Why I Like Facebook’s Ban on Rewarding Likes: Better Data

likeYou might think that, as CEO of a company that powers loyalty programs for over 50 retailers, I would be upset about Facebook’s recent announcement that the company will prohibit rewarding “likes” with incentives, monetary or otherwise.

In fact, I’m a big fan of Facebook’s move. For one thing, Facebook has restricted incentivizing social actions for years, so the new policy language only clarifies that stance. Also, I’ve long advised marketers against directly rewarding likes—500friends loyalty software actually disallows it—not only because it lives in a Facebook policy gray area, but also because it just feels wrong, and not in keeping with most brands’ values.

But the biggest reason I like Facebook’s like-rewarding ban? It has to do with the real value that Facebook offers for retailers. Some would say that’s attention or traffic, but I disagree.

It’s data. All-encompassing, personalization-powering, first-party data.

Just about every retailer I know has figured out that future success depends on personalizing customer experiences. That’s why loyalty programs are all the rage these days, with even Walmart getting into the game: not because rewards alone are retail’s salvation, but because rewards give consumers a reason to share information that retailers need to deliver on personalization. Transaction histories, of course, but also browsing behavior, service interactions, and product preferences. That’s also why you’re seeing more retailers offer rewards for non-purchase actions like filling out preference profiles, writing product reviews, and self-identifying in physical stores.

But even if they collected every possible byte during every single customer interaction, retailers would still be left with a highly flawed view, because those interactions add up to only a tiny fraction of who that customer is, what she does, and what she wants. To really power personalization, retailers need a window into what’s happening in the remaining 99.99% of her life.

And that’s where Facebook—along with other other pervasive social platforms—offers the greatest promise for retailers. When customers link their accounts to social profiles, the resulting customer picture, filled out with detailed lifestyle, demographic, and preference data, is like watching an HD movie after living your entire life with stick-figure drawings. Here’s just a glimpse of the picture that we show loyalty marketers based on social account linking:


Just some of the data that 500friends can offer retailers based on social account linking.

Imagine you’re a clothing retailer who wants to launch a new line inspired by a TV series, and you’re deciding between “Mad Men” or “Boardwalk Empire.” Without a socially enhanced data picture, the best you could do would be to make some guesses, perhaps educated by Nielsen, about the demographics of your customers and how those match the demographics of each show. But if a large portion of your customers have linked their social accounts, you’ll know not only which show is preferred overall by your customer base, but also how your most important segments weigh in.

Which is the real reason I cheer this move by Facebook, and why all marketers should join me. Because in the future, when you make a decision like tying up with “Mad Men,” you’ll be that much more certain that your customers will cheer too.

Justin Yoshimura is CEO of 500friends. Email him at justin@500friends.com.

500friends Talks Loyalty, Personalization at NRFtech 2014

At this year’s NRFtech, held earlier this week in Palos Verdes, CA, featured speaker Arif Damji of 500friends spoke about how innovative loyalty technology is disrupting retail.

Damji, Director of Strategy and Development at 500friends, described the trend in which 500friends customers are increasingly viewing loyalty programs as central repositories of customer information — aggregation hubs for POS, CRM, e-commerce, mobile, and social data. He also explained how the resulting holistic view is allowing 500friends retail clients to deliver remarkably personalized — and effective — customer experiences.


NRFtech Retail Technology Leadership Summit is a forum for leading retail IT executives and is the industry’s most influential senior-level IT event.

Does an Umbrella Loyalty Program Make Sense for Your Brands?

Is it better to have one loyalty program covering all of your brands, or separate programs for each? How you answer this question can have huge implications for customer experience and loyalty ROI. In a new paper from 500friends (below), we pose 5 key questions for senior marketers who are looking to determine the best approach.



Loyalty + Predictive Analytics = Personalization: The 500friends / AgilOne Partnership

In this video, recorded at IRCE 2014, 500friends Director of Strategy and Development Arif Damji talks about how 500friends LoyaltyPlus and AgilOne’s predictive analytics help retailers personalize customer experiences and offers.

500Friends + AgilOne from 500friends on Vimeo.

Mobile Loyalty Programs: 5 Emerging Must-Haves

(Originally posted on ExactTarget blog)

With Forrester reporting that mobile will account for 29% of online consumer purchases in 2014—up from 21% last year—it’s now imperative that your loyalty program be mobile too.

What, exactly, does mobile loyalty look like? When clients ask me that, I usually say the answer depends on what you sell, who your customers are, and what kind of relationship you’re looking to build. But so many loyalty marketers are now extending loyalty programs to mobile environments in ways that create new customer interactions and build brand value, that five mobile loyalty practices are quickly becoming essential:

1. Deliver full mobile access to loyalty benefits.

At a minimum, let customers enroll in your loyalty program, earn/redeem rewards, and see reward balances—all through mobile devices. Remarkably, many retail brands have not yet reached this point, but according to Howard Schneider, partner at loyalty consulting firm Metzner Schneider Associates, they will have to. “Customers today expect a program to deliver customization, value, and relevance everywhere, all the time,” Schneider says.

