How Air Miles keeps its head in the data game

Incentive rewards program sets its sights on millennials

Air Miles is continually upping its data game, helping its retail partners reach new customers and growing its user base in the process.

Recently, Air Miles launched outreach programs to connect with millennials through social media and in real life at hip music festivals like Montreal’s Osheaga.

PoweredByKijiji1Marketing got a look under the hood of Air Miles’ loyalty engine with Rachel MacQueen, VP, marketing, Air Miles Reward Program.

Marketing spoke to the CAA recently about its email open rates and how it’s important these days to really target and not just do a “spray and pray” campaign. How has the approach at Air Miles changed over the years in regards to emailing and contacting customers?
The oxygen of a coalition program like Air Miles is relevance. The more relevant we are in our communications, the more our collectors get value, and the more benefit our partners get from being in the coalition. So, we continually evaluate and refine our approach to targeted marketing.

We continually evolve our advice to partners on managing email communication through relevant targeting, creative and copy.

But, over the past year, we have implemented a different approach, where we are encouraging greater communication of offers from partners that collectors regularly shop with. At first, we had some concerns that the volume of emails would increase and our open rates would decrease. However, that hasn’t been the case.

How do you balance the need for serving your customers with the need for privacy?
We discuss this internally all the time, and we try to keep two things at the forefront.

First, we try to be transparent. For example, before we ask someone to give us permission to know their location [within our app], we offer an educational screen outlining why we would like to know their location which showcases what benefit we can provide if we have this information.

The second thing is value. We are not interested in collecting information that cannot be used to better our collectors’ experience. That truly is the key: We are focused on delivering value.

Is there any particular tech innovation you are most proud of?
We are extremely proud of the great work we have done with our partners — Staples, Rexall, Metro, Safeway — this past year in bringing beacons and proximity-based experiences to retail. We were able to deliver mobile-exclusive offers to our collectors [who had opted-in] as they entered the store, and therefore, drove value for the collector and our retail partners.

Air Miles has made moves to engage millennials — Smile Booth and Stage Pass at music festivals for example — has the brand seen more engagement through such offers?
We’ve actually seen all demographics participate with both of these programs. Music in particular speaks to all ages. But, we have the seen the highest levels of engagement come from the millennial segment, in particular through our campus activations and with festival partnerships such as Osheaga and WayHome. As a brand, we felt it was important to be where millennials are, and to speak with them in a fun and exciting new way.

For example, we set-up fun activations that give us a chance to engage with young collectors—and frankly it’s a chance for them to learn what we’re all about one-on-one. At WayHome, we brought the Smile Booths and installed a giant ball pit that took 60,000 coloured balls to fill. It was packed throughout the festival. Not only did we acquire new millennial collectors that weekend, but we had meaningful, one-on-one engagements with them and created some really fun, social media content.

How important is it to maintain a traditional marketing approach and to work with agencies?
We still maintain great agency relationships, especially with T1 and North Strategic. We work with them because, like us, they aren’t at all married to traditional marketing. They help us come up with cool ideas to bring our brand to life in shareable ways that excite our collectors. Our ideas are experiential and shareable first, and then we use the huge reach of our own digital channels to help bring awareness to those collector opportunities.

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