5 Ways Digitization And Ecommerce Can Swing Up India’s Offline Retail Sales

5 Ways Digitization And Ecommerce Can Swing Up India’s Offline Retail Sales

At the heart of the Indian retail tale, the true star even through the pandemic, is the friendly neighbourhood ‘kirana’ store. This makes sense when you realize that the grocery sector accounts for half of India’s retail consumption, and kiranas (which are small- to mid- sized conventional stores, often family-run) account for about 90 percent of the country’s roughly $500 billion food and grocery market. 

In our previous blogs, we have written about the impact of COVID-19 on global and regional retail industries. The pandemic spurred the adoption of online retailing (India’s ecommerce market is estimated to be growing at a 30 percent compound annual growth rate over the next five years), but the pandemic also led to a renewed trust in local stores, with a surge in new consumers visiting local stores both in metros and non-metros. In fact, in contrast to the fashion industry, the food and grocery retailers fared relatively well during the pandemic, and even reverted to pre-COVID-19 level sales and profits in the third quarter of 2020-21. This is because grocery retailers were crucial during the COVID-19-induced lockdown. Even though the lockdown and coronavirus mitigation protocols forced more consumers to shop online, the e-commerce industry was hard hit as it was not deemed an essential service (and could not deliver goods) and for other reasons like last-mile logistics. The retail sector incurred massive losses of about INR 5.50 lakh crore (approximately US$75 billion), and at least 20 percent of Indian retailers shut their businesses due to COVID-19In this blog, we outline why small retailers should digitize their sales and business operations to reduce similar vulnerabilities.

1. Kirana stores need a tech makeover


According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development’s Business-To-Consumer E Commerce Index 2019, India ranks 73 out of 152 countries on its readiness to support online shopping. Increasing internet penetration and smartphone and social media use have driven the growth of e-commerce in India. In fact, ecommerce has become increasingly popular even in Tier II and Tier III cities, due to services like cash-on-delivery, free home delivery, deeper discounts, flexible payment options, buy-back policies, and a wider offer of products.

Ecommerce has made massive leaps in India’s retail sector: 220 million people are expected to shop online by 2025, and the industry is predicted to grow to INR 13,97,800 crore (US$200 billion) by 2027. The Grocery and Fashion apparel sectors are poised to drive this growth, triggered by the expanding internet and smartphone penetration. Given these insights, it becomes imperative for kirana stores to take steps to offer an ecommerce option for those who choose it, or risk losing out on sales. Many kiranas agree— as many as 58 percent of traders surveyed in metro cities and 46 percent in the non-metros are convinced that they need to digitize due to Covid-19. 

2. Adopting the Phygital model

Although online food and grocery retail has made headway in the country, it still counts for just 0.2 percent of all sales (according to consulting firm Redseer). Of India’s over 12 million local retail shops, only 15,000 have digitised their operations with mobile apps. Being heralded as the way forward to bridge this gap is the ‘phygital model’. It can be viewed as an integration of digital technology (digital) with personal interactions with consumers (physical), to bridge the gulf between the two. It combines the mileage of human service and trust with the efficiency and power of digital technology. An effective phygital retail strategy ideally focuses on three I’s – immediacy, immersion, and interaction.

  • Immediacy understands that customers are looking for the quickest ways to find the products they want and one-click checkouts.
  • Immersion factor provides personalized experience everywhere
  • Interaction focuses on the engagement between the customer and brand.

3. From brick-and-mortar to brick-and-click model 

The evolution from ‘bricks vs. clicks’ to ‘bricks and clicks’ will see the mix of traditional stores, modern brick-and-mortar stores and online channels, with each complementing the other. Developing such symbiotic partnerships will enable the growth of small and medium stores by widening the customer base and marketing potential. Meanwhile, customers will be able to choose from a mix of shopping modes. Several such partnerships are currently being explored, such as:


  • The Facebook-JioMart deal will allow consumers to order groceries from local shops via WhatsApp. 
  • Similarly, Amazon launched an initiative to allow local retail stores to sell their products on its site, and will invest US$1billion (INR 7,349 crore) to encourage small businesses to move online. This takes forward its existing partnerships with small format traders through the ‘I Have Space’ programme where local neighbourhood shops receive and deliver goods on behalf of Amazon.
  • Paytm has introduced a loyalty programme for kiranas and provides them with a digital ledger through the ‘Business Khata’ service. 
  • Flipkart has also partnered with over 35,000 convenience stores to bridge ecommerce.
  • During the lockdown, food delivery platform Swiggy also teamed up with several local stores to supply groceries.

4. The tactical social media gambit

As restrictions start easing, Indian retail stores can advertise their offline business through platforms like Facebook and Instagram. In June 2020, Instagram hit one billion monthly users—more than an eighth of the world’s population. That said, about two million advertisers use Instagram every month—this is still a very small percentage of one billion. This shows there is still an abundance of opportunity to leverage social media channels as a platform to sell your brand, and draw larger audiences.

For large brands with a significant audience, taking a direct sales approach through social media posts may work well, as they are more likely to have already established trust, and have a loyal customer base. For brands lacking a sizable audience of followers, one method is to buy ad space on social media networks instead, which can help businesses to target individuals who are more likely to be interested in their product, rather than mass marketing to everyone. Small businesses can also have the advantage of offering a personal touch while responding to followers. Responsiveness is the most sought-after quality in a business social media account (according to a survey by Sprout Social), and it’s the one thing that’s most likely to lead to sales in all demographics of online customers.

5. Digital payment solutions

About 80 percent of India’s retail stores continue to be cash-intensive and operate in the informal economy. Cash is the preferred mode of payment in kirana stores due to its ease of use, familiarity, and for the sense of control it provides. Studies to uncover the reason for merchants’ slow adoption show that trust was a major influencing factor, along with factors like usefulness, trustworthiness, and non-fraudulent and error-free transactions. In some instances, kirana owners’ attitude towards digital technologies is strongly influenced by the fear of tax implications and additional costs levied by banks on digital transactions, as well as the potential investment needed to use the technologies (such as to buy or hire POS devices).

offline-retail-sales-india-digital payment-solutions

There has been a concerted effort from the public sector to push ecommerce and digital payments across India. A few of their programmes aimed at digitising small retailers include Aadhaar-based biometric systems, the Pradhan Mantri Jan-Dhan Yojana (PMJDY), the government-promoted Bharat Interface for Money (BHIM) app, Bharat QR code, RuPay cards and the ‘Digital India’ programme. Additionally, private sector initiatives have complemented these efforts to promote digitisation.

However, in the past year, retail digital payments have seen huge growth as more people gravitated towards digital modes of transaction owing to fear of contracting the virus and convenience. Retail payment platforms such as Unified Payments Interface (UPI), Immediate Payment Service (IMPS), and National Automated Clearing House (NACH) saw a near doubling of both transaction volume from 12.5 billion to 22.3 billion, and value from Rs 21.3 trillion to Rs 41 trillion between FY2020 and 2021. To increase digitization even further, the security of India’s overall digital architecture will need to be fortified to improve trust in digital technologies among merchants and customers.


Retail is India’s largest industry, accounting for over 10 percent of the country’s GDP and 8 percent of employment. Local convenience stores still account for the majority of retail transactions, making small retailers the backbone of the Indian economy. It is of paramount importance to support digitization efforts using transparent policies and platforms that benefit small- and mid- sized local retailers, hence giving more power to them and the local communities they support.

How AI-Powered Segmentation Can Increase Marketing ROI

How AI-Powered Segmentation Can Increase Marketing ROI

All brands vie to target customers with intelligent marketing, but a few get it right.  Imagine if at the height of the pandemic, after spending a week browsing for a bigger apartment to shift into, you come across your dream house through a Facebook ad—a classic scenario when you’ve been targeted with intelligent marketing. However, the opposite scenario would be receiving the same ad a week after you lost your job, and when you had no interest in looking for a new home.

Unless your brand has limitless marketing budgets, intelligent marketing is necessary to ensure that your brand message, products and promotions are being targeted to the most relevant audience likely to be interested in making a purchase, thereby improving marketing ROI. Intelligent marketing also helps brands craft their message and products based on understanding the various evolving customer segments of the target market.

