How to Use Virtual Incentives to Drive Brand Loyalty

Earlier this month, noted that both Generation Z and Millenials are loyal to brands that offer things such as improved services or new technologies that would allow their lives to be simpler.  I would take it a step further and say that as the general public becomes increasingly connected to our mobile devices, we all are looking for ways to simplify our lives and make everyday tasks easier to accomplish.

From shopping, to finding a great restaurant, to picking a hotel brand, as consumers we are searching for brands that meet our needs quickly, simply, and instantly.  And it is up to retailers, restaurateurs, and CPG brands to allocate time and resources to ensuring they are meeting the needs of their customers wherever they are, via their mobile devices.

This concept is especially relevant when thinking about consumer loyalty programs. Gone are the days of sending a promotion in the mail or providing a mail-in rebate or reward that requires the consumer to get out an envelope and a stamp in order to redeem a reward—nobody has time for that anymore.

Today consumers want ease of use and instant rewards, and if brands are to stay relevant, they need to provide mobile savvy consumers of every demographic ilk ways to engage and earn rewards where they are—on their mobile device.  Moreover, brands should utilize the power of the mobile era to provide instant virtual incentives, rewards, and even acts of contrition when they fail to meet the expectations of the customers.  

Virtual incentives offer brands a level of efficiency and customer service not possible with other types of incentives or rewards. 

An airline with a passenger upset by a lost bag can be compensated instantly with a digital gift card and a heartfelt apology for their inconvenience before they have even left the terminal.  Having the ability to soothe a disgruntled media-savvy passenger quickly ensures that they won’t be posting their ire on social media while still in the airport; they will instead be looking for a business in the terminal to redeem their virtual prepaid gift card.  

To take it a step further, as we enter the era of in-store beacons, retailers and CPG marketers are gaining the ability to send virtual incentives and rewards instantly as enticements to purchase in brick and mortar locations. From The Crown Estate in London deploying location-aware beacon technology in Regent Street to deliver incentives to customers, to First Data’s Perka beacons offering loyalty programs to SMB consumers, brands big and small are looking for new ways to engage consumers on their mobile devices. 

As First Data’s most recent Prepaid Consumer Insights Study results highlight that a consumer with a gift card in hand spends on average $23.41 over and above the original value of the gift card they receive—give a consumer the incentive of a gift card and they will reward you in spades.   

But incentives don’t simply need to be limited to “brick and mortar.” As consumers increasingly utilize multiple channels to view and purchase goods and services, online retailers and traditional retailers with omni-channel marketing programs can take advantage of virtual solutions to drive engagement. 

Have a consumer that didn’t complete the purchase, leaving items in their virtual basket? Send an instant gift card to entice them to complete the transaction.  A small incentive can offer the retailer the ability to reap the reward of a sale and a gratified consumer engaged with your brand.

Today’s technology gives brands the ability to “touch” customers multiple times in an economically feasible way while providing an immediate value-add at the same time giving brands the ability to build a personal relationship with them that could last a lifetime.   By appealing to the unique needs of your customers and rewarding them instantly you’ll not only be building a relationship with consumers of all ages, you’ll be doing it at a cost effective way that will drive future sales for your brand.

To find out more about First Data’s Virtual Prepaid Program visit .


Euphemia L. B. Erickson is a Director of Product Marketing for prepaid, closed-loop gift cards at First Data, working on thought leadership and B2B marketing for gift cards to large retailers and SMBs, as well as Gyft, First Data’s mobile gift card app solution. You can finder on Twitter @likeseuphe.