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#464: Driving Relevant Rewards in the Global Travel Loyalty Market with Valuedynamx

Today’s episode features our friends in ValueDynamx, a platform designed to make loyalty programs more relevant to customers by offering curated offers and rewards.


James Berry is their Managing Director, Commercial, and he joins me today to share why airlines like Jetblue, Etihad Airways and Emirates, as well as retail-led programs like Nectar in the UK are increasingly excited about broadening their propositions and their rewards portfolios with the Valuedynamx platform.


James also shares some nuances and insights on how members engage with loyalty programs in different markets and across different demographics.


This episode is sponsored by Valuedynamx.


Audio Transcript


Paula: Welcome to Let’s Talk Loyalty, an industry podcast for loyalty marketing professionals. I’m your host, Paula Thomas, and if you work in loyalty marketing, join me every week to learn the latest ideas from loyalty specialists around the world.


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You can sign up at letstalkloyalty.com.


Hello and welcome to today’s episode of Let’s Talk Loyalty, featuring our friends in Valuedynamx, a platform designed to make loyalty programs more relevant to customers by offering curated offers and rewards. James Berry is their Managing Director Commercial. And he joins me today to share why airlines like JetBlue, Etihad Airways, and Emirates, as well as retail-led programs like Nectar in the UK, are increasingly excited about broadening their propositions and their rewards portfolios with the Valuedynamx platform. James also shares some nuances and insights on how members engage with loyalty programs in different markets and across different demographics. I hope you enjoy my conversation with James Berry from Valuedynamx.


So James Berry, welcome back to Let’s Talk Loyalty. 


James: Thank you. Good to be back, Paula. Thank you. 


Paula: Great, great. You’re a busy man. There’s been a lot going on since we met the last time, huh? 


James: There has, there’s always lots going on. And yeah some exciting things coming up as, as well as lots of activity across a number of the clients that we’ve been working with globally. So yeah, very busy as always. 


Paula: Amazing. Yeah, I think we’re here today to particularly celebrate the biggest high profile UK client that you’ve started working with in terms of Nectar. And so that’s a big story that I know you’re very proud of and excited to get into hearing all of the details around that. But of course, as you know, there’s always a lot more to talk about with you guys and travel and rewards and everything. It’s such an exciting story space. 


So let’s get into our usual first question, James. As you know, we’re always keen to hear from our loyalty friends professionals in the industry as to what you’re admiring I suppose in terms of programs, either that you’re engaging with or just paying attention to in the market. So kick us off by telling us what is your current favorite loyalty program? 


James: Sure. Well, I think this will be a theme of the discussion, Paula, but a large part of our focus has historically been in travel and travel loyalty space. I think last time we spoke, I referenced British Airways Executive Club being my favorite program. Of course, it’s still a favorite of mine. I guess on reflection and looking at how I’ve used my relationships with brands and where I attribute value to those relationships. 


I think the one for me this year has been Amazon Prime. And I know it’s a fairly common program. In fact, I think there’s over 200 million members worldwide now, subscribers worldwide, which is an incredible figure. If you think about that in the context of scale and the ability to engage with, but also keep people paying up front paying for that value. I think that’s, it’s a very interesting aspect of it. I also like that you get very clear view of how you utilize that benefit. They’re not trying to hide the use and utilization and therefore value of it.


Everything we do, everything we look at is about the value exchange and trying to accrue value from a program and a relationship. I think paying up front, but then having that ability to see the value you get through your engagement with it, I think is an incredibly powerful way of thinking of a loyalty program.

So for me personally, apparently I had 86 free deliveries last year. 60 TV or movie downloads. And in the UK, I also now have the pleasure of watching a Crystal Palace, my, my favorite sports team. Amazon Prime with their Premier League tie up. So that’s not always enjoyable, but it’s another benefit that I get from it.


So I think it’s an incredibly powerful program. I think I saw a stat the other day that 90 percent of people effectively are utilizing it for a free delivery of being able to then package other benefits around it. It’s clearly where they yeah, the long term value. So that’s it for me. 


Paula: Wonderful. Well, lots of incredible stats there. Now I’m having to, you know, I’m going to go in and look at my own number of deliveries, James. So I feeling competitive as to whether I’ve had more or less. 