The last decade has shown us that ‘relevance’ has been the underpinning theme of marketing in the digital-first era. A majority of consumers (88% according to a survey of  1,500 U.S. consumers conducted by Marketing Insider Group) say that personally relevant content improves how they feel about a brand This is also reflected amongst marketing experts. A survey of marketing professionals in North America shows that 62 percent of respondents said improving audience segmentation to enable more precisely targeted messaging was a top priority. Personalizing customer engagement and content for different customer segments improves conversion rates by a whopping 70%, and its impact ripples across the entire consumer lifecycle: from acquisition costs, customer loyalty, engagement levels, average order values to repeat purchases. Segmented marketing can improve your productivity and the effectiveness and ROI of your marketing campaigns overall. 

Why do brands need AI-powered Customer Segmentation?

In order to increase the chances of people engaging with content, brands must target the content to the right people in the right way, rather than targeting the entire audience with a luke-warm message. Yet this is a monumental task today since there is extreme noise in the digital world, and an overwhelming amount of data to sift through. Additionally, the rapidly changing trends and events of today make it difficult to truly know who customers are as they evolve. 

It isn’t a recent phenomenon for marketers to customize their products and content based on broad static filters, like geographic location, organization, or even income, but this kind of targeting has typically been one-dimensional and doesn’t take into consideration more nuanced, personal-level factors about the person being targeted. 

Artificial Intelligence has been a fundamental influence in transitioning from traditional segmentation, giving way to deeper, dynamic segmentation that incorporates new deeper data points and insight layers that speak to a person’s motivations—not just what they do, but why they do it. 

For example, being a t-shirt manufacturing company, you might learn that most of your customers are in the age group 20 to 35, and a significant number of them share an interest in a recently launched Video Game. You may also learn that many of your customers are interested in environmental pages, and have recently liked posts related to environmental causes. With artificial intelligence powering your marketing segmentation, you can personalize engagement for various micro-segments of customers. Different factors determine why a customer is coming back to your business. The same customer can show different kinds of attributes from trip to trip. It is important to understand what is their intent and then personalize their content.

The biggest tech giants – from Facebook to Amazon, to Netflix – have invested billions in getting the right content in front of every user. You may have noticed this when Netflix recommends shows you might like based on your previous viewing habits. Google “auto-fills” suggestions based on searches you’ve previously made. Facebook tailors your news feed based on the items you’ve engaged with. 

Leveraging AI for Smart Segmentation

Collecting customer data to divide them into segments can be done using various tools and processes, based on the brand’s size and requirements. 

A traditional method for gathering data is requesting surveys from existing customers—but frequent requests will only serve to irritate customers. Fortunately, retailers can obtain data in less intrusive ways today with digital technology, like capturing how consumers interact with their website, their priorities, interests and preferences. By leveraging a Customer Data Platform, brands can combine first-hand data along with partner data or third-party data from multiple channels.

A typical AI-driven approach  to customer segmentation would involve the following steps:

  1. Start with a broad segmentation of your customers, such as demographic, geographical, organizational, etc.
  2. Build on this persona. Grow robust micro-segments based on other identifiers (interests, values, income, etc).
  3. Overlap different micro-segments to create rich user profiles. For example, target high-income earners who recently searched for homes in a specific location.
  4. Create engaging content and product strategies for different segments based on the perceived ROI of the segment. 

Existing customer personas can be strengthened further by layering attributes like:

  • Time spent on various channels (online, offline) 
  • Acquisition Path (how the customer came to your store or website)
  • Psychological drivers 
  • Personal values
  • Media consumption
  • Brand affinity
  • Affinity to loyalty programs
  • Purchase History
  • Geographic locations
  • Product propensity
  • Income
  • Where they shop
  • Preferred hours for engagement

The list goes on.

Granular micro-segments help draw out important nuances that improve decision-making across the organization and throughout the customer lifecycle. Based on the capacity for a segment to drive value, brands should tailor products, services, and experiences for top segments.

Typically, a customer’s lifecycle value relies specifically on the frequency and recency of purchases. The idea of using these metrics comes from the RFM analysis. Recency and Frequency are critical behavior parameters. Companies are interested in frequent and recent purchases because frequency affects the client’s lifetime value and recency affects retention. Therefore, these metrics can help us to understand the current phase of the customer’s lifecycle. 

The Advantages of Automatic AI-Driven Segmentation

AI Powered Growth

Using artificial intelligence to segment your customers offers a number of advantages over traditional manual segmentation.

  • Lowering your cost per click– Facebook’s Relevance Score has shown that the better you are at targeting the right ad message to the right audience, the lower your cost per click will be. Different platforms have different tools, like Alexa’s Keyword Difficulty tool to measure audience interest and competition. Look for phrases that are popular with low competition to find a sweet spot.
  • Going beyond human bias– We all have subconscious biases. AI can also go beyond assumptions to find hidden patterns in data that a human marketer may be unable to spot
  • Dynamic and scalable– Automatic updating of segments in a rapidly changing market. A highly scalable method, which allows processing an unlimited number of consumers and size of segments
  • Greater personalization thanks to more nuanced insights 


Customer segmentation is a vital component of brand strategy and the marketing process, no matter the method chosen for segmentation. However, AI/ML-based algorithms create extremely precise and nuanced micro-segments and can take into account behavioral data from all sources and channels. This provides retailers with a scalable way of understanding how their customers interact with the brand and products, without getting inundated with data. Want to target the most engaged customers within a 20-mile radius of an event, or those with more affinity to spend? That’s a breeze with Artificial Intelligence-powered segmentation. Today, the vast amount of consumer data being generated shows no indication of slowing down. This makes AI-powered segmentation the obvious choice for effective marketing heading into the future.

Designing an Effective Fuel Retail Loyalty Program

Designing an Effective Fuel Retail Loyalty Program

When it comes to garnering customer loyalty, Oil and Gas Retail companies face unique challenges. For one, fuel prices are highly regulated by the government and fluctuate with changes in the global crude oil prices, and so profit margins on fuel sales are slim when compared to other sectors. Interestingly, fuel retailers typically see profitability decrease as prices rise, and increase when prices fall, due to the volatility in the wholesale price of gasoline and the competitive structure of the market (according to the Association For Convenience & Fuel Retailing). 

The Need for Diversification and Differentiation

Fuel Diversification

Fuel retailers are also challenged by growing concerns of consumer impact on the environment and climate change across the world, and unfortunately, fuel-guzzling vehicles are viewed as a step in the opposite direction of progress. In February of this year, BP (formerly The British Petroleum Company) announced a new purpose – ‘to reimagine energy for people and the planet’ – supported by a new ambition to be a net-zero company by 2050 or sooner. BP isn’t the only brand coming to terms with the world’s diminishing carbon budget. Shell, one of the largest multinational Oil and Gas companies, is reinventing itself as an international energy company that aims to meet the world’s growing need for cleaner energy solutions, in ways that are ‘economically, environmentally and socially responsible. 

Customers today crave personalized, convenient and emotion-fuelled (pun intended) experiences, and fuel retail brands that haven’t differentiated themselves in these aspects will find customers returning only for consistently low prices—not a great revenue strategy in the long term. 

So how can fuel retail brands future-proof their business during unpredictable times? Firstly, brands must drive non-fuel retail sales from in-store food, beverages and more, and drive additional vehicle services, all of which can yield a much higher profit margin than fuel sales. For instance – on an average day, Shell serves customers on nine different shopping missions, seven of which are not associated with fuels. Secondly, if we are to take examples from leading brands like Shell and BP, fuel brands must have one finger on the consumer’s pulse, and make business decisions that keep in line with expectations. 

We believe that an intelligent loyalty and customer engagement strategy have enormous potential to transform a fuel retail brand. Here are some key strategies and insights on how fuel and oil companies can implement a consumer-centric, future-proof loyalty program.

Best Practises For Designing a Fuel Retail Loyalty Programs

  • Be Accessible for the entire Spectrum of Customers 

Fuel stations are frequented by a diverse segment of customers – from time-crunched businessmen to unhurried grandpas. Keeping your loyalty program attractive to these diverse personas of customers is key to the success of your program. An omnichannel loyalty program allows you to do that. These programs facilitate an omnichannel engagement strategy by unifying customer data across multiple channels and building a Single View of Customer. 

