Having created one of the most successful multi-brand loyalty programmes in India, Vijay Bobba, founding CEO and managing director, i-mint, now aims at becoming the world leader in loyalty management. In an interview to IndiaRetailing, he shares his views on the recipe for a successful loyalty programme, various initiatives taken by i-mint and future plans. Excerpts:
Q. What is the core business model of i-mint?
i-mint – which is currently a common platform for over nine million customers and 2,000-plus merchant partners – focuses on giving incentives to customers every time they transact with our merchant partners. This is done through a common currency called i-mint points.
The points earned by customers go to a single loyalty account and can be redeemed for over 1,000 products and services on the portal or across the counter at select stores. Customers can also call a dedicated call centre to redeem their points. Thus, i-mint generates value for the customer’s purchase behaviour and generates loyalty for participating brands.
Q. What is the size of the current loyalty card market in India and what percentage of this does i-mint have?
The Indian loyalty card market has over 20 million consumers among the top 10 organised programmes, not considering the banking sector. These are ‘solo’ or ‘single’ brand loyalty programmes. Among the ‘coalition’ loyalty programmes, i-mint is the only unique program across payment modes, geographical areas and business verticals.
Q. What is the recipe for the success of a multi-brand loyalty programme?
It is important to create a good partner mix with respect to various consumer needs including shopping, dining, travel, fuel, banking and telecom. Another important parameter is a good partner network – the quicker a consumer earns reward points, the more he/she will be inclined towards the programme. Customised merchant or partner offers also goes a long way in retaining customer loyalty. Advertising and promotion are also important as the customer needs to be constantly reminded of the benefits of the programmes.
Q. What is a better proposition for consumers and retailers: multi-brand loyalty card or single brand loyalty card?
Today, the loyalty card industry in India is largely segmented. There are various single brand loyalty programmes such as airline, fuel and retail loyalty programmes. However, the penetration of these programmes is restricted simply because they are brand specific and do not provide a holistic value proposition to customers.
On the other hand, a multi-brand loyalty card or coalition loyalty programme, such as i-mint, empowers consumers with a freedom of choice, as members are not restricted to specific brand or outlet. It brings together multiple brands where consumers gain, no matter where they shop, and the points are collected in a single card for the day-to-day purchases and expenditures like fuel, eating out, shopping and banking.
For merchants, the programme delivers loyal customer and cost-effective medium to reach out to customers. Brands partnering with i-mint, for instance, can create targeted offerings though special promotions and campaigns designed especially for i-mint members.
Q. How many retailers are currently associated with i-mint and how many consumers are using i-mint?
At present, we have 2,000-plus merchants across India. We also have around nine million customers.
Q. What kind of technical support is required to have a seamless operation in the context of a loyalty programme?
A robust database is required to maintain the large customer profile, along with their transaction information. Provisions need to be made at the POS/EDC machines in order to capture transaction information and then this information should flow into the database.
Customers also require a website where they can view their points, transaction statements and redeem the points. Call centre support requires real time access to the backend system so that the ‘associate’ is able to give correct information to queries, update profiles, view transaction information and help in redemption.
Q. Where do you see i-mint few years down the line?
Currently, i-mint is India’s No.1, the vision is to become the world leader in loyalty management.