Mobile Commerce Insider Featured Article

June 11, 2014

American Express, Uber Offer New Breed of Loyalty Incentives

Loyalty programs are really nothing new in retail and in other kinds of business. Ever since the earliest days of the punch card—get nine punches, get a free whatever it is the store offers and the like—businesses have been eager to offer special incentives for loyal customers to keep said customers loyal. The advent of mobile devices and online shopping has shaken up the loyalty program somewhat, and opened up new opportunities to make this program unique. American Express and Uber, which may seem like an unlikely combination, have come together to produce a loyalty program that's actually a first in many senses.

So what makes the combined Uber and American Express program unique? It's actually built into the iOS version of Uber's app, and works with American Express as well. With the new loyalty program, those U.S card members enrolled in the program can either get double points, or turn around and use loyalty points directly for rides with Uber. At last report, that's actually the first time that users can use loyalty points in such a fashion, directly in the app itself and in real-time.

Getting in on the program, meanwhile, is comparatively simple for American Express holders. For those with a card on file with Uber, all that will be left is to download the latest version of Uber on iOS, which in turn will offer a prompt to enroll the card in the program, a process done with just one tap on the screen. Then, users will have two options once an Uber ride is called for: users can either earn double the reward points for taking the Uber ride, or if available, can use current points as a mechanism to pay for the Uber ride in question. Following the ride, regardless of payment tactic, users get a complete ride summary and a receipt from Uber, showing that double points were earned or that points were redeemed.

That's a great move for customers, but it only got better. Uber and American Express also got together on a new program for Uber driver partners, the Sixth Star Awards. With the Sixth Star, every week, one of Uber's top-rated driver partners gets a special prize worth $1,000 as an expression of thanks for that level of service.

Both of these programs have at least reasonable chances for success. The loyalty program makes some sense, though it seems oddly limited. Why not open it up to Android users as well? That could be coming up, I suppose, but now it seems like Uber and American Express are potentially missing a slice of the market.  Additionally, the Sixth Star Awards is an excellent concept—rewarding top-notch customer service is a great way to get and continue getting it—but the reward itself seems like it would be too limited to really produce results. How many of those Sixth Star candidates will look at it objectively and say that the chances of actually winning are so slim as to be pointless? I'm all for intermittent reinforcement, but something like this it seems like it would be better to have more small prizes rather than a chance at one big prize.

Still, Uber and American Express are clearly thinking, and putting out some quality loyalty rewards programs to help keep customers coming back and help keep employees working at the highest points of customer service. The programs may not be perfect, but there's always room for improvement for pretty much anyone.




Edited by Maurice Nagle



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