Atomic Rewards: The Solution to Attention Recession

Published October 21-November 1, 2021


Past Writings Review – 1

Over the past few months, I have written extensively about how most marketing messages sent by brands are ignored (attention recession) and possible solutions for attention messaging (a micro-currency for attention and a dedicated inbox for such messages):

Microns and Loyalty: Gamifying and Rewarding Attention: “There is a very interesting opportunity to build a loyalty program which monetises attention via microns by building a two-sided platform: connecting brands and consumers. It needs to have two components: the earn (how consumers can get the reward points) and the burn (how can they redeem these points). The innovative format of microns (short, informational, identified content) combined with a multi-brand loyalty program can lay the foundation for a big breakthrough in brand-customer engagement via the most ubiquitous identity that customers have – their email address. Such a program could, in short order, become the world’s largest loyalty program.”

Micronbox: A New Inbox: “[Imagine the future.] Each of us has a micronbox. It is built on email so it doesn’t necessarily need a new app or identity. This new inbox collates all the microns from our Gmail inbox and organises them better. No microns from a brand which we have not subscribed to make it through. Only a single email from a brand is present – older, unread mails get layered together into that single email. Thus, the micronbox only has as many emails as brands we subscribe to. Microns that we read are automatically deleted unless we choose to save them for future reference… The micronbox is clutter-free. Instead of a ‘delete’ mindset when dealing with emails, there is a ‘delight’ feeling as we scan it. Brands have become friends whose messages are never ignored, read promptly and always acted on. Brands provide us useful info which make daily life better. They offer us what we need rather than what they want. They learn from our actions to make the relationship better daily with every interaction.”

Imagining Mus: An Attention-Action Currency: “Mus are points that are earned by consumers for actions done in their engagement with brands. Initially, Mus are earned within microns: opening a micron, clicking a link, filling a survey, referrals to family and friends. Later, they could be extended beyond microns – clicking on SMSes or push notifications, downloading an app, completing a profile to share personal information with a brand, and so on. Mus are a transfer from a brand to consumers. Mus are thus earned by consumers. They can be spent on rewards or gifted to others. As the use of Mus expand, they can become currency – a medium of exchange.”

Micron-verse: Making It Happen: “There are many components that come together to make the micron-verse of [the future] a reality: messages, microns, micronbox, mu and MyToday. Taken together, these 5 elements help us construct the new world of brand-customer communications and engagement… Micron-verse, over time, can be like a good game that is played on and on by millions daily. It offers us useful information packaged with exciting rewards for the one resource we cannot increase – our time. We live in a world of brands and messages – that’s never going away. If anything, the volume of ‘ads’ we see has increased exponentially. So why not invite the ads in our life – invertising, if you will. Let brands bid for our time – they are anyways vying for our attention on platforms like Google and Facebook. Why not let them do it in our inbox and make the payments directly to us?.. A world with less waste – our attention, brand spends – should be a better place.”


Past Writings Review – 2

Marketing: Disrupted and Simplified: “The simple truth that marketers have missed is: “To get customers to pay attention, pay for attention.” In fact, marketers know this very well – they are just paying the wrong entities for attention. It is time they stopped fattening the profits of Google and Facebook, and instead consider a rewards program to incentivise their existing customers for attention and action, the upstream of transactions. This is the secret to ensuring there is no money left on the table – for competition…Push messages need to be transformed into microns with rewards (Mu). These messages offer incentivises for attention and action for the Rest so they never ignore brand communications. It is better to pay one’s own customers for their attention rather than compete in auctions on Google and Facebook and spend 10 times more money in re-acquiring them via ad platforms.”

Attention Messaging: Bridging Adtech, CPaaS and Martech: “Attention needs to become the new Acquisition. Omnichannel push messaging is the lever for driving attention and retention.  Attention Messaging is the solution with its multiple innovations of Ems, Microns, Mu and Micronbox. It is the way marketers can regain control of the customer relationship and thus drive greater transactions, revenues and profits…The budget to fund retention is hiding in plain sight. Instead of a 90:10 acquisition:retention split, marketers need to make it 75:25. This will make for happier customers (they are being rewarded for their attention), drive greater engagement (more attention = more opens/clicks and thus more transactions), and reduce churn (attentive customers are less likely to become dormant and inactive).”