However engagement is only one part of your omnichannel strategy, the other is accessibility. By enabling digital cards and social media integrations, your loyalty program is always available from the mobile app. To state the obvious, this is a huge boon today since most people always have their phones, even if they forget their loyalty card. At the same time, brands should also enable customers to access the loyalty program using physical cards or key fobs, with support through channels like call centers, since less tech-savvy customers often prefer a human connection. 

  • Offering Personalized Rewards for Each Customer Segments

Implement loyalty elements that go beyond simple discounts or points that blanket-target all customers. By understanding the psychology of various customer segments,  fuel retail brands can analyze customer behavior, and segment them based on their individual preferences, interests and missions, and finally reward them highly personalized, experiential rewards.  

For this, it’s vital for brands to identify and understand customer mission and purchase patterns. Is the visiting customer an individual user, or part of a fleet service? Is he a high-frequency customer or a sporadic one? Will they be more inclined towards a free beverage as a reward or discounts on future refuels. 

Rewards and engagement must be customized based on the desired behaviors from different customer segments, engagement varying with their location, age group, life-events (birthdays, anniversaries), and more. For example: 

  • A driver fitting the ‘parent’ profile refuels their vehicle. Brands can trigger instant offers via bill, SMS or the app, like a limited-period discount on a popular snack for kids from partner stores. 
  • For high-spending customers, or those fitting a ‘business’ profile, brands can upsell with higher-grade fuel, or higher-priced products with greater margins. For high-frequency customers, brands can offer a free service or product (like a car wash or a coffee in-store) after ‘x’ visits per month. Some brands offer greater savings with a higher loyalty tier. 

Shell Gold

Shell Fuel Rewards has two tiers: Silver Status, which saves 3 cents per gallon on fuel purchases, and Gold Status, which saves you 5 cents per gallon. The disclaimer is that to maintain Gold Status, customers need to fill up six times with at least 5 gallons every three months.

  • Utilize concepts like gamification to grant rewards to drivers who reach fun milestones. Offer scratch-and-win games for discounts on partnering brands or Non-Fuel Retail products. Double loyalty points for those who manage to stop at a round figure while refilling. Create in-app games during festive seasons that gift drivers free or discounted vehicle services. 

Speedy Rewards

The American fuel retail brand Speedway offers exciting Speedy Rewards Sweepstakes running each month. Customers can redeem their loyalty points for chances to win the Sweepstakes— 50 points grants them entry to win a $500 Speedy gift card, and customers can apply multiple times to increase their chances of winning.

As a matter of hygiene, always track and analyze campaigns to understand their success and redemption rates.

  • Optimizing Service Times by Integrating Loyalty & Contactless Payments

With on-the-go drivers sensitive to staying on schedule, the key to delighting customers is providing services that are timely. This can be accomplished by a fast, streamlined and convenient transaction and refueling experience. 

The ideal time taken for refueling a vehicle should not be more than 3 minutes. Digital technologies such as cashless payments help reduce valuable customer time while increasing transaction security and are already in steady use across the world.

Repsol Mas (a Spanish fuel retail brand) offers a digital wallet and universal payment app that lets consumers pay by phone, earn points and save during transactions— all from a single app.

As we enter a post-pandemic world, contactless transactions will continue to be popular with a wide audience. Fuel brands can introduce QR code scanning for payments, or prepaid wallets linked to their mobile app, both of which will save drivers valuable time. 


Fuel Retail brands like China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) have enabled “smart fuelling stations” which enables customers to fuel their vehicles without stepping out. CNPC claims that smart fuelling has cut down fueling time from six minutes to approximately two minutes. 

Fuel Retail Brands can further reduce customer time by enabling pre-booking services or meals through their mobile phone app.

  • Leveraging & Optimizing Fleet Loyalty

A fleet Loyalty Program is a card management system through which a fuel retail brand offers a credit line and rewards for businesses with a fleet of vehicles. As an example, consider a cab service company leveraging a fleet loyalty program from a specific fuel retail brand. Not only does the program provide a convenient, quick mode of payment for fuel purchases for all drivers belonging to the cab service company, it also assures a steady stream of business for the fuel retail brand. 

While the program offers the cab service business fuel on credit by using the cards, it also rewards the loyal customers (either individual drivers or the business itself) for their spending. 

  • Advanced Geolocation based Hyperpersonalization

Based on advanced geolocation and beacons, fuel retail brands can trigger personalized offers to make people aware of fuel stations and stores near them. This is a great way to beat competing brands in a specific service area with a proactive approach, which can help shift customer behavior in your favor. However, brands must take care to not trigger communication intrusively—that will be the highway to losing customers.

An alternative to the proactive approach is to enable customers to find the right offers and stores through your app when they require it.


Exxonmobil has enabled a Speedpass+ loyalty app that also allows customers to search for nearby Exxon and Mobil stations, and pay for gas right from their phone using Samsung Pay, Apple Pay and other methods.


As consumer demands and trends change, fuel retailers need to fundamentally transform their approach to customer loyalty. They need to move towards a customer-centric business model to capture new product and service opportunities and incorporate digital tools and technologies to elevate the overall customer experience. The innovative ways in which they can achieve this will be the mark of their success.

Deepen Customer Loyalty with Mobile App Gamification

Deepen Customer Loyalty with Mobile App Gamification

The human mind loves games.

Around us, from millennials playing CandyCrush for hours on social media to gamblers losing all their money in casinos, there are plenty of examples of how games can be addicting. In fact, gaming is the most popular habit of the digital age. A report by Statista that there are over 1,651.66 million active mobile gamers worldwide as of 2020, and this number is expected to rise to 2,220.8 million by 2025. Even while looking at apps on the Apple App Store categories in 2020, 21.86% of apps belong to the gaming category, followed by business, which is only 10.11%. 

So it does not come as a surprise that businesses across industries have been borrowing game strategies for marketing and motivating customer behavior with game elements like badges, scoreboards, points, levels, and more. Gamification can be used to cultivate high engagement with existing customers, and even attract potential customers. Take the example of Autodesk, a leader in 3D design and engineering software, that tested gamification concepts in their software. Using an intriguing storyline and a variable reward system, they incentivized users to finish the trial and learn how to use the software. They found that using gamification in customer engagement strategies resulted in a 54% increase in trial usage, and a 15% increase in buy clicks.

How To Gamify Your App To Deepen Loyalty

Loyalty Program Gamification

Before using gamification to enhance engagement, brands must understand the two types of motivation that make people take action: extrinsic and intrinsic. 

Extrinsic motivators are tangible, like offering monetary credits, discounts, or freebies. Intrinsic motivation relies more on emotions and desires. Extrinsic motivators are more commonly found in marketing strategies, partly because they are extremely effective in attracting new customers and triggering initial adoption. However, they can lose effectiveness over time. 

Extrinsic motivations like points and discounts are easily replicated or out-done by competition, but to create sustainable engagement, intrinsic motivation is essential.

One way to better understand Intrinsic motivators is by using the Self Determination Theory, a universal concept that claims three factors create emotional motivation: autonomy, competence and relatedness.  

