Ai Editorial: Transforming loyalty when data is exploding

First published on 22nd August, 2016

Ai Editorial: Malaysia Airlines is looking at profiling and “segmentising” members of its Enrich loyalty programme, and is also working on a host of other initiatives to embrace data-driven operations, writes Ai’s Ritesh Gupta


When we talk of how technology and touchpoints are shaping up loyalty in today’s world, the discussion can be unpredictable – long, tricky, and complicated, too!

Can I expect a brand to keep track of every iota of digital data of what all I do when I am connected? And to what extent all of this can be amalgamated with offline experiences, too.  A herculean task if we think of the so-called “micro-moments”.

The world of data and analytics is multi-layered, and one can say complicated, too.

I recently chose to check what does a typical “privacy and cookie” mean when I visit a website. IP address, location, log-in information, browser, device, URL clickstream, page response time, clicks, scrolling etc. Add on to this cookies – functionality cookies, performance cookies, targeting cookies etc. There is 1st party data, 2nd party data, 3rd party data. Plus, there is data analytics - prescriptive, predictive etc. The list just seems to be an endless one!

The blend of data, analytics and technology is paving way for more work, and prioritizing isn’t easy. And when we talk of loyalty, airlines also work with a host of partners, and that’s where 2nd party data as a source also comes into the picture.

I recently interacted with an experienced marketer in Khairul Nisa Ismail, Head of Enrich & Loyalty for Malaysia Airlines.  

The organization is making steady progress and clearly focused on engagement via offering recognition and value to its loyal members.

Excerpts from the interview:

Ai: Can you provide an insight into the current status and profile of Enrich, the loyalty division of Malaysia Airlines?

Nisa: We review based on the qualifying criteria that we have outlined for our members to adhere to (check out our Enrich Qualification URL). Currently our top 3 memberships are Malaysian based, Australia/ New Zealand-based, and the UK and the rest are ASEAN. 70% of our members are Malaysian based and for the last 3 years, we have been focused on unlocking our basic tier members i. e. Enrich blue members with activation campaigns to remain active as our members.

How we define “active” in our programme is as long as they have accrued miles, redeemed miles on both air and non-air partners plus converted credit card points to Enrich miles in the past 36-months, we consider them an active member. Moving forward, we aim to develop more unique members of different tiers in order for us to better understand them in terms of profiling and segmentation with data intelligence.  This will ultimately help us to better serve our members.

Ai: What sort of changes/ transformation you are looking at?

Nisa: We are working towards understanding our members better by profiling and “segmentising” not just based on tiers but also their airline and non-air preference and behaviour. We are enhancing our platform to be more robust with the ability to further maximize the usage of our Enrich currency as a form of payment in our airline eco-system to our members. Apart from the airline, we are working with strategic partners that represent daily transaction behaviour, e.g. banks, petrol, online retailers, to provide more value to our members to earn enrich miles when shopping with these partners. These strategic partners truly reflect the lifestyle of our members beyond flying for Enrich. Of course, we do have the standard FFP partners that compliment flight purchases such as hotels, car rentals and duty free. 

Ai: How about managing databases within an airline to craft a personalised offering for loyal travellers?

Nisa: I believe in all loyalty businesses it is about capturing the right data for the purpose of your business. What is imperative in our business is to go through all aspects of data points of the customer journey and combining it with the intelligence of the CRM which enables us to segmentise our customers and members to ensure we personalize the right offers to the right customers/ members based on the data points.  

However, it is still a major challenge especially as to whether we are capturing enough data. As much as we capture the flying data there are still elements of daily purchases, such as co-brand cards/ financial partners/ petrol partners/ online retailers partners, that we need to capture to enable us to monetize our members with value added rewards.

Ai: What about acting on real-time operational data?

Nisa: Every FFP provider strives to provide the best service to the members by capturing every mile for every dollar spent by members from air partners and non-air partners. The loyalty technology is constantly being developed and enhanced to ensure that real time data is captured, especially at the critical data points. This is to ensure accuracy as well as to win the members’ loyalty whilst managing their experience in ensuring miles are credited in a timely fashion. As for Enrich, we aspire to have real-time credit of miles for our members.

We have seen many loyalty solutions enhancing their features and products by developing dashboards for the analytics team to review and derive the next campaign mechanics for members. However, not all have the dashboards that will meet individual requirements; hence loyalty experts will look out for plug and play features to include non-air platform data to compliment the overall FFP programme data.

Ai: What about offering benefits to different segment of loyal customers? How being data-driven can help in this context?

Nisa: Back to the topic of big data. It can be overwhelming to extract our members by looking at the complete customer journey of the airline from a marketing perspective. For a realistic perspective, it is best to start with something basic.

For example, let’s start with our top tier members, from the booking of tickets experience all the way to boarding the flights. We know how unique these segments are and we can start to customize the different levels of personalisation to top tier members by simply addressing them at the check in counter or by personalised emails on marketing offers. The latter is an interesting feature especially in differentiating our partner offers based on their tiers and their travel and booking or spend behaviour. Once we get the basics right, we can work on segmentisation to our mass members e.g the Enrich Blue base. By identifying their annual travel patterns, their credit card conversion patterns, their non-air partners accrual patterns etc, we can tailor the offers exclusively to our Enrich blue base and continue to inspire them to go on to the next tier via flying and other value methods they can earn from being our loyal member.

Ai: It is being highlighted that partnerships are the biggest opportunity to cross-pair offers to relevant customers and grow them into loyal customers for each of the brands. What’s your opinion about the same?

Nisa: Enrich believes in strong partnerships and is always on the look-out for unique partners that we can exclusively cross pair to our diversified customers and relevant members. We always need to look at both sides – our partners, who have invested in the programme via miles, who have ensured the right offers for our programme members, and also the programme owners, making sure we bring the value back to the partners. From a member’s perspective, the differentiating offers and attractive mechanics to constantly keep them engaged and remain loyal to the programme is core and challenging at the same time but once we get the formula right, it is a win-win partnership and successful marriage for the programme owner, the partners and the members.

More value

A successful loyalty programme requires ongoing investment and agility in order to respond to a dynamically changing market.

Nisa agrees and says it is a balancing act and one has to ensure that the loyalty programme brings more value back to the airline. The more the members are engaged with the programme with the right offers to them based on their profile, the better it is for the airline revenue as we will have recurring and, more importantly, loyal members, she says.


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