Stop Loss: The Power of Attention Messaging: “It is time for Attention Messaging to have a seat at the table – just like Adtech and Martech. Attention Messaging is what will power tomorrow’s brands. It is just sending push messages by the dozen to inboxes; it is about thinking about attention, habits, deeper relationships and friendships. Financial rewards and gamification are just the icing that brings in an excitement in the thrill – like surprise gifting that we do to family and friends we care for. Attention Messaging must become the next C-suite agenda. Done right, it can nurture a lifetime of love between brands and customers – but only if it works both ways… It follows the natural evolution from acquisition to onsite and in-app engagement to attention and retention. Combined with Velvet Rope Marketing, Attention Messaging is the second pillar that can create the moats marketers want in their quest to become a profipoly (profits monopoly).”

As I have been thinking and writing about the problem of attention, a few things have stood out. One, the attention problem is much bigger – there are many moments where some extra attention from us could be beneficial to us, both as buyers and sellers. Two, a small intervention in the form of an incentive could drive behaviour change. Third, this incentive solution – non-financial, not linked to a transaction, and pan-brand – does not exist. Fourth, there is a need for a headless system (API-based) that can be easily integrated by brands into their communications and marketing platforms.

In this series, I will explore these ideas further and outline an idea I call “atomic rewards” (in the form of Mu) as the solution to attention recession and the core of attention messaging.


Attention Moments

I am in a bookstore. I pick up many books, browse quickly through them, and then move on. If a book seems interesting, I will spend a few minutes going through the first few pages and perhaps reading online reviews before I make a purchase decision. Imagine now if there was a QR code on the back cover with an offer: “read the book’s first chapter, scan the QR code, answer 3 Qs, and earn 50 Mu.” The odds that I will buy the book increase dramatically after I spend a few minutes reading the first chapter – Amazon knows this and offers its Kindle users not just excerpts with its “Look Inside” and a free sample.

In both cases, before I pay with my money, I am paying with my attention. Add a small twist to this. What if the book publisher (or book reseller) could reward me for my attention? It could offer me Mu to read the first chapter – and ask a few simple questions (hence the QR code) to ensure that I actually paid attention while reading. An investment of 1% of the book value in the form of an incentive for my time could perhaps lead to a multi-fold increase in buyers. Also, as a side benefit, they would capture my interest and link it to my identity, thus offering me future offers by push messages sent to either my email address or mobile number.

But alas! There is no easy method for the publisher or book seller to reward me for anything other than a completed transaction. And so these “micro moments” of attention and relationship building never happen.

Let’s take another example. The front page of many newspapers recently had a full-page ad for a new OTT series. I see the ad, make a mental note and move on. Maybe I will remember to check the web series later, maybe not. Now imagine instead if there was a QR code with an offer: watch a 3-minute trailer and earn 20 Mu. An anonymous me is now an identified prospect for the OTT channel. A small incentive makes it more likely that I will identify myself and perhaps, even watch the series after my interest is piqued with the trailer. As an additional bonus, the OTT brand will know the efficacy of its ads by publication.

Here’s a third scenario. I am at a restaurant with friends and it’s time for dessert. Should there be a reluctance to order, the restaurant could offer a small incentive to simply look at the offerings – once I (or my friends) actually see the photos of the delicacies, the likelihood of us ordering will increase dramatically. And yet, that moment is lost – unchanged through centuries, unimpacted by digital.

I am sure each of us can imagine many such moments in our daily lives where a few minutes of rewarded attention could increase our engagement with brands. But these win-win moments don’t happen because there is no mechanism for brands to offer us micro-incentives for our time and interaction. As I have written earlier, attention and engagement are upstream of transactions. Brands have focused on rewarding transactions either through loyalty programs of their own or partnerships with credit card companies. But what has been missed (or ignored) is what comes before the transaction – our attention. This is where “atomic rewards” can be the game changer as the solution to attention recession.



As I was thinking about attention, I remembered a book I had read a few months ago – James Clear’s Atomic Habits. The word “atomic” had stuck in my mind as I had read the book. Here’s a small excerpt from the book: “An atomic habit refers to a tiny change, a marginal gain, a 1 percent improvement. But atomic habits are not just any old habits, however small. They are little habits that are part of a larger system. Just as atoms are the building blocks of molecules, atomic habits are the building blocks of remarkable results. Habits are like the atoms of our lives. Each one is a fundamental unit that contributes to your overall improvement. At first, these tiny routines seem insignificant, but soon they build on each other and fuel bigger wins that multiply to a degree that far outweighs the cost of their initial investment. They are both small and mighty. This is the meaning of the phrase atomic habits—a regular practice or routine that is not only small and easy to do, but also the source of incredible power; a component of the system of compound growth.”

