Who isn’t familiar with rewards programs that incentivize consumers to become more eager customers? But one company has devised a rewards program that aims to go even further.
Gregory Simon, CEO of “The Internet of Loyalty” platform provider, Loyyal Corporation, recently checked in with Karen Webster to discuss the company’s work with the Dubai government on the Dubai points program — a tourism incentive program that is expected to roll out in August 2016.
Yes, you read that right. The government of Dubai is rolling out a points program to make consumers and tourists sticky.
And it gets even better.
They’re using their own version of blockchain to make it happen.
Webster dives into the details with Simon, who’s using the blockchain and smart contract technology to make it all possible.
KW: You describe Loyyal as “The Internet of Loyalty.” What do you mean by that?
GS: Loyyal is a universal platform built for the loyalty rewards industry on blockchain and smart contract technology – the first that I know of. We are applying the blockchain technology to pull together the entire loyalty industry, which is highly fragmented for the government of Dubai. The blockchain allows us to create a cohesive layer that brings all these loyalty programs together to operate in different ways and create more value overall. That’s why we say we are enabling “The Internet of Loyalty” industry.
KW: So, in order for points to be redeemed anywhere by anyone, there needs to be some exchange on both endpoints making that possible. Because I earn points at one place, I may not necessarily be able to burn them at another because that place doesn’t have a mechanism to accept them or to convert them to dollars to make that exchange of value worth it for them. How do you solve for that?
GS: The process of redeeming miles or reward points somewhere else in the production network is not fun. You normally have to go through the issuer’s website or some closed system. There is no ability for that point issuer to allow you to use your points outside of their safe and secure closed-loop environment. You can do that with the large trusted partners, but for smaller business partners the cost of security outweighs the benefits.
For the Loyyal platform, there has to be a relationship, which includes the agreed amount of the exchange of value. The consumer downloads a wallet or the embedded wallet within the app or the point of sale device, and the points issuer gives permission for the specific wallet to do what has been agreed. The points issuer retains complete control over everything. The entire tech process takes a few minutes and is replacing a current tech process that can take upwards of a year and cost millions of dollars to deploy to make what I just described happen.
KW: What does the consumer have to do to take advantage of your Internet of Loyalty program?
GS: Consumers don’t have to do anything. When I use my cellphone, I am unaware of what is allowing me to send videos or post comments on social media. For the same reason, we don’t really have to know our loyalty program “plumber.” We think that because we are that plumbing we can make it easier for anyone who wants to deliver a loyalty program to do that. We are the backend and behind the scenes.
In the longer term, however, the consumer does have to become aware of the loyalty programs that are offered on Loyyal. That’s a goal for when we expand our market share.
KW: Who sets the exchange value on your network?
GS: That is entirely determined by the issuer and whoever is their partner in that transaction. We designed the platform so that the issuer of the points or the rewards has absolute control.
KW: So are you riding the bitcoin rails, or how are you actually moving value across the blockchain?
GS: We have designed a variation of blockchain that we call “Abstracted Value Consensus Protocol,” AVCP for short. This allows variation of blockchain and smart contracts and to move value at no cost at the blockchain level to give customization of the smart contract layer without the challenges of using the main bitcoin blockchain.
KW: So you are not running into any of the scale issues and, at volume, you don’t have any concerns about volume across the rails that you created?
GS: Absolutely not. We designed our platform to be technology agnostic. Basically, we have taken the blockchain, think of it as a bundled protocol, and unbundled the different components.
KW: So, how do you make money? I know you are reducing the cost of processing over your rails, but what is your business model?
GS: We offer the ability to move the value at nearly no cost and are driving topline growth to improve the consumer experience relationship with the program operator through smart contracts with highly customized incentification, where purchases or services are incentivized based upon lifestyle.
We monetize with a basic model. A transaction fee is charged every time the point is moved from wallet to wallet. If points are created, earned, exchanged or redeemed, there will be a nominal fixed amount charged, which is significantly lower than the market amount. Higher value and services are the result that are the heavily customized smart contract options.
KW: Tell me about the use case in Dubai, which is a government initiative, as I understand it, to take your Internet of Loyalty phenomenon within Dubai for a test drive.
GS: The Dubai program is the kind of opportunity we thought we were going to have in two or three years’ time.
I helped organize the first bitcoin conference in Dubai that led to the creation of the Dubai Global Blockchain Council sponsored by the Prime Minister’s office of Dubai. Loyyal was invited to join the council. To help promote blockchain across Dubai, [the council] decided to pick some proven concepts to sponsor. We proposed to them, what if we design something to incentivize tourists to learn more about the culture of Dubai?
That’s when we came up with “The Internet of Loyalty” idea. The program is helping Dubai tourism and the government of Dubai to incentivize tourists to visit places where they can learn more about the history and culture. In doing so, tourists earn Dubai Points that they can redeem with program partners. The government of Dubai is working with us and sponsoring us to roll this out. There are a number of participants who want to get involved once we launch the site, and I am expecting more participants on the redemption side from sectors such as retail and hospitality.
Even more exciting is the initiative of the government of Dubai to make Dubai the happiest city in the world by 2020. This is an impressive initiative. Our platform and the Dubai Points program could potentially expand beyond tourists to incentivize residents. It is the only government-private-sponsored destination loyalty program in the world.
KW: You mentioned that you are a career investment banker who fell in love with blockchain back in 2013. What’s a nice investment banker like you doing in the bitcoin blockchain world? What drew you to that?
GS: I fell in love with bitcoin because I think it is the most innovative, disruptive technology introduced to society since before the internet. It creates fungibility of value. I knew that this was going to change everything because of its tremendous potential to empower people around the world and power up the unbanked population.
There are so many applications, and this is why I have devoted all of my time to becoming a blockchain technology expert and creating the team of experts from the loyalty industry and blockchain to make this a reality.
Gregory Simon is CEO and Co-Founder of Loyyal Corporation. He is a career investment banker primarily based out of Asia. Since 2013, he has been fully immersed in the blockchain and distributed ledger technology industry. Simon’s goal is to spread awareness and the adoption of blockchain and distributed ledger technology in both monetary and non-monetary applications.
* Editor’s Note: Portions of the above Q&A have been edited for clarity.