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Best practice in digital receipts and loyalty marketing needs to change

(Image credit: Image Credit: SFIO CRACHO / Shutterstock)

Digital receipts and loyalty schemes have earned themselves a bad rap in the past. Seen as a sneaky tactic to get us to opt-in to everything, they open the door for consumers’ inboxes to be bombarded with unwanted and increasingly annoying marketing emails. And with consumers turning more and more to using apps in this space, it’s clear that the retail and tech industry needs to rebuild trust – especially in cases where excessive amounts of personal data are being collected at sign-up. Luckily, with the likes of new seamless digital receipt services, it seems the improved model has arrived, and it relies heavily on common sense. After all, receipts and loyalty schemes aren’t ground-breaking products, but with tech advancements and environmental concerns rapidly changing the way we access and use them, it’s time for an update.

Despite this logical progression, some loyalty and reward schemes remain confusing and, even worse, alienating, when rewards should be simple and, most importantly, rewarding. KFC’s ‘Colonel’s Club’ and Greggs Rewards apps both stand as examples that successfully achieve this. Both offer smart, intuitive interfaces that prioritise genuine consumer incentives over-collecting data and compliment how people actually shop.

The move towards a new model that protects public interest and privacy is especially important considering the introduction of the GDPR. The changes, that came into effect in May last year, signalled that it’s time to change our thinking and behaviour around marketing and communication for good. Similar to the way Open Banking shifted the culture within big banks and encouraged a move to liberate bank data, putting some control back into the hands of consumers.

GDPR has turned the tap off mindless email marketing – which has been long overdue. Regardless of regulation, ‘spamming’ consumers has never been an effective marketing method; now we can utilise these new confines to have meaningful conversations with consumers. But only when appropriate and, crucially, when they want to. A receipt is a receipt – it isn’t a call to action, it just needs to be there when we need it. Similarly, a reward should be a reward, not an excuse to be marketed to by email or via push notifications nudging you to return back to a page or product before you’ve even had a chance to finish your blueberry muffin!

In any case, this effective littering of consumers’ inboxes with marketing emails tied to loyalty schemes only serves to dilute your message. If you’re doing the same thing multiple times without results, surely it makes sense to stop doing it. Instead, companies should focus on delivering a clear and simple message once – if it’s done well, you can trust consumers will remember it and, if intrigued, subsequently seek out more information.

Transparency and simplicity

What should have been a slick means of B2C communication, superfluous email marketing has become the digital equivalent of receiving junk mail and leaflets through your letterbox. It’s just as annoying but even less effective as, thanks to the unsubscribe button, it’s easy to opt out of. At Flux, we believe in quality over quantity – something we’re very proud of when communicating to our users.

Along with providing quality, it’s also important to provide clarity. Confusing reward schemes are rarely worth it – with the exception of sophisticated schemes like Nectar Cards or Amex points.  We all live busy lives and will quickly become disenchanted with a process that requires us to jump through hoops or share more information than seems appropriate. Low-value rewards need to be easy to access and use, while high-value rewards require you to be frank about barriers to entry. Simply put, if you’re going to reward people, be clear and be generous. 

Much of what the new digital receipts and loyalty scheme model is about is exactly this idea of transparency and simplicity – giving people what they expect, in the most seamless way possible. People already know how to use receipts, we’ve been using them forever. So digital receipts shouldn’t be looking to vastly update or drastically change the way receipts work, especially as this requires retraining customers and staff, modifying their behaviour in retail space. Instead, we need to make the way digital receipts are delivered seamless and in-line with the way we purchase products and use technology in this digital age. Flux allows this by delivering receipts, loyalty and rewards directly into the banking app. Currently, available with Starling, Barclays Launchpad and Monzo. So there is no need for customers to download another app, use a specific bank card or wait for an email. Instead, we’re aiming to ensure a seamless option available for everyone, everywhere.

In a bid to make them both effective and engaging, digital receipts and rewards should do exactly what they say on the tin. They’re both the result of continued custom, and if we look to use them in disingenuous ways to drive more custom, people are going to be turned off and will consequently turn away from these companies. The introduction of GDPR has meant that data privacy is more relevant and prolific in public consciousness than ever before. But it’s a mistake to view this ‘clamp down’ as threatening or restrictive. Instead, it should be viewed as an opportunity to transform how we think inside the box in order to better serve consumers.

Farhana Draine, head of Compliance, Flux