  1. Autonomy: Consider ‘autonomy’ as the freedom of internal will. No one likes to be forced to do something. When a person is autonomously motivated, their performance, wellness, and engagement is heightened rather than if they were told what to do
  2. Competence: Competence is the motivation to control the outcome of a game and experience mastery
  3. Relatedness: This is the need to interact with others, be connected to, and experience caring for others. People who are primarily motivated by ‘relatedness’ will seek out communities or other individuals to share their experiences and progress with

With this knowledge, let’s dive into some game mechanics to implement in your mobile app:

  • Badges or Performance charts: It is important to have design elements in your app that complement your game’s objective. Badges are a visual representation of users’ achievements and can indicate their journey and performance within the app. Performance graphs show how the player performed in comparison with their previous results. These are intrinsic elements that can motivate users to grow their competency
  • Levels: Levels are implemented to create layers of complexity within the game, challenging the user to reach further. Reaching a new level is rewarding an earned proficiency
  • Scoreboards or Leaderboards:  Scoreboards and leaderboards rank the players of a game to define the best performing for every activity. Unlike performance charts that show the performance of one user within a certain time period, a scoreboard shows the performance in relation to the performance of others. They allow users to gauge their performance against peers, and this encourages competitiveness among users.
  • Community: Companies that share the same values with their customers can build a community that improves the member’s trust and sense of belonging. However, for companies to build a community, they must build emotionally relatable products.
  • Goods: In an app economy, users earn points to spend. The goods purchased with points can have real-world value, but digital goods that have no value outside of an app are also satisfying to users. For example, digital goods that allow the user to express their creativity, like allowing a user to change the color themes of the app or uploading a custom background.
  • Uncertainty: While most companies today are already using some form of reward systems in both customer and employee engagement strategies, not a lot of companies are adding the element of uncertainty to it. A recent study in neuroscience reveals that making rewards variable skyrockets our dopamine and supercharges attention stating that it’s not about pleasure from a reward but the anticipation of pleasure. Simply encouraging consumers to engage with an app in return for standard points is a dull game.
  • Challenges and achievements: Challenges are generally represented by goals. Users like to feel like they have a mission when using an app. Achievements are proof of completing a challenge. Digital badges or trophies don’t have monetary value but are effective when shared via social media.
  • Gifting: Gifting is a prodigious game mechanic that can be applied to almost any sort of app. Being able to send a digital gift, such as points you’ve earned, encourages a relationship between the giver and the receiver, and pulls the receiver into the app to redeem the gift.

Brands can learn more about what incentivizes consumers by understanding their behavior to extrinsic and intrinsic motivators. Understanding customers’ behavior and inclination to specific game mechanics can be better understood using A/B tests; for example, understanding a customer’s motivation by offering the choice between a Discount versus a Spin-The-Wheel chance to win event tickets.

The fascinating study of games on our psychology shows that there are multiple reasons why people are addicted to games. 

  • An element of self-determination. Games allow the user to take control of their journey
  • An element of curiosity. A good game will motivate the user with curiosity. The user will keep moving forward and engaging with the game
  • An element of competition. Humans are social creatures and are often driven by competition. Games that offer interaction and competition with other players motivate users to master the game. 

In this article, we will explore how brands can deepen customer loyalty by enhancing gamification on their mobile apps. Our focus on mobile apps stems from the fact that more than 50% of online purchases today are happening on a mobile device

An increasing number of brands are rightly taking a mobile-first approach to loyalty programs— that is, starting product design from the real-estate restricted mobile interface, before expanding features to tablet and desktop versions. Growing engagement on mobile apps is often a direct indicator of revenue, and the time users spend on the app has a direct correlation to the bottom line. 

Examples Of Mobile App Gamification

Gamification Examples


Zamzee Kids uses an activity tracker to track kid’s steps and health, with a fun website to get people motivated to move more. Zamzee’s ingenious solution – a portable accelerometer and matching gamified social online system – is getting otherwise sedentary kids to exercise the equivalent of an incremental marathon per month. Zamzee does this by offering patently extrinsic rewards (points, badges, leaderboards, free stuff) that feed a core intrinsic desire: every kid’s craving for agency and self-determination – not necessarily the drive to be fit. 


Goibibo has gamified their app with India’s evergreen love: Cricket. The app introduced goCashFest, where users can earn GoCash by keeping their Goibibo app open during all Mumbai Indians matches. By using the app while the team plays, users win GoCash for each 4s, 6s, 50, 100, wickets, and wins during the match. This goCash is valid until the next Mumbai Indians match and can be used to make bookings on Goibibo.

Bakmi GM

Bakmi GM* is a marquee fast food chain that serves over 30,000 customers per day in Indonesia. Bakmi GM built a microsite and a mobile app that uses gamification to obtain enriched customer data. In return for completing their profile information, customers/users receive a chance to #SpinTheWheel and win gifts, cashbacks, or offers in exchange from the brand. Strategies like this allow brands to drive greater personalization and create more meaningful micro-segments of customers based on product affinity, billing history, profile information, etc. In addition, Bakmi also has a rich rewards catalog available on the mobile app, allowing customers to easily select their rewards.

*Capillary is proud to partner with Bakmi GM for this initiative.


The coffee chain has done an excellent job of keeping customers engaged with challenges and achievements. They use challenges like getting customers to check-in at different retail stores in order to unlock an achievement. The loyalty app sends customers push notifications when they’re close to reaching the next tier of the program. By using reminders like “you’re only two coffees away from a free muffin this week”, Starbucks encourages customer engagement with a subtle sense of urgency.

Candy Crush

Candy Crush offers customers the capability to share their loyalty status and “achievement badges” on social media, which led to heightened awareness about the game and leading to its massive popularity. One of the key contributors to the success of Candy Crush was the free social media promotion the game experienced through existing players posting their scores. Retail brands can use similar strategies like photo competitions, offering rewards, or unlocking discounts when customers share their love on social media.

Wrap Up

Mobile gamification can efficiently improve stickiness, and repeated engagement by creating different challenges to encourage different consumer behaviors. Trends in brand loyalty and customer retention are constantly evolving and advancing — yet the history of games and its close ties with human psychology makes it clear that ‘gamification’ is more than a buzzword. It is here to stay.

Coalition Loyalty Programs for Retail Brands

Coalition Loyalty Programs for Retail Brands

Why Brands Banding Together Can Be Stronger Than Working Alone

Loyalty programs have been shown to significantly increase average basket size and repeat sales for brands. However, single-brand loyalty programs are not without their share of limitations. From a customer’s perspective, the most glaring one is the restraints around reward catalog and redemption opportunities. A coalition loyalty program solves this problem by offering a wider assortment of incentives built around low, medium, and high-frequency shopping partners. Furthermore, the lower cost structure of coalition programs compared to individual programs, allow businesses to pass those savings on to the customer as more attractive incentives.

What Is a Coalition Loyalty Program?

Often called “shared loyalty programs”, coalition loyalty is a unique concept in which multiple brands join together in a partnership and offer a joint loyalty program. Not to be confused with “umbrella loyalty” or “group loyalty” (where businesses with large brand portfolios offer a loyalty program across individual brands), Coalition Loyalty is in play when many unrelated brands band together to offer customers rewards that can be earned from a variety of participating brands, with options to redeem rewards at the brand of their choice.

Imagine a scenario where you frequently earn points every time you shop at your favorite grocery store, racking up even more points when you fuel your vehicle at a partnering station or while traveling with partner airlines, and finally being able to redeem your points on a new phone from an associated electronics outlet, or a gourmet meal at that restaurant you’ve been dying to try. Coalition Loyalty turns this into a reality.

From a consumer’s point of view, coalition loyalty is an uncomplicated way to collect points while shopping at more than one brand and avoiding the irritation of managing multiple apps on their phone or cards in their wallets. 

Although the advantages for customers are straightforward, what are the potential advantages for brands?

How Brands Can Benefit From Coalition Loyalty

  • Expanding Networks With Cross-Promotions

By their very nature, consumers always try to maximize their own benefits, and those belonging to a coalition loyalty program look to accumulate as many reward points as they can, as fast as they can. For this reason, they are more likely to alter previous shopping habits to make purchases with other brands in the same network. When brands within a coalition sell bundled products or promote other participating brands for complimentary services, it strengthens customer loyalty towards the coalition and encourages more frequent shopping across the coalition. As an example, the BLUE Loyalty program* (operating in the GCC and Egypt by Al Futtaim Group).

Blue Rewards

The program drives loyalty and sales for all participating brands (such as IKEA, Kate Spade, ACE Hardware, Guess, and more) with 2-for-1 offers that incentivizes their +200k loyalty members to earn greater cashback and rewards when they make purchases with two or more brands.

  • Promoting Brands With Longer Purchase Cycles

A coalition loyalty program can promote products with a longer purchasing cycle by supplementing them with short-purchase-cycle products and brands. For example, bundling a monthly phone connection with an annual cable connection can drive greater sales for both businesses. With a coalition loyalty program, consumers often collect a smaller number of points from regular operations and look forward to collecting a lot of points from bigger purchases. This ‘coalition network effect’ builds and maintains greater top-of-the-mind awareness that all the participating brands benefit from.