James: Well, we’re talking of so competitive. And again, I really like the use of this data and the way that stats are delivered in the context of your engagement with the programs. And you touched on Nectar. It’s not quite as, sorry,

it’s not quite as much of a claim to fame, but I was told that I was the second biggest buyer of poppy seed baguettes in Sainsbury’s, Warlingham. So that’s something to strive for to be number one in the next 12 months. So that’s it. Well, I’m sure we’ll talk more about Nectar, but that’s been my experience in the last 12 months for sure. 


Paula: For sure. We will talk a lot more about that, but not sure poppy seed baguettes is something I particularly aspire to, but you know what? Each to their own, I guess it’s a bit of personalization right there, huh?


James: Exactly. 


Paula: Amazing. Yeah. No, but I think in all seriousness, of course, Amazon Prime is the global example. You know, I think in terms of the answers we get to that question, Starbucks seems to still be coming number one with most loyalty professionals, but Amazon Prime, I think, does come, you know, not very far behind.


And I guess from a business perspective, if we balance our loyalty personalities, professionally, I guess, as well as personally to me, of course, subscription is the ultimate loyalty. So absolutely that idea of pre-paying for those benefits. It’s absolutely extraordinary. 


And for me, the behavior change I’ve noticed with this, which is actually, I think interesting for the audience in two ways. First of all, where I live the movie content on Amazon Prime is not great. So actually to me, that’s not even a category of benefits because anytime I look, they don’t seem to have what I want. And I think that’s just a, you know, a matter of time, hopefully before they sort it out.


But what I have noticed increasingly is that more of my, I suppose, every week slash everyday spend is now going to Amazon Prime. So historically would have been to the supermarket for the groceries and Amazon, of course, for books and all that kind of stuff. But things like water and stuff, you know, that I just want delivered quickly and efficiently, it is absolutely all done on Amazon. So well done, Amazon lessons and loyalty for all of us. 


James: Sure.


Paula: So that’s a great way to kick off James. And as you said, absolutely British Airways, of course, is still close to my heart, having worked for them many years ago. So we must get them back on the show at some stage soon as well. 


So listen to get first of all into, I suppose, a bit of explanation about Valuedynamx , James I think everybody listening to this show certainly all of our airline and hotel listeners will be familiar with the Collinson Group your parent company, but Valuedynamx , I think is still emerging as a brand within the group. And I know you very much starting to focus on it as a separate product and separate brand. So would you just explain that for anyone who’s not yet familiar with Valuedynamx?


James: Yeah, sure. I mean, as you said, Collinson and his product knowledge for delivering the world’s most valued travel ecosystem. And obviously the lounge is very much a key part of that Valuedynamx  is then combining both the network and footprint and expertise that commons and had across payments with our own focus on card linking, affiliate marketing, earning redemption. So we brought that into a single entity. It’s really to drive the relevance and engagement of those solutions for our clients. 


We’re working with our clients now to enhance both the loyalty propositions that they have. Fundamentally strive transactional engagement. And that’s across some of the world’s largest airlines, banks, financial institutions and hotel groups, as you mentioned. 


So we bought all of that collectively together. We’re supporting over 400 million consumers worldwide. We’ve got a network of 50,000 retail and travel partners and any one time would be providing up to 400,000 rewards into more than 180 countries. So it’s really bringing the capabilities of constant into a single entity focus within this very specific payment linked reward space that is our USP, I guess.


Paula: Yes, it is a USP. And I think it’s an exciting USP, James, as well. You know, just, I suppose with my journalism hat on and talking with lots of airlines, for example, you know, a lot of them would say to me, maybe off air or maybe on air, even that there isn’t always enough inventory available on the reward side to do all the upgrades, all the redemption seats. So to give people, I suppose, the ultimate reward that many people do think, which is the travel experience itself, and ideally for free. 


So of course, what every loyalty program owner wants is to make sure that there’s plenty of other ways for those members to feel the love. So would that be fair to say from your side, I think, particularly coming out, you know, of post pandemic. I hate those words, but.


