There are many rewards programs. All are linked to purchases. Many brands have their own loyalty programs, as do some of the payment processors (credit card companies, for example). But, as far as I can tell, there is no rewards program for the upstream transaction enablers of attention and engagement. Why is this so? I can think of three reasons.
First, an atomic rewards program needs a much smaller granularity than most rewards programs offer. For example, Flipkart’s Supercoins’ smallest unit is worth a rupee. For the atomic actions, there is a need for a much lower quantum – perhaps a tenth of a rupee. In comparison to what a brand offers for a transaction, such a reward may seem trivially small and unattractive if it is standalone.
Second, enterprises have not had the budgets to fund an atomic rewards program because the bulk of the spends are being directed to acquisition and reacquisition. Only when brands realise the futility of such an arms race (what I have earlier called the “doom loop of spending”) will they be open to redirecting some of the reacquisition spend towards rewards for their existing customers.
Third, for an atomic rewards program to succeed, it has to necessarily be pan-brand. No single brand can make it financially attractive because the spend for a single customer is small — about one rupee per customer per month. From a customer standpoint, atomic rewards earned across multiple brands can be significant enough to change behaviour to paying attention to push messages rather than ignoring 90% of them.
The rise of digital competition is going to fuel the growth of atomic rewards. Some enterprises will be early adopters – just like we saw the rise of e-commerce marketplaces and D2C brands. Once the realisation dawns that transactions can be driven not just by offers but by winning attention and creating engagement, atomic rewards will come into the playbook of marketers.
Purchase moments need to be preceded by persuasion moments. An atomic rewards program is the perfect driver for branding, delighting, positioning and decision-making. This space is a blue ocean as of now – with no competition. In a non-digital world, brands had little direct control on the customer relationship. But now, right from early interest, brands can track and identify individual customers, each of whom has a set of unique attributes (email address, mobile number) that can identify them across sessions and conversations. This enables action earlier in the funnel, which in turn creates the opportunity for atomic rewards.
Atomic rewards can be offered to existing customers for their attention and engagement in push messages (emails, SMSes, push notifications), and on a brand’s owned properties (website, app). There is also an opportunity to offer rewards much earlier in the purchase cycle for future customers – in ads that are run, or via the physical product itself.