Now more than ever, people buy most from brands that drive the highest affinity through digital media. And there is no region more mobile-friendly and digitally agile than the APAC region. 92% of shoppers in the SEA countries agree that they would be more enticed by loyalty programs while making purchase decisions. Marked by a permanent shift in lifestyle choices, Indian, Chinese, and Japanese consumers are particularly more loyal towards brands that generously and consistently reward them due to long-term retention strategies. 

Over the past two years alone, there’s been a proliferation of loyalty-driven brand success stories from the overall landscape. Covering a diverse set of Asian loyalty programs, let’s dive headfirst into 5 trends that promise ever-lasting value.

1. MULTIBRAND MOBILE APP OR WEBSITE-BASED PROGRAMS

Customer-centricity remains a top boardroom priority even while market conditions are unstable for most industries in the pandemic’s aftermath. This is where leading brands are coming together to offer mutually beneficial rewards to a common consumer base. Multibrand rewards are proving particularly valuable to partner-brands and their consumers due to easily transferable benefits.

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Singapore Airlines’ Kris Flyer loyalty program, which was extended into KrisPay and finally Kris+, excels in this space by offering a whole host of exchangeable rewards across 650 retail outlets to those who gather more miles after signing up. With Kris+, they also launched its personalized and interest-based rewards extension with 150 partners on board. Its UI-enabled customization makes the experience more fulfilling for frequent flyers.

In India, PAYBACK recently launched one of the largest loyalty-driven partnerships with retailers from across 100+ brands through its website, as it serves as the main traffic destination. With the online commerce takeover, driving ROI through sustainable brand-consumer relationships has never been more critical. Multibrand programs clearly play a crucial role in this regard. 

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Malaysia is another country in the SEA region that is building automated engagement through AI-powered loyalty. Its first premier consumer rewards program, BonusLink. It creates records that automatically segregate consumer preferences and target them accordingly with the right set of rewards across all relevant touchpoints – SMS, email, and web. BonusLink today has 12 million subscribers, now with a new merchant app called BLINK that also enables F&B merchants to reap benefits through an easy sign-up that then links back to the AI-powered engagement system.

2. PAID OR SUBSCRIPTION-BASED LOYALTY 

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With the ultimate retail takeover of e-commerce, paid or subscription-based loyalty continued to rule the roost. McKinsey reported that 42% of consumers are bound to buy again once they pay the initial fee, and 50% are likely to be more loyal to the brand over competitors. In fact, paid loyalty programs have become not only fundamental determiners but also key competitive differentiators for the strongest brand-consumer relationships. Across the APAC region, Amazon Prime is the biggest success story in terms of paid loyalty for offering a whole host of benefits with a single, one-time yearly subscription. Beauty brands like Sephora and popular fashion-retail brands like H&M also championed the paid membership with exclusive insider access and customized discounts.

3. GAMIFICATION

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Gamification is riding high and is here to stay for long. To make loyalty programs more interesting and engaging at once, Shopee – a leading e-commerce platform in the SEA region and Taiwan – launched an exclusive tier-based rewards system that offers its shoppers customized vouchers for all their needs. Based on the total number of orders completed every 6 months, each customer achieves a unique loyalty tier on the gamified Shopee app. Each tier implies earning a virtual card simultaneously – Classic, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. 

While all Shopee users start off with the classic tier, they can be upgraded to earn privileged customer vouchers easily as they continue to shop more. The first 10 completed orders mean moving on to the Silver tier, and so on. 

The exclusive vouchers are spread over exciting brand deals, normal everyday essentials as well as cashbacks and discounts on overseas deals. Through its holistic, cycle-based approach, loyal customers are allowed to assess their purchases as per the rewards they generate and, thereby, continue to remain engaged but in an informed manner. This is a win-win situation for the brand and its customers, generating a long-term relationship that’s fulfilling.

4. EXPERIENTIALLY EXCLUSIVE LOYALTY

The aviation giant, Emirates, is running its most successful premium-subscription model that gives members access to free upgrades and generous discounts on tickets among other benefits. These include exclusive experiences such as the Emirates business lounge access, extra baggage allowance, and electronic passes which customers can avail to make their traveling more luxurious and at ease. This program is called Skywards+ and it can be paid for through an annual fee-based subscription. The premium model offers the cash+miles option for availing earned credits on the next flight, while also opening lounge access across 10 countries across the world. If you’re a frequent flyer on Emirates who books paid tickets, the 20% bonus Skywards miles will add up, as will the 20% bonus Tier Miles for the most expensive subscription.

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Crafting unique rewarding experiences that address the varying socio-cultural nuances of consumers is another major trend that’s taken the region by storm. Indonesia’s innovative telecom device-distributor, Erajaya, recognized the value of offering different devices and plans for its customer base by designing an experience-based rewards ecosystem. With the introduction of Era Club, they disrupted the sector through an award-winning loyalty program that builds loyalty one customer at a time through multi-tier points earned and redeemed for different devices and their accessories. Beyond persona-based personalization, this also looks into the differences in mobile preferences based on culture trends that are required to craft unique purchase experiences. The focus is on optimizing the end-to-end customer experience (CX) through a points-based mechanism that facilitates not only the ease of choice but also experiential satisfaction – driving brand loyalty significantly

5. INSTANT GRATIFICATION

This is probably the most lasting trend to ever come about in the space of loyalty. All consumers in India for instance are constantly looking for instant rewards at their easy disposal. A standout loyalty program in the country is the Landmark Rewards Program. It offers all its customers the luxury of instantly redeeming a range of rewards such as flat savings across the apparel category the brand caters to. This award-winning program is a huge success for the brand as it also offers cardless rewards that can be redeemed across 250+ locations with exclusive offers pouring in at all times of the year. After an effortless and easy sign-up, customers are encouraged to spend to earn more benefits, explicitly tagging the program as ‘Earn and Spend’.

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Often a cultural day of large-scale significance can also drive loyalty. In China, for instance, most food and beverage retailers offer samples of their products for free during festive occasions like the Chinese New Year. The special treatment through instant gratification meted out as free gifts allow for seamless and long-lasting connection with existing and new consumers. This is actually expected a lot more in China due to high cultural standards and demands from brands. To commemorate their members using the concept of a topical day,  the Chinese Watson’s loyalty program celebrates every 5th day of the month with a special Member’s Day campaign when points are worth 5 times more than usual. This keeps consumers coming back long after the program ends.

The above trends indicate the innovative changes made by agile brands to sustain their customers’ faith and reliability alongside engagement. They are likely here to stay, with companies progressively overcoming organizational, cultural, and technical challenges. Moreover, digital transformation steadied its course as consumer behavior changed forever during lockdowns. Under these challenging post-Covid circumstances, only those APAC brands that can bypass their traditional marketing siloes to make greater leaps in terms of improving loyalty are, ultimately, growing the fastest. Get in touch with the experts at Capillary Technologies to know more about how to implement them.

Anupama Basu
Passionate about evolving marketing technologies, Anupama is a seasoned professional by day and writer by night. She has worked for the world's leading brands in the advertising and marketing industry for a while now, and won recognition for her projects. She hopes to deepen her sense of purpose by always offering the most relevant insights to her readers.