In addition, your loyalty program members should be able to redeem rewards at mobile checkout, and should not be forced to print out a coupon or visit a store. Walgreens goes one step further, allowing Balance Rewards members to clip digital coupons from the chain’s mobile app and link the savings to their loyalty accounts.

2. Tap location data to reward in-store interactions.

Retail brands with physical stores sometimes view mobile phones as the enemy, because phones enable showrooming by linking in-store customers with discounters. But savvy marketers are using loyalty programs to fight back, rewarding customers for interacting with their own mobile apps and websites. For example, loyalty program members at electronics retailer Best Buy receive 10 My Best Buy points just for logging into the Best Buy mobile app when near a store. Sephora, the cosmetics chain, sends alerts and messages to members who are in, or nearby, a Sephora store through an integration with Apple’s Passbook platform.

3. Nurture engagement with mobile promotions.

You want customers to engage with your brand in multiple environments—in-store, at their desks, and on the go. If you’re launching a new mobile app, offer a reward bonus for downloading it. Consider providing special bonuses to members who enroll through mobile channels. You can also send limited-time double points offers for buying through a mobile channel, encouraging customers to try it.

4. Integrate loyalty incentives with mobile experiences.

The most effective loyalty programs reward members beyond purchases. On mobile, this means offering rewards for social posts sent from smartphones, or for liking your page on Facebook’s mobile app. In Sephora’s mobile app, a “beauty board” allows loyalty program members to share photos of Sephora-created looks.

Since mobile customers are more likely to browse before buying, rewarding actions such as “add to wish list” can be especially effective at building valuable relationships. To illustrate just how common mobile loyalty is becoming, loyalty guru Schneider points out that even Sears, traditionally a technology follower, distributes a loyalty-powered app that promotes check-ins, product reviews, Instagram posts, and on-the-go sharing.

5. Leverage mobile loyalty data for a unified customer view.

Perhaps the biggest advantage of a compelling mobile loyalty experience is that it gives mobile customers an incentive to identify themselves. That, in turn, makes it possible for marketers to get a clear, unified view of brand interactions across channels. Once you’re enabling and rewarding mobile interactions, make sure to integrate this data at the customer record level, which will power more effective clienteling—your ability to offer customers personalized service based on what you know about them—no matter how they shop with you. According to Steve Dennis, president of retail strategy and marketing firm SageBerry Consulting, mobile loyalty is the crucial bridge between offline and online. “If your loyalty program is not reflecting that all-channel view of consumer behavior,” he says, “you’re missing a big opportunity.”

This post originally appeared on ExactTarget blog here: http://www.exacttarget.com/blog/mobile-loyalty-programs-5-emerging-must-haves/


Omaha Steaks Steaklover Rewards: Q&A with Michael Robinson, Consumer Sales and Marketing Director

[Reposted from Loyalty360]

by Jim Tierney, Loyalty 360

omaha_steaks_logoOmaha Steaks has launched a new customer loyalty program known as Omaha Steaks Steaklover Rewards. This new loyalty program is designed to reward customers through a points based program, where they can earn points by purchasing products, in addition to non-transactional engagements like referrals and social sharing.

Points are accumulated when shopping and can be redeemed for product rewards or used when checking out for discounts on the overall purchase. Members will receive a monthly statement via email indicating the points they have earned and accumulated, in addition to promotional e-mails offering additional points generating opportunities and exclusive offers for Steaklover Rewards members only.

Steaklover Rewards Members also will:

·      Be invited to be the first to try new products

·      Receive free gifts with purchases

·      Be eligible for “members only” special perks

There will be a premium membership tier for those customers who spend $300 or more in a year. Steaklover Rewards Premium Tier members will receive:

·      More points on every purchase

·      Insider access to Omaha Steaks Executive Chef, Karl Marsh

·      Free birthday dessert

Michael Robinson, Director of Consumer Sales and Marketing, Omaha Steaks participated in an engaging Q&A with Loyalty360 to discuss the new loyalty program.

What factors prompted the launch of Omaha Steaks Steaklover Rewards and what are your goals for the program?

We’ve discussed a loyalty program over the past few years. Recent changes in leadership have created a new direction in our marketing efforts and now seemed like the right time to launch the initiative.

Has Omaha Steaks had a loyalty program before?

This is the first loyalty program we have deployed that crosses all marketing channels and customer touch points.

What makes this program unique to your customer base?

With our program, we are rewarding customers for something they are already doing−purchasing world-famous Omaha Steaks and enjoying them personally or giving them as gifts. There are many unique rewards associated with the program, too, such as a free cheesecake on a member’s birthday.

When did the program technically launch and how do customers enroll?

The program launched in late May through our digital channels. We will roll the loyalty program out in telesales and our retail channels at the end of June. Customers create and manage their accounts through our online portal nested within the Omaha Steaks website.

What metrics will you use to measure ongoing success of the program?

We’ll continue to monitor Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) such as enrollment, program growth, Lifetime Value (LTV), retention, order frequency, and average order value. The latter three will be measured against benchmarks set at the start of the program and against like customers that are not enrolled in the program.

Is the program aimed at your loyal customers, attracting new customers, or a combination of both?

