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In marketing generally and in retailing more specifically, a loyalty card, rewards card, points card or club card is a plastic or paper card, visually similar to a credit card or debit card, that identifies the card holder as a member in a commercial incentives program. Loyalty cards are a system of the loyalty business model.

Almost 80 percent of shoppers in the Europe now belong to at least one loyalty program and the trend is fast catching up in India but how well do they really work? The short answer: not as well as they might have been. We look at why, and analyze how advances in customer data collection are helping some companies to revise their Loyalty business strategies in different ways.

There are frequent shopping programs, frequent flyer programs, frequent mall cards and frequent petrol programs. There are points at the pump schemes, service tax holidays and some of them even donate to charities like CRY for people who use their credit card reward points. There are plastic cards, smart cards, thermal cards, magnetic strips Co-branded Credit Cards. Within the next couple of years players like Airtel, Reliance, are working on using 802.11 to Flash your mobile phone at a reader as you whiz through checkout, and you'll get a couple of rupees knocked off your bill.

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Benefits of Loyalty Cards for Customers
   Saving Money / Make Money
   Convenience Factor Ease of Payment (Speed and Simplicity)
   Special Offers / Discounts for Card Holders
   Feeling Of Belonging and Membership
   Possibility of Receiving other Financial Services
   Member Magazines etc



Benefits of Loyalty Cards for Companies
   Identification of Customers (enabling deeper relationship marketing)
   Reason for More Contact with Customer
   Identification of Customer Behavior who buys what, when, where how much, how, etc. + Identification of Trends.
   Customer Tie-In
   Increased Sales Volume / Turnover
   Damage to Competitors (if successful and especially if rewards based on minimum requirements, e.g. air miles)
   Cross Marketing Opportunities (eg. Financial Services)
   May Hide Real Prices & Therefore Enable Higher Prices
   Perhaps New Customers
   Possibility To Sell Customer Data (in certain circumstances)





How it Works?
Take a look in your wallet and you probably have at least two or three loyalty cards for grocery stores, pet stores or other retail outlets. All types of companies are moving to loyalty cards to get consumers to shop with them more than their competitors. Most loyalty cards offer rewards when you, the consumer, either swipe the card or punch in the telephone number associated with the card. While most people love the benefits, there are those who feel that the information collected by loyalty cards is an invasion of privacy.

Advantages
Customer Relationships Loyalty card programs can help retain customers, increase traffic and improve sales. Exclusive deals, discounts and incentives attract customers. Loyalty card incentives improve customer service and relationships with customers.

Marketing Campaigns
If a company requires registration to distribute a loyalty card, it can collect data that will help drive effective marketing strategies. Keeping records of past purchases can help design better promotions and advertising campaigns. For example, offering an instant discount to loyalty card holders can encourage customers to register or make frequent purchases. In return, the contact information can be used to advertise directly with customers who are more likely to buy.

Business Growth
Reduced advertising costs and increased return on investment (ROI) on marketing campaigns are two main business growth advantages. Loyalty cards can attract customers to a business and away from the competition. They also can improve customer lifetime value--the amount a customer spends during the lifetime of their relationship with the business--toward consistent business growth.