Affinion Takes A Broader Look At Loyalty

What's Next In Payments®
8:35 AM EDT December 6th, 2012

As consumers interact with more brands through more media, a merchant’s or brand’s ability to create a meaningful relationship with customers becomes increasingly important. Affinion has been helping to solidify the merchant-customer relationship for over 30 years, and works on enabling “true and lasting” consumer experiences. MPD CEO Karen Webster spoke with Chuck Christianson, group vice president for sales and strategy at Affinion, about the changing definition of loyalty, mobile’s loyalty impact, and how deals and offers will affect the industry moving forward.

Affinion Takes A Broader Look At Loyalty

What's Next In Payments®
1:17 PM EDT December 5th, 2012

How does one define loyalty? 

If you simply go with free association, plenty of programs come to mind: daily deals, discounts, gift cards, rewards, offers – there’s no shortage of familiar strategies merchants and brands used to keep consumers coming back for more.

But according to Chuck Christianson, group vice president for sales and strategy at Affinion Loyalty Group, the real goal behind loyalty programs is creating memorable experiences.

“We try to enable true and lasting experiences for the customers of our customers,” Christianson said.  “We want to treat them as our own, because the customers that we have are entrusting us with, really, almost a sacred promise.”

Market Platform Dynamics Chief Executive Officer Karen Webster spoke with Christianson about Affinion Loyalty Group’s definition of loyalty, how mobile and social are impacting the industry and why incentives and rewards “are two sides of the same coin.”

Christianson noted that it’s really the experience the consumer has with a brand that solidifies his or her opinion, and is what cements the relationship between consumer and brand. That process, Christianson notes, is what has led his definition of loyalty to change and grow over time.

“I think it has changed a lot, and certainly the way we look at loyalty is not nearly as narrowly as we used to. I think we used to look at ourselves as a provider of rewards programs. But loyalty, and customer and loyalty is much larger than that,” Christianson said.

“The way we look through the lens of customer and loyalty today is, one that is really structured around the experience we help create for customers … it’s about, we believe, enabling the customer to create, to internalize and to experience with your brand.”

One of the most popular means by which consumers have such experiences is through mobile. Christianson said that over the past year alone, Affinion Loyalty Group has seen a nearly 200 percent increase in loyalty site visits from mobile devices, and cited a Cisco study that said the number of mobile connected devices actually exceeds the number of people on earth.

What’s perhaps most interesting, though, is that consumers often use mobile as a jumping off point, using social media and the Internet to look for products and good and comparing prices, but then using a different medium, such as a tablet or desktop, to make actual purchases.

“People are actually multitasking – what they’re doing is they’re interacting with brands in one form of media, and then their going and their augmenting that interaction through mobile,” he said. “So you have two abilities, two instances, almost contemporaneous, where you’re talking to your customer. And that’s how the customer is actually choosing to engage.”

To hear more Webster and Christianson on loyalty’s definition, mobile’s impact and more, listen to the full podcast here.


*If you have trouble with the audio player above, click here.

Charles Christianson

Group Vice President of Sales and Strategy, Affinion Loyalty Group

Group, Charles “Chuck” Christianson believes that our charge as marketers is no longer to just sell goods or services, but rather to enable experiences that must then live and breathe within each customer. As an experienced company storyteller, Chuck has spoken at numerous financial services and loyalty industry events including Card Forum & Expo, Loyalty Expo, Prepaid Expo, Cards & Payments Loyalty Conference, SIFMA’s Asset Management Roundtable and others. Additionally, Chuck has been quoted in Fox Business, Yahoo Finance, and various industry trade publications and he has held webinars dedicated to fostering consumer loyalty.

Chuck’s nearly 15 year career in the payments and financial services industries began in 1998, when he joined eCommerce Processing, where he ran sales for this innovative payment processing provider. In 2002, Chuck co-founded Neos Merchant Solutions, marketers of a proprietary smart card based payment platform that enabled small to medium sized merchants to economically offer private label gift and loyalty functionality on a single card. Prior to its acquisition in 2005, Neos distributed more functional private label smart cards than any other company in the United States.

Chuck earned his bachelor’s degree from Dickinson College and Juris Doctor from the University of Maryland. Chuck spent eight years as a litigation attorney in Baltimore, Maryland, where he practiced commercial and product liability law.

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