I realised the similarity of the idea of micro-rewards with the concept of atomic habits. To solve the problem of attention recession needed a small change in habits – fuelled by an incentive. The rewards were tiny but with mighty potential for building lasting brand-customer relationships. For brands, these rewards could be the answer to maximising lifetime revenues from customers. I needed to give this idea a name, and thus was born the concept “atomic rewards.” I took the cover of the Atomic Habits book and created my own impression of what an Atomic Rewards ad would look like.

The word “atomic” connected with rewards brought the idea to life and bridged the gap between my talking about attention recession, attention messaging and Mu. I had originally limited the idea of Mu to just push messages, but as I thought more, I realised it had much wider potential – and thus it needed to move beyond messaging. Thus was born the idea of “atomic rewards” – micro-incentives for persuasion by paying for attention and engagement.

It is an idea made for today’s digital world – where each of us has a persistent identity and a smartphone capable of instant action. Atomic rewards work across brands because no single brand engagement will offer enough incentives to become an independent program. These rewards are not linked with transactions. They come in the form of points (Mu) and are thus non-financial. The points aggregated across multiple brand engagements can be redeemed at the Mu Shop. Gamification can make it more exciting, even offering access and differentiated experiences in the µniverse. Perhaps, one day, atomic rewards earned could even be tradeable tokens, much like cryptocurrencies – where human action (in the form of attention and engagement) becomes the equivalent of mining leading to the creation of Mu.


Habits and Rewards

James Clear’s Atomic Habits discusses the science of how habits work:

The process of building a habit can be divided into four simple steps: cue, craving, response, and reward.

First, there is the cue. The cue triggers your brain to initiate a behavior. It is a bit of information that predicts a reward…Your mind is continuously analyzing your internal and external environment for hints of where rewards are located. Because the cue is the first indication that we’re close to a reward, it naturally leads to a craving.

Cravings are the second step, and they are the motivational force behind every habit. Without some level of motivation or desire—without craving a change—we have no reason to act. What you crave is not the habit itself but the change in state it delivers…Cues are meaningless until they are interpreted. The thoughts, feelings, and emotions of the observer are what transform a cue into a craving.

The third step is the response. The response is the actual habit you perform, which can take the form of a thought or an action. Whether a response occurs depends on how motivated you are and how much friction is associated with the behavior.

Finally, the response delivers a reward. Rewards are the end goal of every habit. The cue is about noticing the reward. The craving is about wanting the reward. The response is about obtaining the reward. We chase rewards because they serve two purposes: (1) they satisfy us and (2) they teach us.

In summary, the cue triggers a craving, which motivates a response, which provides a reward, which satisfies the craving and, ultimately, becomes associated with the cue. Together, these four steps form a neurological feedback loop—cue, craving, response, reward; cue, craving, response, reward—that ultimately allows you to create automatic habits. This cycle is known as the habit loop.

Atomic Rewards help with the habit loop. The µ symbol in the Subject of an email or adjacent to a QR code is the cue. The craving is the quantum of Mu that can be earned and what the additional Mu does – maintain a streak, bring one closer to the free item in the shop or the next level rise, and so on.  The response is the action in the form of an open or click – the attention and engagement desired by the brand. The reward is the earning of Mu and a step towards a desired goal. Over time, µ becomes associated with a reward, and that is what can drive behaviour change.



There are three key trends that are drivers for the atomic rewards idea: the unification of multiple B2C stacks into a single digital experience stack, the shift of spends from adtech (acquisition) to martech (retention and growth), and the increasing focus on engineering profitable customers for life.

Stacks: So far, the tech solutions for customer communications, engagement and experience have been largely independent. Enterprises have adopted point solutions as they felt the need. But this is now changing. With the need for a unified customer view, there is a push towards having a single natively integrated stack rather than stitching various solutions together. The former approach helps reduce integration costs, eliminates data silos, and enables the magic of AI-ML to work on the data. Having all data in a single store also enables atomic rewards: marketers can now orchestrate omnichannel journeys and identify moments earlier in the purchase cycle where the right nudges targeted towards increasing attention and engagement can make a difference.

