Ramakant Khandelwal, CMO, PAYBACK India, talks about the niche it is aspiring to carve in India and other markets

Ramakant Khandelwal

PAYBACK is India’s largest multi-brand loyalty program with over 50 million members. The company recently entered into partnership with IBM to upgrade its customer engagement offerings. PAYBACK also has its own mobile app where users can earn scores of loyalty points. It is also the first loyalty program firm to launch the Mobile Identifier as the Unique Customer Identifier. Nijhum Rudra spoke to Ramakant Khandelwal, Chief Marketing Officer, PAYBACK India about the niche it is aspiring to carve in India and other markets. Mr Khandelwal has been associated with PAYBCK since 2010 and was elevated to the role of CMO in September 2017 with brief of strategising and leading the next phase of company’s growth.

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Can you please elaborate the business model of PAYBACK in India?

PAYBACK, the coalition loyalty program in Europe entered the Indian market in 2010. Being a multi-brand loyalty program, PAYBACK offers its members a multitude of benefits over traditional, stand-alone customer loyalty schemes. It has over 50 partners including affiliate brands participating in the PAYBACK Network across categories in-store, online, and mobile apps namely ICICI Bank, Big Bazaar, American Express, BookMyShow, Brand Factory, Central, Ezone, Home Town, HPCL, TripAdvisor, Food Bazaar, eBay, Amazon, Flipkart and many more. With such a varied portfolio of partners, PAYBACK Members can earn points on everyday shopping and redeem them for attractive rewards, at their preference. Other benefits include discounts on purchases through points earned or through coupons and special offers.

PAYBACK is the first to launch the Mobile Identifier as the unique customer identifier. The company reaches to its audiences across platforms and various customer interfaces by combining engaging communication that is contextual, personalized and real-time. Thereby, building a robust engagement strategy between brand, partners, and the customer. The mechanism behind PAYBACK loyalty program and points is simple and if utilized properly, one can avail multitude of benefits across several leading brands. The brand has received an overwhelming response in the country with over 100 million customers already associated with the platform and the number is expected to grow further in coming years.

Recently, you have partnered with IBM; in this context can you please elucidate the reason behind the partnership?

PAYBACK India has partnered with tech giant IBM to deploy the latter’s Watson Customer Engagement solution. The idea behind this partnership is to provide more personal, content-rich and enhanced experience to customers. These solutions are aimed at providing customers and partners with a more personalized and real-time experience and will help PAYBACK analyze customer behaviour and spend patterns and transform their experiences by using data-driven insights to create customized experiences. With this partnership, PAYBACK will provide its customers and partners with a more personalized, conceptualized and real-time experience to give them an enhanced shopping experience. It aims to transform their customer engagement from mass marketing to behaviour-based cross-channel marketing. With real-time data flowing in, PAYBACK will look at significantly reducing the complexity of managing multiple vendors and technologies, thereby helping them reach out to both customers and partners at the right time, and at the right place.

“PAYBACK-IBM partnership is aimed at providing customers and partners with a more personalized, conceptualized and real-time experience to give them an enhanced shopping experience”

Who are your partners and what are the biggest differentiating aspects of PAYBACK that can thwart your rivals in the market?

PAYBACK has over 50 partners including affiliate brands participating in the PAYBACK Network across categories in-store as well as online namely American Express, ICICI Bank, HPCL, TripAdvisor, Big Bazaar, Food Bazaar, Food Hall, Central, Ezone, Home Town, Brand Factory, bookmyshow.com, eBay, Amazon, Flipkart and many more.

It offers the consumers a truly unique shopping experience and drives customer retention through on-going engagement. Customers, today have 24X7 access to the brands they love through social media and mobile devices. So, loyalty program like PAYBACK which is aligned with social media and mobile commerce increasingly impact the brand experience and the stickiness of the consumer. With the advent of a large digital population and e-commerce industry, along with increased penetration of smartphones, PAYBACK is poised to grow at an exponential pace with new partner additions and new consumer acquisitions in the network.

What are your current business strategies in India?

At PAYBACK, we believe in embracing technology to constantly create a more rewarding experience for our customers. We continue to benchmark ourselves against our own potential and targets. The decision to invest in upgrading our digital capabilities with the help of IBM is to ensure we keep pace with the changing retail landscape, technology and evolving needs of our customer base. We are also looking to invest in our new businesses of performance marketing and affiliate marketing and create an ecosystem for brands to create more customised and relevant experiences for their customers. In addition, our focus will be on new partner acquisition and increasing our penetration in more consumer spend categories so that we offer consumers a single platform which rewards them for their loyalty and stickiness to brands.

We are currently devising market strategies to improve the overall customer experience and add delight at every step of their shopping journey. Our new strategies will enable us to empower our customers and give them an advantage.

How do you aim to transform your customer engagement from mass marketing to behaviour-based cross-channel marketing?

A cross-channel engagement strategy is the need of the hour, and today our customers are always looking for reasons to interact directly with brands of their choice. Hence, the new IBM Watson Customer Engagement solution will help us achieve this objective by enabling us to capture relevant insights about consumer spend patterns and behaviour, thus creating an ecosystem which can deliver more personalised, real time information to customers which is relevant and behaviour based.

What is your roadmap for the coming years?

Our focus will be mainly on scaling up the ecosystem by bringing cross -industries partners on board based on customer’s interest and market relevance that can drive better customer experiences. We will also be largely focusing on driving digital transformation by adding solutions like digital enrolment through Aadhar, machine learning to create custom offers and more. In all, we will be focusing on ubiquity to give our customers more choice and freedom.

We are also looking to focus more on the performance marketing platform. We believe in real time and targeted marketing, giving the customer an experience like no other in terms of the right offer at the right time through the right channel. Our web portal, mobile app, mobile identifier platform is a step towards enhancing consumer shopping experience.

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