2013 was a landmark year for our sector as major movements happened in terms of new entrants, product innovations and claims on the rewards space. For me, we established ourselves as a multi-channel rewards platform, riding at the crest of the card-linked wave and strengthening our position as the market leader in online cashback.

In my opinion the emergence of multichannel, and card-linked rewards in particular, is one of the key activities affecting major affiliates, networks and agencies at the moment. We were lucky in that we identified this opportunity back in 2010 and invested in it ever since. The card-linked market is blossoming nicely and those behind the curve in adapting to this trend will struggle to make up the ground they lose. And quickly.

Recently The Drum asked us sympathetically if we have been knocked by the bank’s decisions to move into the arena? Far from it. Since the big four have shown their hand in the rewards space, our products have continued to provide the company with growth, as awareness and talk (of on and offline cashback) is in the faces of so many consumers. They have major marketing budgets and we are benefiting from the halo effect of this spend on consumer education.

Diversify and prosper

Companies that choose to spread the risk in terms of reliance on revenue streams, are the ones that prosper. And areas that these risks are placed, have to be chosen carefully and with a long-term outlook, rather than a short term win. Our decision to diversify, moving the company away from an online pure play, has enabled us to lead the charge in the creation of a new wave of reward platform. No bank or even established loyalty provider can compare with the breadth and choice of retailers we offer.

In recent months major progress has been made in the card-linked arena and those responsible for driving the growth are focused on two areas: Investment in the products they offer and the strength of their teams delivering the service.

Conversation around “big-data” topics have been spinning around for a long time but its “actionable big-data” where I see the value. Combine this with the burgeoning card-linked market and providers are seeing an acceleration of an offline proposition that I knew was coming for sometime.

Consumers want to benefit from a simple rewards experience and retailers want to be efficient in how they drive their sales. Anyone who knows what Dunnhumby did for Tesco will understand the challenges you face when you introduce personalised offers. Securing insight from this sort of sector is critical when tapping into the multichannel space. It is this experience that will see providers successfully set themselves apart from competition, driving customer acquisition and loyalty on the high street. A job that is much harder than it sounds!

With product innovations, investment and strategic recruitments offline teams are well placed to enjoy success, despite operation against a backdrop of increased competition. With over 30 retailers now working with us offline, who collectively have access to 1.3m registered cards, offline spend is up 44% year on year. We have definitely moved from an online pure play to a multichannel reward platform.

The secret behind the card-linked/multichannel platform?

Introduction of personalised offers

This is critical as technology now allows retailers the opportunity to understand where their customers spend occurs, outside of the realms of just their brand. Companies then need to use this insight to target those customers that are more valuable to them via increased rewards and incentives. Retailers now have the ability to isolate the competitor’s customer, look-a-like customers and loyal customers in order to serve rewards that drive incremental in-store transactions. No ‘one size fits all’ reward will ever work. The shopper expects more and providers in our space have to keep up.

Redevelopment of mobile application and websites

Linking mobile apps directly into card-linked experiences is one step I think is key in keeping up. Programmes that can do this can increase incremental return for retailers and prove influence over a consumer’s purchasing journey. It is this demonstration that will increase marketing budgets placed with reward providers.

Hard work

You can have all the science in the world but there’s no substitute for getting out there, listening to what retailers want and working with them to deliver. Technology gives you a capability, dedicated and professional staff gives you a service.

The lifeblood of it all remains our data

I said it above and I’ll say it again: having a big pile of data is neat, but it’s how you can action this that creates value. Being able to compile it, derive statistics from it, segment it, build predictive models from it and use it for highly personalised targeting – that’s what’s valuable.

We’ve long since known that our USP as an organisation is our unique position to see a wealth of retail shopping data, across a breadth of categories. We’re well over two years into establishing our data capability, out of which we’ve created an insight portal for retailers. This not only allows them access to the insights of the 21st century shopper, but also provides us with on-going opportunities to offer targeted marketing.

Every day, my teams across the business are focused on cultivating a culture of loyalty from consumers. Personalisation of bespoke offers, implemented by our marketing and driven by our data will engender loyalty across our service. It is this that excites me, as it will prove invaluable to our retail partners, making them more efficient and strengthen our marketing partnerships.