Spends: Acquisition of new customers has been the priority for most enterprises. With easy availability of capital, marketers have been channelling huge spends towards Google and Facebook to acquire new customers at all costs. The result is that only 10-20% of the marketing budget is spent on customer retention and growth. As a result, deep customer relationships are hard to build and customers become inactive or churn – only to be reacquired via the adtech spends! My estimate is that a third of the spends on customer acquisition are directed to churned customers. This is where atomic rewards can make a huge impact: instead of spending on Big Tech, marketers can directly reward their existing customers to keep the brand hotline alive.

Profitability: In the coming years, as investors realise that the pool of profitable customers is limited, they will demand a path to profitability from enterprises. Selling Rs 100 for Rs 99 can get infinite customers but that is not going to build an enduring, great company. Creating a “profits moat” means that the enterprise has to attract the category’s best customers, maximise revenue from them, and turn them into micro-influencers by getting them to refer their family and friends. This needs differentiated experiences, which in turn requires sustained attention and continuous engagement. This is where atomic rewards can play a role – by focusing not just on the transaction but on the top and middle of the persuasion funnel.

All these three trends will accelerate the need for atomic rewards because attention and engagement will rise in importance in the customer journey, with the transaction (purchase) an outcome of a happy customer relationship.


Why Now

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.


Missed Moments

I travelled from Mumbai to Delhi recently – my first flight after 19 months of staying at home. At the airport, there are many big ad displays. Why don’t most of them have any engagement option other than a URL? I flew Indigo from Mumbai to Delhi. A couple days after the flight, I got an SMS asking me to fill out a survey about my experience. I ignored it. What could Indigo have done to nudge me to fill the survey? In Delhi, the hotel I stayed at did not even ask me about how the experience was. What could it have done to engage me better and convert a one-off transaction into a longer relationship? I went to a QSR (quick service restaurant) for lunch with a couple colleagues. While one of them paid, could the restaurant have garnered my attention to know more about me and thus possibly reduced future new customer acquisition costs?

What I have described above is commonplace – that’s the way it has been for as long as we can remember. But our world has changed. We have a persistent addressable identity. We also have a smartphone in our hands all the time – with a camera and QR code reader. By not factoring these two big shifts, brands are missing so many moments to add a layer of attention and engagement with their present and future customers. This is the opportunity that atomic rewards offers brands.

It was not possible in the past to offer these persuasion points to a mass of unknown users. But now, the ‘anon’ (as in anonymous) is ‘known’ and atomic rewards offers a micro-currency to make exactly these nudges possible. What brands need to do is to segment the customer journey and identify moments where a small nudge in the form of an incentive can change behaviour.

Let’s go through the same moments I experienced in my Delhi travel. At the airport, big ad displays could be brought to life with a QR code with an offer of 10 Mu (equating to one rupee) for me to act and provide some information for follow-up. Indigo could have offered me 20 Mu for filling the survey. My Delhi hotel could have incentivised me 50 Mu for feedback. The QSR could have offered 30 Mu for me to share which food items I liked – along with an offer of 100 Mu to download their app so I could get alerts when I am in the vicinity of the same QSR chain in my travels.

For a brand, these are small investments – because the alternatives in each case are to spend many times more in reaching the potential customer again. In fact, compared to some of the spends that they are already doing for ads, this is an incremental add-on which can have very big benefits.

Atomic rewards are not limited to B2C brands. They could even be used by businesses for providing micro-incentives for their employees. It becomes a fun, gamified experience. Incentives work, and we can all be nudged with the right rewards. It is up to us with our innovation hats to create these magical moments.


QR Moments

The obvious examples where atomic rewards can be persuasive are in push messages sent by brands to their customers: emails opens and clicks, SMS clicks, and push notification clicks. A step beyond is the actual action after the click: filling out a survey, watching a product video, providing feedback, sharing some personal info, recommending a friend. These are all very good starting points for timely nudges and also driving awareness about atomic rewards.

Let’s look at more examples of moments in our daily lives where atomic rewards can drive behaviour change. Combined with QR codes, atomic rewards can be magical!