  • Earn Rewards Faster

One of the main advantages of a coalition program for the consumer is that aspirational rewards can be earned within a reasonable time. Studies estimate that consumers can earn between three and ten times as much reward value from a coalition program than from a single operator loyalty program.

  • Lowering Costs And Risks

The costs for running a coalition loyalty program is usually shared between the multiple brands within the program, and any risks that arise will not fall solely on one company (when well executed!). Furthermore, because the costs are lower than with individual loyalty plans, businesses may be able to pass those savings on to the customer as more attractive incentives

  • Building Up Smaller Businesses

Small and Medium-sized enterprises may not yet have established enough trust or the network reach to successfully execute their own individual loyalty programs. Coalition loyalty programs can provide a huge boost to small niche businesses because they can benefit from the network reach of the coalition. It can be a cost-effective way to offer their customers a variety of attractive benefits that they would not be able to provide without the support of other businesses. For example, VIG Group runs TAP TAP*, a coalition loyalty program with a mix of well-established brands as well as smaller and niche brands.


Through the 32 participating brands, the program has an estimated customer base of 13M, which all participating brands (especially those with smaller audiences) can benefit from.

  • Improving Customer Experience With Shared Data

Brands within a coalition can obtain richer insights about their customers by agreeing to share transactional information and customer data about preferences and purchases between brands participating in the coalition loyalty program. This can help individual brands fine-tune the experience they offer customers by being predictive and practical to a customer’s needs.

  • Cutting Out The Noise

An intelligent coalition loyalty program must take an omnichannel approach to communication, and ensure that customers are not bombarded with too many offers in one week, or the same message from multiple brands on different channels. A coalition loyalty program can leverage customer engagement data and can harmonize engagement to cut through the noise.

  • Growing Individual Brand Awareness

At its core, a coalition loyalty program aims to increase the number of people enrolled. The inclusion of complementary coalition partners reduces variety-seeking behavior as customers will favor a program that is offering them a one-stop destination for their point-earning activities.

*Capillary is a proud partner of VIG Group and Al Futtaim Group for these initiatives

Examples of Great Coalition Loyalty Programs 

Around the world, prominent brands are adapting their proprietary programs to capture the value of multi-partner coalitions. As a result, coalition programs are thriving. 

One of the largest coalition programs in the Middle East region is Air Miles ME, which operates throughout the UAE, Qatar, and Bahrain. 


With a diverse range of partners such as HSBC, Sharaf DG, Careem, Booking.com, Damas, and more, the Air Miles ME program has enrolled over a million members and has delivered over 760,000 rewarding experiences to its members since launching in 2001. Members can collect and redeem Air Miles with partner brands both in-store and online (via the website and mobile app), also allowing them to access their Air Miles profiles whenever they need. The Air Miles program delivers a stellar customer experience, made possible with customer data, and understanding how their members want to be recognized and communicated with.

PAYBACK is another leading coalition loyalty program, launched in Germany in 2000, and currently claiming more than 600 online partners and 35 retail companies in Germany. 

After immense localized popularity, the program has spread to multiple countries. In India, PAYBACK was launched in 2010 and is today one of India’s largest Multi-Brand loyalty programs with over 100 million members, and more than a hundred partner brands, such as Big Bazaar, Hindustan Petroleum (HPCL), ICICI Bank, BookmyShow.com, MobiKwik Wallet, and more.


The program offers members omnichannel loyalty linked to their mobile number or loyalty card number and targets members with personalized promotions to increase their point earnings. PAYBACK offers participating partners insights from a huge repository of customer data across all partners, allowing companies to tailor their offerings to customer requirements, and subsequently measure the success of their campaigns. Partners also benefit from an exclusivity agreement, which means that their competitors cannot use PAYBACK as a marketing platform.

Avoiding The Pitfalls 

Although coalition programs offer multiple benefits, there are certain aspects and pitfalls that participating brands should watch out for. 

  • Brands joining a coalition program need to ensure the reliability of the program since customers often tend to regard the loyalty program as if it were owned by the partner. This means any disappointment in the program can spill over to participating brands.
  • A major learning from successful coalition programs is that it is crucial to involve companies that offer ancillary or complementary products and services— not competitors. 
  • To be successful, a coalition program should launch with major brands in the respective verticals. This is to ensure the maximum share of consumer wallets. This also allows the data collected to be more representative of the target market.


It’s clear that there are multiple benefits for brands that are part of a coalition loyalty program. However, in order to strike success, brands need to set clear goals for building long-term consumer loyalty and strategize intelligently to ensure there’s no brand dilution by participating in the program.

Best Practices From Top Loyalty Programs in Malaysia

Best Practices From Top Loyalty Programs in Malaysia

The loyalty landscape in Malaysia is not what it was a year ago. 

There have been multiple factors impacting customer priorities. For one, the economic impacts of COVID have been significant, with the unemployment rate spiking to a 30-year high of 5% in July 2020, and GDP contracting to -17% for Q2 2020. Secondly, the Malaysian government, as a measure to prevent the spread of COVID, has implemented the Movement Control Order from 18 March 2020 to 31 December 2020, resulting in a ‘homebody economy’. Apart from these reasons, there has been rapid adoption of technology within the populace – the number of Malaysians who are internet users and smartphone owners has risen from 25% and 1% in 2010 to 80% and 84% in 2019—notably altering customer spending and brand loyalty.

The Evolving Loyalty Landscape in Malaysia

Malaysian retail markets have traditionally been reliant on promotions—42% of sales in 2019 were a result of a price discount, and 75% of shoppers in 2020 try to take advantage of special offers and deals (Nielsen Shopper Trends Report 2020). However, this does not mean brands in Malaysia should always use discounts and promotions to strengthen sales. Some categories perform well organically and should not rely heavily on discounts to experience an uplift.

Malaysia remains a vibrant mix of ancient cultures along with modern influences—a reality that is reflected in hawker stalls and bustling traditional markets, situated in the same vicinity as glittering mega-sized shopping malls—but Malaysia’s customers have evolved to be tech-savvy, and now use every option available to them at their fingertips; the smartphone penetration today is recorded to be nearly 90%. Today the majority of Malaysians, 81%, consume a combination of both traditional and digital media, while only 19% of Malaysians solely consume traditional media. The expanding internet coverage, technological advancements, and choices of media formats have created new opportunities for consumer experience; opportunities that move beyond traditional loyalty programs. We’ve covered this extensively on Ecommerce Trends in Malaysia.

Top loyalty programs in Malaysia

How do brands and loyalty programs in Malaysia successfully transform the occasional customer into brand loyalists? Below, we peek into the inner workings of some of Malaysia’s top loyalty programs.

  • Bata Club* 


Bata, a brand whose mission statement is “to shoe mankind”, is walking the extra mile to reassure customers during COVID. They recently launched a welcome back campaign to advertise the measures they are taking to keep stores in Malaysia safe, like sanitizing shoes before and after trials, temperature checks, mandating masks, and ensuring a socially-distanced shopping experience. 

Bata Club is their card-less rewards program, exclusive to Malaysia, that rewards shoppers for their purchases with Bata, with an online microsite enabling customers to log in and view their loyalty status in real-time. Customers can redeem points for e-vouchers and are able to enroll for a lifetime membership when they spend more than RM 50. They get a sign-up voucher of 10 RM and a birthday e-voucher of RM 15. 

Bata Malaysia also uses real-time points and an e-vouchering mechanism called Dynamic Voucher System (or DVS) to send relevant offers to customers based on their current purchase, incentivizing their next visit through personalized targeting. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Customers can redeem 150 points for a RM 5 voucher. Customers periodically receive a newsletter with the latest promotions, and personalized offers based on their recent purchasing behavior.
  • With the exponential increase in digital adoption, one-to-one contextual messaging has become a key differentiator for customers who have become inundated with brand messages and notifications. 
*Capillary is proud to partner with Bata for this initiative


AEON Loyalty

AEON group had its humble beginnings in Japan as a Kimono fabric seller in 1758, but today stands as one of the largest retailers in Asia. Over the last few decades, the AEON group has made multiple strategic business decisions, including mergers and acquisitions, that have made it a colossal conglomerate in Asian markets, owning and operating convenience stores like “Ministop”, supermarkets, shopping malls, specialty stores, and AEON Retail Stores.

AEON Retail

To increase their loyal customers and repeat sales, they’ve introduced prepaid cards in Malaysia, such as the AEON member card, which customers can use for discounts and collecting points at AEON stores and Pasar Raya MaxValu stores. 

Additionally, in a bid to embrace digital transformation, AEON has introduced the Wallet app that allows members to go cardless; they can earn, view, and redeem their points in real-time, with state-of-the-art security measures including biometric login, multi-factor authentication, anti-phishing features, and more. 

Key Takeaways

  • AEON’s Member Card is a popular points-based rewards card where customers can acquire one point for every RM 1 spent, and double the points when they upgrade to a Member Plus card. 
  • Many members claim to sign-up for ‘member day’ discounts, which incentivize them to make purchases on specific days and take advantage of limited-period hefty discounts. AEON members receive rebates worth 5% or 3% every time they shop at an AEON General Merchandise Store (GMS)
  • The AEON Wallet App is a convenient way for members to access their exclusive benefits right on their phone. The app keeps customers up-to-date with AEON Group promotions, either through in-app promotion banners or push-notifications.

Caring Pharmacy*

Caring Pharmacy

Caring Pharmacy owns 138 pharmacies across Malaysia and provides 12-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week full-time pharmacist service. Caring Pharmacy drives loyalty engagement with the Shopper Loyalty Program. Starting from January 2019, the Shopper Loyalty Program has been digitally accessible via Caring Pharmacy’s website and mobile app, and have seen more than 300,000 members sign up to be a member. 


Simplicity is key when it comes to Caring Pharmacy’s loyalty program. The app allows easy barcode-based scanning for loyalty points. A rolling banner at the top of the homepage allows users to flip through popular vouchers, discounts, workshops, contests, articles, and more. Prominent banners on the homepage promote easy navigation to all active events, promotions, the member’s profile, and health information being offered by Caring Pharmacy. Members enjoy benefits such as birthday treats, get insights into exclusive promotions, discounts, and #IlikeCaring member points and rewards. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Customers tend to reward companies that create an easy experience for them while giving them exactly what they’re looking for. This is the secret sauce to Caring Pharmacy’s loyalty program
  • With the loyalty app, Caring Pharmacy creates a seamless O2O loyalty experience for members. The brand elevates the overall Customer Experience with personalized engagement and offers based on the customer’s preferences and transactions.
*Capillary is proud to partner with Caring Pharmacy for this initiative

Watsons VIP Card


The Watsons VIP card not only confers members the benefits of earning 5X more points on their purchases, but it also comes with Touch ‘n Go functionality (a huge perk when ‘contactless’ commerce is the order of the day). 

Customers can redeem points for items on offer, or be eligible for seasonal discounts on a wide range of products. One of the more sought after features is that the VIP Card comes with dining privileges where members can get discounts at selected restaurants, with a vast array of restaurants to choose from. Watsons’ members are offered discounts, as well as complimentary dishes. Apart from rewards and discounts, Watsons offer members a range of helpful and personalized content around wellness, chronic disease, calorie counter, skincare, make-up, and more.

Key Takeaways

  • The brand offers a great group loyalty experience for its customers by partnering with other brands to offer exclusive discounts for members. Participating merchants include San Francisco Coffee, Crab Factory, and Milkcow, to name a few.
  • The promotions and offers have an expiry date, so members are encouraged to redeem often, thereby increasing program engagement. 
  • Members earn one point for every RM 1 spent, and 2x points on Watsons products and 5x points during birthday month

Petron Miles Card

Petron Miles

Petron’s MILES cards are more than a loyalty program for fuel, they come with unique privileges for members. Apart from allowing members to earn limitless points at over 600 Petron Service Stations in Malaysia, members can also earn points when they renew car insurance with AIG, Malaysian Airlines’ Enrich Programme, PLUS Expressways’ PLUSMiles Card, and AirAsia. 

Petron Miles Card

Points can be redeemed for fuel and convenience store purchases, and members receive special deals and discounts at Petron’s partners. A key highlight of this card and the points is that there is no expiry date, which gives member’s the benefit of collecting and storing points for as long as they want.

Key Takeaways

  • Flexibility and no expiry: Limitless Points at over 600 Petron Service Stations in Malaysia, and point-redemption on various services, from fuel to air miles
  • Fast and easy activation through SMS or website at https://www.petronmiles.com.my/
  • With the Petron Miles ‘Value card’, members are entitled to 24-hour Towing and Roadside Trouble Assistance, and Year-round Personal Accident Insurance and Medical Reimbursement

Wrap Up

Digital transformation has accelerated faster than expected since the arrival of COVID-19, and virtual engagement will need to be a substantial new focus area for customer loyalty programs. Consumers are increasingly valuing connections with brands that are reliable through periods of disruption, that strive to know them as individuals and personalize engagement with them, and offer them an omnichannel shopping experience. 

As customer priorities shift, it is more important than ever for brands to leverage strong customer analytics, adaptable to dynamic factors. The necessity, however, is that brands need to complement customer analytics with actions to better engage customers and make smarter business decisions. Brands heeding customer priorities will continue to lead.

Recreating The Personalized In-store Experience With Digital Commerce

Recreating The Personalized In-store Experience With Digital Commerce

Six months into the pandemic and the economic impact and fear from COVID-19 has brought striking shifts in consumer behavior, foreseeably for a long period. Globally, there is an accelerated rise in internet adoption, allowing users to stay connected and carry out essential daily tasks in trying times of social distancing. In the U.S., about nine-in-ten adults (93%) say that a major interruption to their internet service during the outbreak would be a problem in their daily life, including 49% who foresee an outage being a very big problem.

Brands continue their efforts to adapt to business disruptions and changing customer behavior. One example is the increasing number of brands offering cashless and contactless delivery to customershence providing customer convenience and safety, and also adapting to the new consumer mindset. Life in the post-COVID world may look drastically different, yet customer experience has been crucial for promoting loyalty, retaining customers, encouraging brand advocacy, and that remains true during the pandemic. Pre-pandemic, customers were partial to brands that provided unique, personalized experiences—studies conducted have shown that customers increase their spending when they receive positive, personal shopping experiences. 

The current demand for shopping experiences are those that limit physical touchpoints and interactions with other human beings. Self-service solutions powered by the likes of Artificial Intelligence, facial recognition, and infrared technology can make online and in-store experiences better for customers. Recent COVID-19 retail trends like BOPIS (buy-online pick-up in-store) and curbside pickup have gained in popularity. When compared to the previous year, orders placed online and picked up at stores in the month of April 2020 more than doubled, according to Adobe Analytics.

In a bid to help brands strengthen their business in the COVID era, Capillary has added new features to our platform. Read on.

Growing Leads via Social Media

A new wave of digital platforms is emerging to offer multidimensional engagement and entertainment to users. Platforms like Instagram and TikTok may have once been viewed as those that cater to Gen-Z and young digital natives, but they have now exploded in popularity across all demographics, thanks in no small part to the COVID pandemic. In America, almost 50% of surveyed consumers have increased their social media use, according to eMarketer. In China, social apps are completely transforming the Ecommerce landscape, and Ecommerce is converging with livestreaming to quickly become the prefered shopping experience in Southeast Asia. For the uninitiated, Livestream Ecommerce involves brands and influencers leveraging livestreaming platforms to showcase products, try them, and rate the experience to viewers. 

Taking into consideration the large consumer audience using social media platforms, Capillary now allows new or existing users to login to your Web store with their Facebook/ Twitter/ Google credentials. These settings can be enabled through the AnywhereCommerce+ dashboard.  

Store2Door now supports a chatshop feature, which will allow customers to directly connect with their nearest store without the store staff initiating the conversation with the customer. To enable this, brands can share a Chatshop page on their social media sites (through Stories, Posts, or Promoted Posts). Customers can click on the link to learn all the stores they can connect with on Whatsapp. This allows customers to enquire about catalogs, ongoing promotion, and get their order placed.

Showcasing Products Based On Customer Priorities

Ecommerce websites offer consumers the convenience of viewing all available products in one place. However many customers become overwhelmed by the sheer volume of available choices online, and often lose patience after navigating a few pages of products.

By enabling Dynamic Listing within Capillary’s AnywhereCommerce+ platform, brands can list their products (or specific categories of products) according to dynamic factors like Product Popularity, or Inventory Volumes, Order Recency, Catalog Sequence, or even a combination of parameters. 

It would be recommended for brands to set their default product listing based on popularity, and provide consumers the option to view products by pricing, or other factors. Partly due to the severe economic impact of COVID across the globe, 68 percent of consumers in April indicated they spent less because of the pandemic, up from 49 percent in March (a 39 percent increase); and 35 percent of consumers indicated they spent significantly less in April, compared to only 22 percent in March (a 59 percent increase).

Enabling dynamic listing allows customers to browse products based on their own shopping priorities, and receive recommendations of popular products in their specific category and price range, like they would with store staff assistance.

Prioritizing Hyperlocal Commerce and Inventory Management

As consumers are getting conditioned to make purchases online, the growing trend of hyperlocal commerce facilitates faster delivery from the closest available store. With Capillary’s Anywhere Commerce platform, brands can enable rules to deliver orders from the closest store, or closest common store (for orders containing multiple products). 

However, since many stores are also facing challenges regarding stock excess and shortages, brands can, alternatively, define rules to allocate an order automatically to a specific location/warehouse (for example, a rule stating that all electronic products must be delivered from a warehouse in Bangalore). 

Brands can even modify their price list to define unique prices for products according to stores, or user groups, or order quantity, or specific date range, or even transaction channel. Product prices can vary for any one of these parameters or for a combination of parameters, allowing brands to incentivize customers to make purchases while keeping a check on expiring or excess inventory.


The global Coronavirus crisis has toppled global economies, and people across the world are apprehensive about their health, safety and financial security. Times like these call for brands to truly put customers’ priorities first. By putting your customers’ interests first and innovating your brand accordingly, this can be a time for your company’s brand to lead.

Re-strategizing Commerce for a Post-Covid-19 World

Re-strategizing Commerce for a Post-Covid-19 World

Almost six months into the global coronavirus pandemic and retailers across the globe continue to be severely impacted. Even countries that are no longer under lockdown orders are still witnessing a steep drop in footfall in retail outlets. In a recent webinar organised by Trust for Retailers & Retail Associates of India (TRRAIN), major associations anticipated a 25-30% impact on business, with a multiplier effect on subsidiary industries and lasting job losses. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, retailers are facing challenges around health & safety, supply chain management, labour shortages, consumer demands, disruption in cash flow, and pricing.

Interestingly, the overwhelming opinion from research firms is that global consumer behaviour will evolve due to the coronavirus for the foreseeable future. One reason for this is that new mindsets and habits are being created as life goes on in lockdown-induced quarantine. And for many consumers, the continued fear and apprehension for their health and safety will push them to find innovative new ways to make purchases and create a ‘new normal’.

While consumer demand continues to be volatile, new commerce trends are emerging in countries reporting a slow uptick in the economy; trends like store reopenings with increased social distancing measures, increase in online grocery shopping, social commerce (according to emarketer.com, up to 51% of U.S. adults have been using social media more), live-streaming commerce (most prominently in China and Southeast Asian markets), and other trends. Although it would be difficult for businesses to make accurate long-term strategic decisions during this volatile period, it is imperative for CXOs to revisit current business and operating models in the face of the new normal.

We believe the businesses who emerge as leaders from this crisis will be businesses that adapt swiftly. Capillary has been analysing the impact of Covid-19 on retailers across the globe and evolving our solutions to help retailers quicken their pace towards recovery. 

Taking your store to your best customers: Introducing Store2Door+

Although online commerce has been on an upward trend in the last decade, the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the growth of ecommerce like never before. This change can be witnessed across all demographics; even the senior citizen demographic has demonstrated a 195% increase in ecommerce activity from January to March, and there has been a spike of more than 130% in online shopping across all demographics. Consumers are buying products online and picking them up in stores at +500% greater volume than prior to the pandemic, according to research from Kibo Commerce. 

However, this leaves us with a big question: are traditional retailers doomed to end up last in the post-COVID-19 world? 

We don’t think so; rather this is an incredible opportunity for traditional retailers to pivot to an omnichannel retail strategy.  Based on our conversations with traditional retailers in SEA, China & the Middle East, the major resistance to ecommerce adoption centred around initial investment costs, lack of in-house tech experts, implementation timelines and ROI. That’s why we set out to launch Store2Door+–  a new module in our Anywhere Commerce suite that:  has minimal setup cost, requires zero in-house tech expertise or coding, can go live in less than 7 days and ensures highest ROI through an outcome-linked pricing model.

Here’s how Store2Door+ helps traditional retailers adapt swiftly to the new normal : 

  • Leverage existing CRM data to personally connect with customers through Whatsapp Business, and empower store staff to close sales over Whatsapp. With Store2Door+, retailers can take their business online in just 7 days.
  • Store2Door+ allows sending personal recommendations and communication to customers through Whatsapp messaging, a platform that boasts of high message open rates (over 90%). Store2Door+ helps retailers drive greater store sales, especially in disruptive times when customers are apprehensive about visiting stores
  • Targeting the right customers: With the Store2Door+ app, store staff can view a list of customers who are most likely to respond to a particular product recommendation based on their past purchasing history and other CRM data
  • Assisted shopping experience:  By creating a personal connection, and sending customized recommendations and real-time videos, the store stylists provide a very compelling shopping experience for their customers (far better than the online shopping with chatbot assistance)
  • Connecting remotely: Store2Door+ allows store staff to sell products to their best customers 1:1 over WhatsApp business, and keep in touch with loyal customers even remotely.
  • Streamline communication: For multi-store retailers that already have marketplace or ecommerce presence, or for retailers who want to drive store sales separate from regular ecommerce, Store2Door+ can enable a streamlined flow for sending daily communications to the top customers
  • Leverage existing resources: Store2Door+ integrates CRM data and leverages your existing loyalty member base to drive sales, and reducing customer acquisition costs. Leverage offline stores as fulfilment centers, and fulfil orders from the nearest store with a minimal delivery timeline.

Based on results from pilot programs, Store2Door+ contributed 19% of loyalty sales in best performing stores, and 5% on average in remaining stores.

Driving greater conversions through contactless interactions

With the rampant rise of Covid-19 cases globally, consumers are plagued by fear of infection. Since physical experiences are no longer possible, ‘no-touch’ or contactless interactions have become the new standard expectation. Various retail leaders are adapting by creating contactless transaction processes. For example, Walmart is testing a store without any cashiers or conveyer belts at checkout lines, with the intent of speeding up checkout times and preventing the spread of coronavirus by limiting human interaction.

Here are some recommendations from Capillary to improve in-store safety, and increase customer confidence:

  • Brands must improve in-store purchase experiences during the pandemic through contactless payment, digitizing receipts, as well as digitizing personalized promotions. Retailers can do this via an app, SMS, email, QR codes for payment, and other options.
  • When customers visit stores, retailers should cross-sell, up-sell, and drive greater conversions with real-time, rule-based dynamic vouchers. The dynamic voucher must be digitally rolled out to customers upon an in-store purchase, based on the loyalty-tier of the customer, product purchased, or other factors like churn probability, Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) etc.

Optimizing Costs with Targeted Promotions

Companies today are facing major cash-flow shortages. It becomes imperative for brands to strike the right balance in spends across the marketing, sales and service functions, in order to maintain the right customer experience. Although customer engagement, marketing and support become more difficult during economic downturns and turbulent times, they become all the more important to drive strong customer experience, trust, and more revenue in the long-run. In a recent analysis of retail and online brands, Digital Commerce 360 found that brands that pulled back on marketing spend during COVID-19 are now seeing their online sales struggle. Similarly, according to KPMG, it’s even more vital during these unprecedented circumstances for companies to have a single view of the customer, shared by the Marketing, Sales and Service functions, so they can react quickly to their fast-changing needs and expectations. 

Capillary’s solutions allow brands to do that and more:

  • Channel-based promotions: Omnichannel marketing and engagement can improve noise to signal ratio for customers, especially in times where they are being bombarded by communication and promotions from multiple brands. The key is to optimize your costs by targeting customers on only their favourite channel of communication to improve response rates. For instance, a user might have higher response rates to Instagram ads when compared to Facebook, and this behaviour might change based on whether he’s on a mobile device or a desktop. X-Engage lets you control communications and engagement based on these specific criteria and conditions.
  • Capping discount amount: Capillary’s Anywhere Commerce platform now allows brands to create promotions specifically for discounted or undiscounted products, and even cap the Percentage Discount Amount on the product.
  • Focus on your “Top X%” customers: Although the personalization fabric is typically woven with months or years of customer data, the new normal has shifted customer behaviour and user preferences beyond anyone’s imagination. To avoid irrelevant recommendations and wasteful spends, a key method is to use smart segmentation to focus on your “Top X%” customers and have a dynamic campaign based on real-time user behaviour.
  • Wishlist communication: The pandemic has resulted in retailers facing challenges around stock shortages. On the other hand, lockdown relaxation is seeing a release in the pent up demand around non-essential goods. Capitalize on this trend by triggering wishlist notifications for items when they’re back in stock based on real-time inventory levels of the product.
  • Optimizing order allocation: The ability to predict and manage demand has never been more important. With smart order allocation, optimize costs by allocating orders based on the store nearest to customers, or improve the customer’s experience by directing them to promotion-specific stores

In these turbulent times, business leaders should align their financial sustainability with the core elements of operational excellence and customer experience. Brands that can pivot and seamlessly adapt their customer experience in these times of crises will certainly come out stronger.

Best Loyalty Programs in India

Best Loyalty Programs in India

No one likes to get punished for brand loyalty.

Unfortunately, that’s what it felt like when membership cards are unwillingly thrust into the customer’s hand every time they stand at the checkout counter. (Worse, more than once, from the same retail outlet!)

And we wondered what to do with those pieces of plastic competing for space in our humble wallets – with other more important items like our IDs or Debit cards and, of course, the cash, back when we used to carry bundles of it on ourselves.

Today, times have changed.

We do not think twice before saying an emphatic NO to those loyalty cards and a big YES to purchase freedom! Mainly because customers have now realized how restricting and rigid such loyalty programs have been. Thankfully, retailers have understood it too. And the ‘Digital India’ boom, complemented with the demonetization and growth of ‘Digital Wallets,’ has played a suitable catalyst. 

Loyalty Programs: A Key Piece of the Personalization Puzzle

Loyalty programs today are turning as ubiquitous as the concept of retailing in India. Location or physical presence no more limits the act of selling and purchasing. So why should they limit earning and redeeming rewards for loyalty? The flexibility of claiming benefits across locations, channels, and even industries and categories of consumption is fast becoming available to the average shopper. The foundation holding it all together and making it possible rests on accurate and updated data collection at an individual level. One can call it ‘personalization without the need for person-to-person contact.’ 

While the customer expectations from brands and retail stores haven’t changed, digitization has indeed transformed the way to meet those expectations. A customer still needs the very same things that he or she needed in the age of in-store-only retailing, i.e., ‘A special treatment.’ You may think, ‘Oh! How do I offer that in the absence of face-to-face interactions between brands and consumers’. But omnichannel customer insights integrated with cutting-edge loyalty program platforms come to the rescue. They bring back the good old days of ‘intimacy’ in retail.

It is time to move away from ‘least common denominators’ in designing their loyalty marketing initiatives.

Rethinking Loyalty Programs for the Digital Age

Brands shouldn’t ‘bucket’ their customers, anymore, for the sake of simplifying marketing communications.

In fact, with today’s intelligent technologies, you need not worry. There can be as many buckets as the number of customers you have. And rewarding them with loyalty has to allow for as many possibilities. 

So, Isha may want to redeem her shopping points in a beauty parlour of sorts, or Abhay may wish to sample your new shaving products for free. Sudha may be interested in flat discounts on MRP, and Vikash, being a mariner, may want a lifetime of free shipping, worldwide! 

When retailers open their minds to a variety of possibilities in serving their customers and delighting them time and again, they will be able to merge new-age convenience with the old-world customer service.  

Retailers from more mature markets like the US and Europe – such as Sephora, Starbucks, and Costco – are enjoying the benefits of rethinking their loyalty programs. Many Indian retailers have also seen quantifiable value from such realignments – in the form of lower Customer Acquisition Costs (CAC) and higher Lifetime Value (LTV). 

On that note, let’s look at some of the best loyalty programs in India.

Best Loyalty Programs in India

  • Amazon Prime
    Amazon Prime

Launched in 2016, Amazon Prime has garnered massive year on year success with membership in India crossing the 10 million mark in 2019. Amazon’s Prime loyalty program provides recurring lifelong benefits such as free shipping, faster home delivery, and exclusive access to entertainment content via Prime Video. It also offers significant discounts on ‘Prime Day’ – its annual sales event. What makes it tick is the enormous value that consumers see in return for the membership fee – which is just Rs 999/- per year.

  • Club Mahindra
    Club Mahindra

Going beyond its core product, Club Mahindra launched a lifetime vacation ownership program for its members. They discovered unique insights about the profile of family vacationers, their annual spending capacity, and the experiences they expect from a vacation. Thus, Club Mahindra designed a ‘value-for-money’ model of timeshares where a family could enjoy a mix of activities for not just relaxation-seeking adults, but also for adventure-loving kids and bonding-seeking grandparents.

  • Shoppers Stop First Citizen Club

    Shoppers Stop First Citizen Club

Another popular loyalty program, which is a household name among Indian consumers, is the Shoppers Stop First Citizen program. Although a card-oriented and tier-based loyalty program, it offers tangible benefits to the members. Some of the benefits include exclusive previews of new products, out-store offers, home delivery of alterations, and valet parking. The points are earnable across its pan-India stores as well as online. It is a win-win for both the retailer and the shopper.

  • Starwood Preferred Guest

     Starwood Preferred Guest

With over a hundred (100) properties all over India and partnerships with ten (10) other worldwide premium hotel brands (The Westin, Sheraton, W Hotels, St Regis, and Le Meridien), Starwood’s loyalty program is sure to offer advantages to its members. checkout for more hotel loyalty programs in India, USA, South East Asia & Middle East Regions. There is no cost to enroll for the program, and visitors can earn a point for every US dollar spent. Simplicity, flexibility, and fairness in their loyalty rewards accumulation and redemption options mean that members inevitably profit.

  • Club Vistara
    Club Vistara

Taking a spend based approach as compared to a ‘miles flown’ approach, Club Vistara makes it simpler for its travellers to estimate, accumulate, and redeem points. Crossing roughly 2,000 Club Vistara points, members can enjoy a redemption ticket in Economy class. Loyalty benefits are also substantially ‘portable.’ They not only cover a host of experiential and preferential facilities during air travel (lounge access, business class check-in, and boarding and baggage handling priority) but also include crossover benefits with Singapore Airlines and banking partners such as Axis Bank.

  • Encircle by Titan
    Encircle by Titan

Titan takes a holistic approach to loyalty across its different brands (Tanishq, Fastrack, Titan Eye Plus, etc.). It also pares down points accumulation and redemption model to ‘1 point earned equals 1 rupee’. There is no minimum threshold to start redeeming points and no additional fee to become a member. Right from the very first purchase, a customer can start earning reward points. These points are usable in multiple ways – reduction in the subsequent purchase bills, anniversary offers, sneak peek into new launches, jewellery or eyewear clean-ups, and appointment reminders.

  • Times Points
    Times Points

The Times Group’s loyalty program, Times Points, is genuinely digital and ingenious. It rewards its viewers and readers for the time they spend on its partner platforms such as The Times of India, The Economic Times, Navbharat Times, Maharashtra Times, NewsPoint, HDFC-TimesPoint Debit Card, and many others. Every user action, including likes, comments, or video views, takes you one step closer to the tangible benefits – in the form of deals and discounts across 200+ brands such as Amazon, Shoppers Stop, Myntra, Paytm.

A common theme across all these successful loyalty programs in India is ‘care for the customer.’ Indians being value-conscious, it becomes all the more important to earn trust and make it easy for consumers to derive benefits. Once a brand crosses the chasm, there is no looking back!