This program equally benefits both existing customers and those new to the brand.

Did any new technologies play a role in the program launch?

After an exhausting search for the right partner, Omaha Steaks developed a working relationship with 500Friends to build a best-in-class loyalty program.

This article was reposted from Loyalty360. The original post is here: http://loyalty360.org/resources/article/qa-michael-robinson-director-of-consumer-sales-and-marketing-omaha-steaks

500friends + IBM WebSphere, Unica, Coremetrics @ IBM Global Summit 2014

As an IBM Smarter Commerce partner, 500friends makes it easy to integrate a loyalty program using IBM WebSphere Commerce, IBM Campaign and IBM Interact (formerly Unica), and IBM Digital Analytics (formerly Coremetrics). In fact, 500friends will be at next week’s IBM Smarter Commerce Global Summit 2014, where we’ll be showing off our joint loyalty solution. Stop by the Marketing and Merchandising’s Innovation Zone and say hello!

Meanwhile, watch this video to learn more about how 500friends and IBM team up to deliver innovative customer loyalty solutions for brands like 1800Flowers.com.

Don’t see the video? Click to watch 500friends + IBM.

500friends Receives Strategic Investment from Leading Retail and Loyalty Executives

500friends recently received the support of key executives in the loyalty and retail space.  Here’s the press release 500friends issued with details about our new strategic investors. 

April 28, 2014 (SAN FRANCISCO) — 500friends, which arms retail brands with data-driven customer retention and loyalty solutions, has received a strategic investment from key retail, loyalty, and e-commerce leaders, including executives who were previously 500friends customers.

The new 500friends investors include Matt Howland, former CEO of LoyaltyLab; Neel Grover, former CEO of Buy.com; Michael Butler, former head of e-commerce at HP; Jim Keller, former CMO at Shoebuy; Abdul Popal, SVP at CafePress; and Brandon Proctor, CEO of Ice.com and former CMO of Build.com. Both Keller and Proctor were previously clients of 500friends.

“Now more than ever, leveraging loyalty program data to create personalized experiences has become a strategic imperative for retail brands,” said Howland, who also joined 500friends’ board of advisors. “500friends has rapidly emerged as a market leader, and I am excited to be involved with the team as they execute on their vision to help companies tap loyalty data to increase customer lifetime value.”

With institutional investors including Crosslink Capital, Intel Capital, Fung Capital USA, Silicon Valley Bank, and Y Combinator, 500friends was not actively seeking more financing. However, the company considered the experience and perspective of these strategic investors too valuable to pass up.

“Interest from this esteemed group of retail and loyalty leaders is a testament to their confidence in our team and our solution,” said 500friends CEO Justin Yoshimura.

500friends completed its Series B round in early 2013. The company plans to take advantage of the connections and expertise of its new investors to expand its customer base, which already totals over 50 leading omni-channel and e-commerce brands, including 1800Flowers.com, Omaha Steaks, and Kabam. These brands have achieved revenue gains of up to 12% and boosted purchase frequency by up to 60% using the 500friends LoyaltyPlus suite of SaaS solutions.

Beyond his team’s passion for helping retail brands perform better, Yoshimura attributes 500friends’ success to the growing number of CMOs who recognize the strategic importance of loyalty data for increasing customer lifetime value. These forward-thinking marketers are shifting budgets away from their traditional reliance on customer acquisition and devoting more resources to maximizing the value of customers they already have.

“Every retail brand now understands that acquisition is just the first step,” said Yoshimura, “and that retention is a top priority for achieving sustainable profitability.”

About 500friends
CMOs engage 500friends to maximize the profitability of their customer relationships. The 500friends SaaS lifecycle marketing suite, LoyaltyPlus, makes it easy to execute omni-channel loyalty programs and personalized customer retention campaigns. Learn more at http://www.500friends.com.

How to Craft an Award-Winning Loyalty Campaign (case study)

SpaWeekBlogThumbLooking to leverage your loyalty program to drive more sales, boost margins, and enhance your brand? Then you’ll definitely want to take a look at the award-winning loyalty campaign from Spa Week, the health and wellness brand whose loyalty program, MyWellness Rewards, recently won the Loyalty360 Award for Best Creative Campaign in Loyalty Marketing.

With its goal of engaging shoppers throughout the year across multiple channels, Spa Week rolled out a yearlong campaign with seasonally themed installments. Starting with January’s “Resolve to Relax” and ending with December’s “Shop to Unlock,” Spa Week used these campaigns to increase brand engagement while luring in shoppers with real added value. For example, the Thanksgiving campaign, titled “Thanks-Giveaway,” feautred a 1,000 Wellness Point giveaway, with entries granted as a reward for social referrals via Twitter, Facebook and email. Spa Week also made a charitable contribution for every new loyalty program enrollment.

“The cause marketing component fit the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday and increased cohesion for the campaign, helping our message go viral,” said Spa Week Program Manager Anne Hanson. “Also, explicitly rewarding advocacy aligns with our brand positioning that encourages individuals to give and enjoy the gift of wellness.”

For a full inside look at creating an award-winning loyalty campaign, download the new Spa Week campaign case study: