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Straight to the Points

Technology has made reward programs more relevant

Tides By Jay Shedd

The first thing that comes to mind when thinking about a rewards program is a little card that the cashier stamps or signs off on. To the customer, it’s a sure way to get a freebie. To a business, it’s a relatively inexpensive way to show their appreciation for repeat customers.

However, would it surprise you to know that a global company attracts millions with its rewards program? I’m talking about Amazon Prime. The company even created its own shopping holiday that is almost as anticipated as Black Friday. It is called Prime Day. On this day, shoppers flock online to shop for exclusive deals only available to Prime members. Members get regular emails and notifications on their mobile devices about these deals and are even able to shop immediately on any mobile device.

Now, not every business is as big as Amazon or has the resources to launch and maintain a high-functioning online store. However, there is still much to learn about how technology has transformed the rewards program into a tool for consumers to enjoy added value on purchases and for businesses to better engage with their customers. Thanks to the smartphone and other technologies, rewards programs are more relevant than ever before.

However, there is a widespread opinion that rewards programs are a gimmick. That they are not worth the effort because one must spend so much to get something back. To me, this is “the glass is half empty” thinking for the Negative Nancy.

The true value in a rewards program comes from earning rewards on purchases you will already make. If you will already be spending the money, you may as well get something back. Especially if the rewards program is free – why not? It helps its members spend smartly and enjoy savings in the long run.

Technology has broken down many barriers to a successful rewards program. For one, and probably the most important, it has made participating in a rewards program extremely convenient. Many rewards programs live on our mobile devices as an application, or they can be accessed online using the pre-installed web browser app. We don’t have to lug around a wallet that is fat with a stack of stamps or membership cards.

We already make sure we don’t leave home without our phones. A rewards program app is always with us, right next to our social media, messages, and all the things we do every day. A mobile app keeps the program top of mind with instant push notifications and emails to remind us to earn more points and get that reward faster. We can easily access information about offers and promotions or scan QR codes in-store.

Additionally, it is now easier to enroll in rewards programs. We can apply online from any mobile device or computer. We do not have to remember to submit any paperwork. We get confirmation instantly via email. Some more advanced rewards programs can be added to a digital wallet alongside other payment credentials.


Technology allows businesses to offer more robust rewards programs at a lower operational cost. A robust rewards program allows customers to participate in different activities to get rewarded with different perks and benefits. From vouchers to tiered rewards that offer exclusivity, it is all automatically tracked and managed with software. Members can easily see their status and review the terms and conditions, making it more encouraging to act. With a robust program, more people can join. Rewards programs do not have to be just for “top” spenders. Instead, anyone with the app or internet access can participate.

Overall, the internet, mobile phones, and social media have increased our expectations for a personalized experience, further adding to the potential of rewards programs. Customers expect companies to understand their unique tastes and preferences and want to be treated as individuals instead of a customer type or segment. Businesses can deliver a personalized customer experience with tailored messaging, offers, and products.

The idea of this type of personalization or customer intimacy is not new. Smart businesses have always understood the importance of making the customer feel special, but technology has made it easier for companies to track data on individual preferences and trends. In the past, it was more difficult to narrow down the exact products that were preferred and by whom. Data had to be collected manually, and businesses may not have had the manpower. Now, it is less costly to collect that data. The software supplies the data, and a business simply learns to interpret the data to gain actionable insights to deliver more meaningful offers.

An example of a rewards program that leverages technology to engage with its members is PacificPoints, which is available in Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. The program is free to join and is accessible via a mobile app that is free to download. Through the app, members can redeem their points for free fuel at Shell in Guam and Saipan, vouchers for food and beverages at Foody’s Guam, rebates on their IT&E Guam and CNMI mobile and internet bills, discounts on IT&E Prepaid cards, and United MileagePlus Miles.

Rather, technology enhances the experience and in today's digital world, enjoyable and unique experiences are sought after and are, well, more rewarding.

Jay R. Shedd is executive vice president of Citadel Pacific, the parent company of PTI Pacific Inc. which does business as IT&E, IP&E. He has more than 30 years of experience in the telecommunications industry, business development, sales and marketing.

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