James: I was trying not to use those. I promised myself. I wouldn’t use those words. Look, I think that’s very true. We position ourselves very much as providing an extension to the core proposition, the core product of those programs and brands. And therefore we extend the reach also are able to bring a collective network of buying power into that combined audience. And I think we’ve seen during that period there, there was an evolution, there was a change where perhaps the travel or the hotel stay or the whatever the brand relationship was needed to change that dynamic needed to change. That perhaps wasn’t the same frequency or relevancy of engagement. So being able to expand into those non core partnerships and be able to bring that to the fore, I think became a very important factor of the programs.


Paula: Absolutely. And you’ve published some great research, James, as well recently, which I’m going to make sure we do link to in the show notes. And I know there’s research for EMEA for the first half of 2023 and also for the US, but specifically for EMEA, just for the purposes of this conversation, tell us about some of the categories that you are seeing growth in alongside travel.


James: Sure, as you say, travel has seen a huge bounce back. We obviously see that at a broader sense from a Collinson perspective, but we’ve also seen that within the programs that we’re working directly. We see travel spend within the network of earning partnerships that we have has spiked and it just stays consistently high. Sometimes you see spikes and then it starts to drop off again over time. It’s remained a really high watermark. And I think that’s a trend we’re seeing across the industry. 


I think as we approach this time of year in particular, it’s Black Friday, it’s a run up to Christmas. We do then see a slight variance and we’re starting to see a much broader spread of the categories and the spend behavior back into the more traditional retail areas.


So clothes and fashion, home garden, sport and fitness have become really our prime areas. And that’s continued from what we saw earlier in the year in the research you mentioned, and that was again focused on food and drink. We’ve seen a big shift to home delivery, and that’s been a great channel for our programs and partners and entertainment and leisure and the type of activities that people are wanting to get back to and become the new normal which is a phrase we do use now. 


Paula: Of course.


James: Words that we’re not allowed to use. 


Paula: Yeah, yes. No, of course. And I was reflecting again, I suppose, a bit myself today in preparation for the conversation. And I can’t believe even living in Dubai, of course, which did have a much shorter, I suppose, absolute, you know, lockdown situation, but it’s only now, for example, I’m starting to go back to dancing, which is something that I was particularly passionate about. So again, those experiences that suddenly I got out of the habit of are now available again in a free and easy and fabulous way. And I suppose I’m remembering that I want to go back and enjoy those things. 


James: I think it’s that, and I think it’s perhaps an even more connection to it. It’s when those things are or the ability to do those is taken away from you, you appreciate it even more. And I think that’s still the crest of the wave that I think travel is in. You know, people were restricted from doing it and all of a sudden it became a luxury again, or it became something people aspired and wanted to do. 


And I think that’s the same across a number of activities and hobbies and people are getting back to it and perhaps doing more than they were and the work life balance has changed to support that even more. So yeah, all for the good, I would say.


Paula: All for the good, for sure. So given the focus on travel, then James, I suppose Nectar is very much a, I suppose, in my mind, anyway, a non travel partner. So let’s get into the new program, the new partnership you’ve just launched with Nectar, tell us exactly what that proposition is like for UK consumers.


James: Sure. So as you say, it’s a slightly different audience, I guess, demographic within that base. It’s a huge base across the UK, obviously very, very successful, very popular in the context, particularly of the driver through Sainsbury’s been one of the biggest grocery retailers in the UK. So there’s a fundamental connection there.


I guess, again, there’s a desire for people to get more value out of their everyday spend. But also the extended network of partnerships and be able to accrue as much value as they can. We are still in a credit crisis. And it’s a challenging period. And I think across the social demographics, people are trying to accrue as much value as they can out of their everyday spend. And I think that fits very, very well for the traditional programs we work with, but also works very well in the, in, in this context. 


So we’re working with them principally to revamp the platform that supports and underpins their NET3 shop proposition. That’s both to give a bit more flexibility and scale and capability to, to, to the way they engage with their customers, but also to scale up the number of partnerships and the network of affiliate partnerships in particular, that sits underneath that ultimately working together to, to enhance the value, both to Nectar customers. But also the participating brands in the program. And again that’s the, hopefully the value that we add is that value exchange between the partners. 


Paula: Yeah. Yeah. No, it is fantastic to see, and I think you alluded to something which is important as well. And I am hearing in lots of different markets around the world, and that is the importance of loyalty as a proposition. Again, even beyond the aspirational travel, which of course will always be there, always be the ultimate North Star. But increasingly people are looking to programs like Nectar, you know, to absolutely balance the household budget from month to month. 


