flowing to the right targets and the right insights are delivered,” Clark detailed. “When all functions think with a loyalty mindset, it becomes a part of an organization’s DNA.”
Mastercard configures its loyalty services to meet the unique needs of its customers. It provides customers with a core suite of products across the consumer engagement spectrum and configures tools to match the customization its clients seek.
Mastercard provides loyalty expertise to businesses operating in hundreds of markets across the globe. Clark said Mastercard’s loyalty division excels in working with large business enterprises and powers some of the best-known brands in the world. Though Mastercard has developed thousands of loyalty programs, Clark said no two programs are the same.
“We sit down and consult with companies when we’re designing their loyalty program to understand their unique objectives and determine the best strategic path forward,” Clark said. “Some companies are looking to relaunch existing programs. Some companies want to try something brand new. Through consulting, technology, and the ongoing management of programs, we deliver customized solutions that suit companies of all sizes.”
Companies that have a positive interaction with a customer may have pleased them temporarily, but Clark said it’s unlikely that a single interaction between a business and its customer will increase loyalty.
“If you take a look at the loyalty customers have for some of the world’s biggest brands, those are relationships that developed over many, many years,” Clark said. “Those brands earned customer loyalty through a series of interactions over time.”
The Loyalty Landscape is Evolving
Clark said Mastercard is constantly collaborating with businesses to understand any changes in strategy and how Mastercard can help them meet their loyalty goals.
Consumers are often more receptive to a company’s offer when they feel the company values and understands them. Clark said successful engagement programs are simple and authentic.
“What you’re offering doesn’t have to be unique in the sense that no one’s ever seen anything similar before,” Clark explained. “But companies do well when their customers have an emotional connection with the brand. That kind of emotional resonance is what drives sticky behavior and organic relationships that last many years.”
Clark said as the business world evolves, the customer loyalty landscape adapts. Mastercard’s plans to enhance loyalty programs include introducing an element of fun into a company’s offers through gamification. Clark said gamification can help a company connect with its customers in a simple yet meaningful way.
Paid loyalty programs allow customers to pay to gain access to exclusive offers. Clark said paid loyalty is gaining significance in the engagement arena and can enable customers to associate more deeply with a brand.
“Gamification can help freshen up the customer experience, and paid loyalty is something we’re seeing across industries,” Clark said. “Both of these elements help companies enhance relationships with their customers and keep them coming back for more.”
Looking toward the future, Clark said Mastercard will continue to be laser-focused on the customer experience.
“What we’re all about is really helping brands maximize the potential of their engagement with customers,” Clark said. “Loyalty is an investment brands can’t afford not to make.”