Airline Loyalty Blockchain – Is it all hype?
Consider today’s problem…
You take a flight to see family for Christmas, and you earn some frequent flyer miles…You buy a coffee from Starbucks once or twice…You fill up with fuel from a Shell station and sign up for their fuel rewards program…You purchase something at a store and the cashier gets you to sign up for their rewards program.
And then… you realize that you have all these orphaned points and miles from loyalty programs which you don’t use regularly, and none of your reward accounts has enough points to redeem.
In fairness – other than being persuaded to enrol – you haven’t changed your purchase behaviour to buy more from any of them – they were all purchases that you would have made even if they didn’t have a rewards program.
But now you have a combined 200 points from all of them – and darn it! – they’re your points and now you’re wanting to buy a flight on a different airline for a family holiday and you want to redeem your points for a free flight… but you can’t… and that doesn’t seem fair, does it?
Now imagine the future…
Imagine a world where you can earn points at Burger King, and redeem them at McDonald’s…
Where you can earn frequent flyer miles on Delta, and redeem them on United…
Where you can earn points at Starbucks, and redeem them at Peet’s Coffee…
SOUNDS AMAZING DOESN’T IT?
This is the dream that many blockchain/cryptocurrency evangelists are pushing (usually associated with an attempt to raise obscene amounts of speculative investment via an ICO)
There are only two small problems…
The solution above (earning everywhere – and – redeeming anywhere) ALREADY EXISTS…. (shhh.. don’t let the investors find out).
It’s called “cash back reward programs”, run by banks all over the world.
For example – in the U.S – Chase, American Express, and Citibank – are revolutionizing and disrupting the multi-billion dollar frequent flyer industry by allowing members to earn on ANY airline, ANY hotel, and ANY retailer – and letting them pool all of their points and redeem them for what they want, when they want.
POINTS AREN’T FREE.
One of the biggest “a-ha moments” amongst blockchain developers at the recent Loyalty Live conference in Chicago was when my industry colleague Jay Sorensen from IdeaWorksCompany, delivered a presentation which highlighted the sheer volume of revenue that Frequent Flyer Programs receive from selling miles.
Loyalty Programs are all about building affinity for their brand, and their own currency. Delta Airlines, for example, wants you to fly Delta; they want you to want to earn Delta SkyMiles; and they want you to want to earn more Delta SkyMiles by signing up for their credit card (American Express purchases miles from Delta – on track to reach $4 Billion per year, according to Delta’s own investor disclosures); and crediting hotel stays and car rentals to Delta (all of whom also purchase miles from Delta).