James: Absolutely.


Paula: So for you guys to have a role there. And I suppose also providing accessibility on the lower end of redemptions, because it’s all well and good, you know, for us all to want our business class seats to wherever.

But at the end of the day, it’s actually really nice as well to have, you know, low level rewards and to be able to engage, I guess, in that mass market in a way that might not happen if we’re just saving for a very long time, for example, for something of higher value.


James:  Yeah, absolutely. I guess that’s perhaps back more into the travel space for us and some of the programs that we work with. We have seen a movement in a way. Typically, you’re working with a very global and distributed membership base. People will connect with the programs at different times based on their own travel requirements and travel experiences at that time. There is a danger that those long tail, I guess, customers and members become a bit more detached from the program when there’s, when they’re not as close to it domestically within the programs.


So there’s a real need to still keep a level of engagement and a level of value ultimately to, to that currency and to provide that in, in different forms. As you say, you know, that, that can go down into to lower level, more easily affordable, accessible rewards and we’re seeing that evolving and changing over the last two, three years, the various people being able to utilize their value for things like gift cards, digital gift cards for immediate use that also talks to the desire to have instant gratification, instant rewards, and just be available and get it right at that time. 

So that’s been a an interesting demand and we’ve got some really exciting things I can’t talk about today, unfortunately, coming up in, in the not too distant future, which I’m sure we’ll be able to come on and talk about. But that, that will see programs that have not operated in this space. Be working with those types of dynamics as well, which would be really interesting. 


But, and I think you touched on it as well. It’s also gone beyond just pure physical rewards experiences. It continues to be very popular. And again, there may be slightly lower in value, they’re not the big travel spend, they’re not the big money can’t buy aspirational item, but they are still something that a brand can bring uniquely to them. They are getting that ability to even have the opportunity to purchase, whether it be tickets or events. That is being bought to them by them just being part of that program.  We work very closely with Accor Hotels.


Paula: Nice. 


James: On those types of propositions where they have a lot of the connections into their own brand partnerships and have tickets and events that they can bring exclusively to their member base. And that works very well as a redemption proposition.


Paula: Very nice. And gift cards, I think is quite new for you guys as well, James, if I’m not mistaken. 


James: It is. It’s always been a part of our overall redemption proposition. So we have the reward store, redemption stores that have whole categories of inventory, physical and digital goods. So it’s always been a part of that. It’s been an optional piece. Some brands’ programs decide to take them. Others have perhaps resisted it in the past because it starts to get towards are they cashing out their value and closing off their engagement with the program? 


But I think as we’ve seen this evolution over the last 12, 18 months it does slightly change in the trends and perhaps a bit more open to the fact that it’s not just about cashing out. Ultimately there has got to be some reachable value. And if we can help, and again, data will tell us everything within this enabling people to get to the point of redemption. What is their future behavior then change to as a result of that. And typically we would see that after redemption people will go back to earning again because they will want to accrue that value and get to the next stage. 


Paula: Yeah. I love that actually because I can actually imagine myself intending to cash out and intending to disengage because what I do find again in my own behavior is, you know, sometimes it’s easier just to maybe consolidate points if I’ve stayed in a hotel once and just transfer that over to an airline program where I might get more value from it.


But I think you’re right, actually. If I’ve had a good redemption experience, well, then actually they’ve achieved my trust, so then I will absolutely re engage. So, that’s a very interesting insight. Not something I’ve thought about before. 


James: We have done some previous analysis and research on this at Burning Drives Earning was our, was that, was our title for that and we will be updating that data again because the world has changed so much and it’s interesting to see how these dynamics evolve and change over time. And also by the demographics and the different generational sectors coming through. It will be a very different story. I’m sure. 


Paula: I’m sure. Yeah. Yeah. No, I know you guys love the data and and I did want to get any insights actually that you had today on a, I suppose, a global level with, you know, particularly, I suppose, nuances with our global audiences, you know, with people listening in the US, UK, Australia, here in Dubai, where I live, 

And I know you do see some important nuances. I suppose we’re all humans at the end of the day, but I’d love you to share just some insights that you have seen. Again, you’ve got a wonderful programs. I know in this region, as well as in the US, so what can you share in terms of how we behave differently in different markets?


James: But I think if I just step back for a minute, I guess where we’ve been engaging with customers has been through some fairly specific and well trodden mechanics, principally evolved from US, UK and perhaps a more mature e-commerce market. So the affiliate click linked activity has been our bedrock. And that’s really where we’ve seen the principle focus in those core markets for us over time. 


And as we have expanded into other markets, but also work closely again, the real benefit and value of the comms and connection is we have people on the ground and in most of the locations that you’ve just referenced. So it’s not just watching from afar and having to tweak and tailor what we know from our own market. It’s having on the ground expertise and real experience of understanding the variances and helping evolve and tweak the proposition to suit those. 


So I guess the mechanics that we’re seeing evolving from what we would call click linked into app linked, browser linked, card linked is obviously a big areas for us, account linked. These are all mechanics that start to have different flavors and different relevances into different markets. 


To give an example of that, you take India huge market, huge potential as a market now has 600 million internet users, but the vast majority, very high portion of the online transactions coming through in that market is via mobile device. So that’s a very different challenge in terms of how you then connect all of the different pieces into that. It’s looking like a current numbers I saw this week, around 75-80 percent of e commerce transactions in India are through a mobile device. That’s an incredibly high proportion.


So that is driven by widespread adoption of smartphones, mobile data, but also just almost superseding and going beyond needing desktop computers in homes. And it’s a very different environment, a very different engagement area. So we’ve seen a difference in the way that we need to work with that type of proposition. App to app tracking is critical in those types of engagements to drive. What the brands and what the retailers want, they want people into their mobile app environment because that to them is where they are transacting and communicating with their audience. So we just need to play a role within that dynamic.


Paula: Amazing. Yes. Yeah. And the word that I’ve heard to describe, I suppose, exactly what you’re talking about there, James, in the Indian market, you know, I would also see or hear in Africa, for example, where you know, consumers do leapfrog and, you know, whereas we’re dealing with legacy systems for in many markets, for example. Certainly in Ireland, where I’ve been running programs US and UK, you know, sometimes it’s very difficult to get people, you know, onto the desktop and then onto the mobile.


James: Exactly.


Paula: Whereas now if you can just leapfrog straight ahead. I mean, 80 percent is unbelievable in terms of the degree of transaction. So if anybody didn’t believe, I think it was Mark Zuckerberg who first you know, told us that mobile first was the way we had to build our software applications and plan our businesses, then certainly that’s proof in the pudding. And if it’s not happening, even in the UK market, I’m sure isn’t at 80%. I doubt it UAE. Then I guess they’re the trends that we need to be looking to in terms of basically keeping up with our consumers. 


James: Exactly. And that then also changes the comms channels, the ways of engaging with that audience and all the way through to payment. So cash on delivery is still a key payment mechanic. So that’s again a very different mechanic than perhaps we’d understand elsewhere. You go into APAC and particularly China, the use of the super apps and the engagement through that and payment and everything else that runs through those rails, again, completely different engagement and an opportunity in the way that you can get into that ecosystem and play a role within a very different customer engagement.


Paula: For sure. And I said to you before, like comms channels is my favorite topic. I guess now, you know, the more I become, you know, a communicator at scale I have very fond memories of Flying Blue, who I know are a client of yours. And it goes back five years ago, but, you know, receiving my, you know, boarding pass and really being able to engage over WhatsApp with Flying Blue.


And the flight was on KLM, like, are you starting to see communication channels evolving again, either in different markets or for different sectors? Because I do think we’re a bit over reliant on the old, you know, push notifications and and our emails, which I think we’re all getting a bit, you know, jaded of, dare I say it. So what do you hear? 


James: I think it, I agree, fundamentally agree. We are jaded of email and you go into to any planning session. And so all we need to do is communicate via email and then we crack it. There, there’s a reality that, that over time. Consumers and again, different generations are interacting with email very differently to support some of the younger demographics that don’t even have an email address. It’s an alien concept and that will continue. So we do still see it’s very much a trend in terms of the comms that are available today. And that’s typically because that’s how people have interacted with those programs. So there’s still an element of understanding that’s the dialogue. That’s the conversation I want to have.


I guess to play your exam backwards with again, another client of ours to last time was reengaging with them this week from a member perspective. Again, the only way that I could authenticate in, in the end was via WhatsApp. And it’s the first time I communicated with them via WhatsApp. It was great. It was easy. They’re now a trusted connection in my WhatsApp profile. And I’d be very, very open. Welcome to other comms now being used through that channel. I suspect, unfortunately, it probably won’t because they’ve just used it for a specific function, a specific reason.


I think that’s the thing I’d like to see in evolution, where As you start to understand what is the channel that people want to talk to you through across the whole spectrum, whether it’s servicing, whether it’s authentication, whether it’s operational delivery. That I’m much then warmer to also receiving my marketing comms through there, because that’s now the point of engagement point of communication that I understand.


And we have, it’s in the programs or all of our capabilities to understand that, to, to see where people are communicating and then make that the connection point. A lot of the work that we do with the programs we work with we can touch on in a minute in terms of our approach now from an architecture perspective. So we’ve moved to more of a traditionally headless API where we can decouple the back office. We run all of the components in the background, it’s the programs and the brands that own the front end experience.  And it’s within their gift then to completely integrate that into their existing digital assets and all of the channels that they operate with their customers. 


We then can make some webhooks available that say, okay, what we’ll now do is rather than hit loads and loads of data all of the time, the minute something has an event has happened, event driven architecture. We can then push those notifications out to you as a program and that can then help you understand how and when you might then talk to individual customers relevant to an activity or an action that they’ve just performed. That to me again is getting right to the heart of. That’s where there’s relevance. That’s where people will be most receptive to those communications. And then the channel by which they’re delivered should be relevant to the ones that they’re most, have shown the most will to be part of their communication with you as a program. 


Paula: Yeah, so event driven architecture, that feels like a new word or term, industry term that I need to be aware of and headless API, you said, was the previous approach, so… 


James: It’s a subset of each other, to be honest. So the headless API is a more flexible architecture that enables, as I said, historically, perhaps legacy systems are built where the front end and back office are inherently built together. Changing one means a big change across both environments to just change something on a front end website means a lot of back office architecture as well. 


Decoupling that, moving to a headless API where you can decouple the front end from the back office. That’s been there for a little while. We worked particularly with IAGL, so the Avios Group and the execution into British Airways and Iberia and Vueling.


We’ve worked on that type of mechanic for quite some time. We’re seeing that now as a fairly consistent trend. A lot of the programs want to work in that much more fluid architecture. And that’s great because it enables us to focus on the bits that we think we do really well, the back office, the negotiation, the sourcing, the management, the operational fulfillment, the reconciliation, the finance, everything else, all of the asset management, and then that can be delivered at the front end through the programs directly. They are the experts in how to deliver that as an experience to their end users. Webhooks just gives an even more flexible and fluid way of being ensuring that we notify in real time or give the capability of that data is hitting them at the right time to be able to make that decision.


Paula: Yeah, and I think you told me last time as well that it does also enable then me as a member to be able to see something, for example, that I can actually afford within my points balance, rather than the over reliance, I think, on the beautiful iPhone that’s, you know, traditionally been on the homepage of the rewards catalog, but there’s nowhere near I have enough points for that. So, feels like you’re nailing that personalization to something that’s within budget. 


James: Absolutely that. I think I sort of sat down for us that 43 percent of shoppers will unsubscribe from loyalty program messages if the content is not relevant to them. That’s an incredibly high number. But again, using these types of tools to, to me, relevance isn’t now just about you know, it’s in my market, it might be something I want to engage with. There should be a far deeper dive into that. Exactly. As you say, it could be relevant to my point of balance. It could be relevant to something I’ve interacted with in the past. It could be relevant to something I did last week. It could be something relevant to something relevant I did an hour ago or minutes ago or seconds ago. 

That’s where technology can get us. So I think that’s where I would start to say personalization is not, it’s been spoken about for a number of years. It’s not about putting the right tile in a mass distributed email. It’s about being relevant and contextual to the engagement with that individual user and there are tools and data to be able to support that today.


Paula: Yeah. Yeah. And then the piece that we talked about, which I also love, as you said, that the communications channel is then also relevant. It’s welcome to me as a consumer. So, for example, like, I just don’t want either phone calls or SMS in my life. I know it’s weird. You know, I use that those for my father who won’t engage any other way. But when I am engaging with a big brand, you know, certainly when things like service are available in innovative channels, then I’m automatically more receptive.