Wall Street Journal had some interesting history about QR codes recently: “QR stands for Quick Response, and these codes were invented in 1994 by Masahiro Hara at the Japanese automotive company Denso Wave. Their original purpose was to track inventory in factories, but broader uses became possible with the advent and ubiquity of smartphones. QR codes are essentially a two-dimensional version of bar codes, which are a clever way of encoding information in an image using vertical lines of different thicknesses that a scanner can detect. Hara’s 2-dimensional version uses a square grid of small black and white squares, apparently inspired by the board game Go.”

An earlier article in WSJ showed some uses in the US context: “QR codes — essentially a kind of bar code that allows transactions to be touchless — have emerged as a permanent tech fixture from the coronavirus pandemic. Restaurants have adopted them en masse, retailers including CVS and Foot Locker have added them to checkout registers, and marketers have splashed them all over retail packaging, direct mail, billboards and TV advertisements. But the spread of the codes has also let businesses integrate more tools for tracking, targeting and analytics, raising red flags for privacy experts. That’s because QR codes can store digital information such as when, where and how often a scan occurs. They can also open an app or a website that then tracks people’s personal information or requires them to input it. As a result, QR codes have allowed some restaurants to build a database of their customers’ order histories and contact information. At retail chains, people may soon be confronted by personalized offers and incentives marketed within QR code payment systems.”

QR codes have primarily been used to drive actions leading to transactions. They can be used equally effectively for attention and engagement.  Let’s say one is watching an ad on TV or in a movie theatre. At times, we do see a number to send an SMS or give a missed call so the advertiser can generate a lead. Instead, what if a QR code showed up in the ad. Our smartphones are always with us. All it takes is a few seconds to start the camera app and a click to land on the info-filled page or video the advertiser wants. All of this can be done today. Now, combine it with a ubiquitous reward and the response rate can multiply manifold.

Every offline company should be putting a QR code with a small Mu incentive on its products so they can start identifying their prospects and customers. Every advertiser should be doing the same – and as a by-product, they will also know which advertising medium drove how many responses. Outdoor hoardings could have QR codes with Mu to do the same. While each one of them could use QR codes (and many are already doing so), the addition of Mu can be the trigger for immediate action.


More Moments

Here are examples of more atomic rewards moments which deliver Mu. (The one thing to remember is that these rewards are for attention and engagement, and not for transactions.)

  • An FMCG company could reward anonymous buyers for identifying themselves by clicking on a QR code or simply giving a missed call
  • A butter-and-cheese products company could reward a click on the QR code and checking out the recipes page
  • A newspaper company could offer Mu for answering a couple questions about the top stories of the day – so they know which headlines caught the reader’s attention
  • A TV entertainment company could offer Mu for answering a couple questions on which ads were seen in the latest episode
  • An OTT company could incentivise me to answer a couple questions at the end of the latest episode – to make sure I watched it in its entirety. For example, I have been watching the Agatha Christie Poirot and Marple series on SonyLiv. At the end of each episode, I could be asked a couple multiple-choice questions on who the killer was and what the motive was. It makes me pay that much more attention to the episode, and potentially increases the chances that I will not only renew my subscription but also recommend the series to others.
  • A pen company could offer Mu for spending 2 minutes to use one of the pens to write a few sentences on a page so a potential buyers gets a sense of the actual experience
  • A brand launching a new product can reward those willing to sample it and provide feedback
  • A pharma or insurance company could offer rewards for timely consumption of the prescribed medication
  • A WhatsApp admin could offer Mu for taking actions on the messages – reading the message, watching a video, or forwarding it
  • A new joinee in a company could be rewarded for maxing a survey after watching a product training video
  • A B2B SaaS company could offer Mu for a prospective buyer to provide time to listen to a product pitch
  • A market survey firm could reward respondents with Mu for answering their questions

These are just a few examples. In each of the cases, a cash reward could appear, well, cheap. But that same offer made as Mu could be quite enticing.

Be it prospects or existing customers, all it needs is creative marketers to think of moments which when laced with atomic rewards in the form of Mu could build a bridge to previously anonymous customers, strengthen the relationship with existing customers, and increase the likelihood of future transactions. These ‘empty’ moments when filled with rewards could be a trigger for the actions that marketers want but have no way to incentivise. The digitisation of rewards combined with instant gratification together have the ability to transform attention and engagement.


