Samsung Rewards Turns One

Samsung Investigates Note 7

For the first birthday of Samsung Rewards, the Korean tech giant isn’t expecting to get any presents. Instead, the company plans to give out presents – one million of them, to be exact – to say “thank you” to the millions of users who have signed on with the loyalty program in its first year.

The instant win opportunity lasts from Thursday, Nov. 16 through the end of December, building on the success of one of Samsung Rewards’ most popular redemption options: the Vegas-style roulette.

Since launching in November 2016, Samsung Rewards has grown 25 percent month over month, with more than a million new users joining the program in the first week of November 2017 alone. The program has several million active users in seven global markets: the U.S., Korea, Brazil, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan, with several more markets on the docket for early 2018.

Nana Murugesan, vice president and general manager at Samsung Electronics, shared the growth numbers – as well as the strategies and philosophies that have been driving that growth – in a recent discussion with Karen Webster.

It turns out that Webster hit the nail on the head with many of her comments and predictions when speaking with Murugesan at the time of launch last fall. Luckily for Samsung, many of those predictions were optimistic, and the new program more than delivered.

A Story Told By Numbers

Murugesan said Samsung Rewards has been driving success across the board, thanks to the program’s cross-integrative approach. Nearly half of the growth Samsung Pay saw this year came from the Rewards program, and usage of the Samsung Health app grew 46 percent due to increased engagement through Samsung Rewards. More recently, Samsung Rewards has expanded to Samsung Internet, its mobile browser, creating another opportunity for users to participate in rewards, Murugesan said.

Rewards were launched at the same time as Samsung Pay. The two were created to function together, and designed to help Samsung Pay customers get more out of that service – much like a miles-based airline rewards program.

However, Murugesan said that Rewards was always designed to scale by giving users more opportunity to engage with a wide range of experiences across channels. That’s something that Murugesan said Samsung has also seen in the numbers, with 54 percent of this year’s new Rewards users engaging with other, non-Samsung Pay services.

What Makes Samsung Rewards So Sticky? Let Me Count The (Four) Ways…

Murugesan listed four reasons that he believes consumers have been attracted to Rewards – and, more importantly, why they’re sticking around.

First, Murugesan said, is that the rewards in the redemption catalog are actually worth earning. Participants can use their points to buy Samsung products like virtual reality headsets, the company’s Gear Fit smartwatch and deck stations. Or they can redeem points outside of the Samsung ecosystem with partner merchants such as Gap, Best Buy and AMC.

Customers can also cash out their points and receive the dollar value on a Visa debit card so they can spend it wherever they want – even if that means outside of the company’s ecosystem. But to Murugesan and Samsung, that’s the whole point. Murugesan said it was important to partner with third parties to support long-term growth that would not have been possible if Samsung Rewards were only linked to the company’s own products and services.

Customers also have the option to play instant win games with their points for a chance at exciting prizes, such as a vacation to Hawaii or Universal Studios. The odds are as good as any instant win game, but Murugesan said that, just like the lottery, instant wins excite customers by enabling them to tap into a desire for instant gratification – especially in the U.S. market, where consumers are very familiar with such a structure.

Murugesan said the company is about to introduce further ways to earn and redeem points, including through its mCommerce app, Shop Samsung. Just in time for the holidays, customers will get points for buying Samsung products from the mobile app – and, soon, from the desktop eCommerce site as well.

Second, customers have the opportunity to double- and triple-dip by earning Samsung Rewards points on top of any points and rewards they earn from their credit cards. Samsung Rewards don’t replace an existing rewards program – they turbo-charge it, Murugesan said.

Third, Samsung Rewards offers loyalty multipliers, so that those who use it the most grow their points the most. Taking a page from the airline rewards playbook, power users earn more status with more usage, giving them access to even more benefits and redemption opportunities.

Finally, the program is cross-service – a critical component, said Murugesan, not only for improving the user experience, but also for bringing customers into the fold of the Samsung ecosystem, even if they started out using only a single product by the tech giant.

For example, Murugesan explained that Samsung Rewards takes engagement from the internet and drives traffic into Samsung Pay, and from Pay into Bixby, the company’s voice-activated assistant, and back around again. The rewards do not live within a single service, but instead link Samsung’s products and services in a way that they were not previously connected.

Samsung Isn’t The Only Winner

Samsung isn’t the only one benefitting from its third-party redemption strategy – and neither are users, though their loyalty to the program suggests they are indeed gaining an advantage from the flexible redemption options. Additionally, said Murugesan, those partners also get to reap some Samsung Rewards.

That’s exactly what Webster predicted would happen when the two discussed the program last year: She said consumers could find themselves double- and triple-dipping as issuers, merchants and networks saw card usage increase on the customer’s journey toward silver- and gold-level Samsung Rewards membership – and that’s just what Samsung has seen.

The tech giant’s goals, according to Murugesan, are to accelerate the time it takes for partners to close a sale, to increase re-purchase and to drive loyalty. Early results are showing that this is happening, though specific measurements have not yet been collected.

Samsung is achieving these goals by working closely with partners on the user experience. Murugesan pointed out that it’s important not to award all the points in one go, but to make it clear what the next step is if the user wants to earn more – leaving a trail of breadcrumbs that could potentially convert that customer into doing business with the partner as well.

For example, Samsung partners with Better Mortgage. The rewards path with that partner offers a certain number of points for learning about Better Mortgage, additional points for enrolling and even more points for actually applying. The visual presentation of this progression is key, said Murugesan. Users must know which step they’re on and what they’ll get for completing the next one – plus, how to get there easily.

In short, Murugesan concluded, with rewards, “One size doesn’t fit all. Different partners have different users and different requirements. We want our partners to have options.”