And as you said, then the marketing can follow, but I think it’s when it leads with marketing and then I can’t get service in a way that I want. I think that’s when it can be frustrating for people. 


James: Exactly. And it’s about consistency at that point. It’s I’ve told you, or I’ve given you a demonstration of how I’d like to manage that communication, just be consistent and be authentic now with what that looks like moving forwards.


And I think that’s the key for me. We still see, and it’s the same in multiple industries. For good reason in many places, but there are legacy platforms, there are legacy tech, there’s tech debt around being able to connect up multiple customer engagement tools or customer facing environments. And just trying to achieve consistency and validity of what is being presented to people within all of those experiences and environments. It is absolutely key to again, delivering on that consistent promise. 


Paula: Yeah, it feels like it’s getting better, James, dare I say it, you know, as you’ve said, you know, all of these topics, you know, tech debt is another term I’ve just learned from you now. But of course I inherently, you know, would be aware of those issues and it’s never a case where loyalty program owners or brands didn’t want to have that, you know, wonderful, seamless, consistent communication with their members. But I think to date, it was just too difficult to plug the pieces together. So it does feel like the tech is catching up with, I suppose, what consumers are expecting. 


James: Yes, and I think tech has always been an enabler to that. I think perhaps there’s been a period that we’ve been through, and perhaps we’ve all been guilty of it, where new tech becomes very exciting.

So it’s quickly put in, it’s quickly bolted on, but it’s not always necessarily considered, again, how that’s delivered as a consistent and seamless experience. 


Paula: Sure. 


James: Trying to do that across all of the touch points, understand and try and shorten perhaps points of friction or points of frustration, but also still create the right tools and the right ability to attribute value and try and understand and measure engagement through all of those environments.


That’s a balancing act. There’s not a perfect answer, but I think tech becomes the enabler to that rather than always just the next new thing that’s always going to be the answer.


Paula: Exactly. Yeah. Bolting on something that has a different customer journey versus the four other ways that I might engage with the brand actually doesn’t feel good. And again, not intentional, but yeah, something that we do need to keep, I suppose, a holistic perspective on to make sure that we’re actually not frustrating our members. 


James: Exactly.


Paula: You know, when we’re trying to add value to them, very exciting stuff, James. I know there’s other things, as you said, that are coming up, but you can’t disclose just yet. So today, as you said, was mainly about celebrating the Nectar partnership. So want to say huge congratulations. 

If I’m not mistaken, it’s certainly in the top three of the biggest programs in the UK market. Would that be fair to say? 


James: Yes, definitely. Yeah.


Paula: It’s definitely, yeah, absolutely extraordinary. So, you know, for them to recognize the value in terms of what Valuedynamx can bring. And I think an important point that you told me as well, is that is in addition to, I suppose, all of the existing partnerships and other propositions, I suppose that Nectar continues to operate. As you said, led by Sainsbury’s. So this is adding additional value to get, make the program so much more functional for their members. 


James: Yeah. And I’m sure that will touched on before, but being able to provide a platform to work from collectively and that opens up some very exciting opportunities. So it’s not, it’s very much an evolution. It’s not a revolution. They’re doing some great things already. This is us just helping create a springboard for more. So we’ve got to do more day one, but hopefully even more in future ultimately for the benefit value of their customers.


Paula: Amazing. Great. Well, I’m already looking forward to our next conversation, James. Who knows where it will be? There’s plenty of I know conferences coming up that we’ll both hopefully be attending. 


Anything else coming up in terms of looking forward to 2024? Obviously we have to get through the crazy Christmas season now as marketers and all of the the fun and games that goes with all of that, but yeah, coming into 2024, anything more that you’re thinking about or focused on from developing perspective or key trends  you wanted to mention?


James: Yeah so I think I’ve touched on the fact that we’ve been looking and we’re expanding the types of mechanics that we can offer from both the earning and redemption activities. So the redemption activity in particular. As we evolve and bring a more specific and targeted gift card proposition, that will be a precursor to a number of other exciting things we have coming down the track with perhaps more, more integrated solutions within that proposition. 