Rewards Budget

So, it all sounds good. Gratify customers with atomic rewards. But the big question is: where does the money come from? The short answer: the reacquisition spends.

It is a reality for every brand that customers churn. At some point of time, they become inactive and then move away to another brand. That is why brands use loyalty programs as a way to drive retention and transactions. Case in point: Burger King in the US just launched a loyalty program. From a CNBC story: “The Royal Perks program gives customers 10 “crowns” for every $1 spent at the chain’s restaurants. Members can redeem their points across the majority of the menu and will receive free daily perks, like upsizing drinks or fries. Burger King’s North American chief marketing officer, Ellie Doty, said the first wave of members has predominantly been customers who have already been using its app and website. With the restaurant-level launch, it’s hoping to lure frequent consumers who prefer to order via the drive-thru lane or counter.”

A loyalty program works in two ways: more revenue from existing customers and less churn to competition. If you already have signed up for Starbucks’ loyalty program, all things being equal, you are more likely to seek out Starbucks for your next coffee than an alternative brand.

Before the inactivity or churn happens, customers end up ignoring brand messages. Brands can track opens and clicks in emails or website visits and app opens at an individual level so they can get a good assessment of who is likely to churn. Other than offering discounts on the next purchase, there is no lever for enticing the customer to stay on. This is where atomic rewards comes in. By ensuring the attention doesn’t waver and engagement does not diminish, these rewards keep the relationship alive and prevent a downward slide.

What is the cost of a churned customer? Not only does a brand lose future revenues, but it is highly likely that the brand will end up spending money to reacquire the same customer via digital ads on Google and Facebook. This may happen unknowingly since marketers don’t really know each of their customers. Non-customers are routinely targeted via ads, and these ads do not distinguish between totally new customers and recently churned customers. An acquisition is an acquisition.

My belief is that a third of the spends being done by marketers is actually on reacquisition. A past customer is more likely to get retargeted than a totally new customer because the past customer was a customer once and thus had matched the brand criteria. Given that most brands spend 80-90% of budgets on acquisition, it means that 25-30% of the budget is being spent on reacquisition. This is the budget that should be redirected to atomic rewards.

In other words, a rupee a month spent in rewarding existing customers could end up saving Rs 100 that would otherwise be spent a couple years later on reacquisition. The proverbial “a stitch in time saves nine” could not be more true!


Ledger, Statement and Shop

To bring the idea of atomic rewards to life, there is a need for three building blocks: a headless system that works as a ledger, a credit-debit statement that shows latest activity, and a shop for redemptions of the rewards earned. Let’s call them Mu Ledger, Mu Statement and Mu Shop, respectively.

The Mu Ledger is a headless system (set of APIs) that developers can integrate into any system. All it needs to store is an individual’s connected identities (email address, mobile number) , and the activity (addition of Mu for actions, and redemptions). No front-end is needed. A developer should be easily able to add Mu into any customer journey or push message.

The Mu Ledger maintains the state for each user – think of these as the WAR states. W is the What’s It state – a user who has no idea about Mu can click on it and learn more. Then comes A for Activate – where a user confirms identities and now can track the Mu earnings. Once the activation is done, then the user can Redeem (the ‘R’) Mu at any time via the Mu Shop.

In an email, the Subject can convey the Total Mu Count – thus testifying to the legitimacy of the email as one with rewards.

The footer in the email can carry the image with a count that updates in real-time along with the info on one of the three states.

The Mu Statement offers a view on the recent Mu-earning actions:

It is never more than a click away, and thus offers real-time feedback on one’s actions. (Ever tried knowing how many credit card points you have?)

The Mu Shop is the third pillar of the atomic rewards system. It offers instant redemption and is accessible from the Mu Statement. The Mu Shop will need to have attractive options to ensure that earning Mu can be truly beneficial. One way to do this is to offer unique digital products and experiences not easily available elsewhere – rather than just discount offers which force a user to spend cash and make a new purchase. The Mu Shop will be a key determinant in the success of the atomic rewards idea.


To summarise: Atomic Rewards is an idea whose time has come. It is the answer to the problem of attention recession that confronts every marketer. Attention and engagement need as much focus as marketers are doing with customer journeys, onsite and in-app experiences, and transactions. These Mu moments can be the secret to engineering profitable customers for life.