On the inside, the kind of mechanics that that we’re already got we’ve spent a lot of time, a lot of focus and done some great work on building out the card linked proposition, both in the UK and US. That’s been our core focus for that today. We’re obviously looking to expand that into more locations. The UK has been a particularly good example of that. Again, working with British Airways Executive Club and Avios to really grow that proposition. Over 150 brands that we’ve worked with at various times, which has been significant growth and we’re looking at some exciting things coming through there as well.

In 2024, I think the account linking, so the role of open banking and again, being able to really go to the next level in terms of understanding spend data, not just on what people have done in the past, but starting to be much more predictive and targeted and deliver relevance in terms of what we can see people are most likely to spend on that. That’s a very exciting piece for us. 


And I think then just seeing the continued evolution and growth and variants of the different generations. So Gen Z is one that’s spoken about frequently, but it’s a very quick example of that, that we’re seeing in one of the programs that we work with. I think again, a recent consumer report, 67 percent of Gen Z are most likely to support brands and businesses. The openly advocate for social and environmental causes. And I think starting to see that actually come to fruition and it’s not just a, yes, we need to put our name to this. It’s no, this needs to be at the heart of your, of what you’re doing as a business and particularly what you’re doing as a program.

So we’ve seen some good examples of that. Etihad, who we work with, local to you, the Etihad Reward Store, their conscious choices, you know, it’s a very specific area that we’ve built out working with them.


Paula: Beautiful. Yeah. 


James: To enable their members to compensate or offset. Air travel, but also it could be now the miles that they do driving and other areas. So I think we’ll see that as a continued trend. Being able to demonstrate and help support those types of initiatives, which are great, you know, that they’re things that we want to be involved in as well.


Paula: For sure. Yeah, I think you’re absolutely right to point to that as well, James, because I think we’re all aware of the expectations of consumers. Continuing to grow and, but really to be able to see it in action, you know, it isn’t just, you know, big claims or, you know, intentions. It is actually about what is this brand, how is it behaving? And as you said, the loyalty program has a key role to play. People are increasingly looking to see exactly what is being done. And for sure, Conscious Choice is a beautiful example. We are hoping to have Etihad back on the show now, actually, in another couple of weeks, hopefully in January. So watch this space if anybody’s keen to hear the updates on that piece. 


And I think that the part that’s actually staying with me the most, that you said, James, is that there are, you know, up and coming demographics that don’t have email addresses. I actually did not even realize that was something that people are actually moving away from that dramatically. So lots of change all around. 


James: I can give you one very small example. My nephew came to do some work experience for us. 17 year old and he had to fill out a form, our usual kind of data and health and safety and all of the good things that we’re used to. And he said, just fill out this form and he’s asked to put an email address. I don’t have one. What do I put? 


Paula: Wow. Yeah. Incredible. 


James: Which is incredible. 


Paula: There you go. It’s all about the mobile. As you said, on the phone, you know, it’ll be totally different. Great. So listen, as I said, I’m already looking forward to the next conversation and we’ve covered a lot today. Is there anything else that you wanted to share with our audience before we wrap up?


James: No, I think it’s as you say that there’s lots to come. And we look forward to bringing more in the future, but now just wish everyone, you know, it will be, as you said, it’s a very busy period to the end of the year for us.

I think we’ve been planning towards this as we hit the kind of key shopping period that we’re in now for many months. So hopefully people can start to enjoy a small downtime before then we we really hit 2024 with a bang and I expect no difference in let up in terms of demand and volume flowing through everything that we do.


Paula: Fantastic. Well, listen, let me be the first person to wish you a happy Christmas. James Berry, Managing Director of Commercial for Valuedynamx  at Collinson. Thank you so much from Let’s Talk Loyalty. 


James: Thank you.


Paula: This show is sponsored by The Loyalty People, a global strategic consultancy with a laser focus on loyalty, CRM and customer engagement. The Loyalty People work with clients in lots of different ways, whether it’s the strategic design of your loyalty program or a full service, including loyalty project execution. And they can also advise you on choosing the right technology and service partners. On their website, the Loyalty People also runs a free global community for loyalty practitioners. And they also publish their own loyalty expert insights. 

So, for more information and to subscribe, check out theloyaltypeople.global.


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