Well, it’s finally here. The long awaited Marks and Spencer loyalty scheme, Sparks, has arrived. It officially launches today, October 22nd, although it’s been visible in stores with kiosks signing up customers and on my doormat last weekend with a personal invitation.
Of course M&S has already been rewarding customers who have an M&S debit or credit card. That scheme offers a point for every pound spent in a similar way to reward cards operated by Tesco or Sainsbury’s. And in fact as a Marks and Spencer Premium Member I gain some benefits from my monthly subscription in terms of coffee vouchers, discounts etc.
Sparks has apparently been trialed for a few months now and has moved the retailer away from the rather blunt rewarding customers for spending more, to a scheme that really now tries to encourage and reward key behaviours.
As can be seen from the table, the retailer has identified frequency of spend, amount spent, advocacy (hopefully) via reviews and promoting its CSR credentials via 'Shwopping' as the behaviours it wants to influence.
With a hint of ‘gamification’ in its structure, points in the form of ‘Sparks’ are given based on these behaviours and by reaching key thresholds, the customer is rewarded with access to special events and priority notifications of sales etc. The scheme goes further by promising to tailor rewards based on a member’s interests.
David Walmsley, director of M&S.com, says the Sparks registration will ensure that right from the very first reward the service is only offering rewards “truly aligned” with a consumer’s interests.
“We’ve tried to tap into the gamification trend as, for example, none of the Sparks points have monetary value,” he explains. “It allows M&S customers to see what’s around the corner – so what they will be able to eventually afford via their sparks total – and make gradual micro progressions.”
When registering, members give details of their hobbies and interests – such as fashion, sport and cooking – which determine the offers or discounts they receive, with for example 10% off fresh flowers or a bottle of Prosecco to go with a meal deal. For the most active, 14,000 points will open up events like fashion shows and masterclasses, while 17,000 will enter card holders into draws that offer prizes such as a trip to a South African vineyard. At this point actually the retailer makes use of the talent it has available. Of particular interest to me is the fashion consultation with David Gandy
The scheme to a certain extent flies in the opposite direction of other loyalty schemes which have tended to move towards a much more simple approach. Morrisons is revamping Match & More, Tesco offering cashback at the till with its brand matching scheme as opposed to the voucher scheme offered by Sainsburys.
Patrick Bousquet-Chavanne, executive director of marketing at M&S, said the move represented an opportunity for store managers to reconnect with their local shoppers.
“Customers tell us they want to ‘be part of something special’ and that’s exactly why Sparks is a club,” he said. “As a member, you are more than a customer and you’ll get the most from M&S – with tailor-made offers, priority access and invites to exclusive events. It’s a two-way relationship: members tell us what they enjoy, select their own tailored offers and are rewarded for sharing their views.”
The scheme is probably closer to the ones offered by John Lewis and Waitrose where benefits are less focussed on discounts but revolve around free coffee and cake (something my wife is particularly keen on and every time she samples some of the cake in our local John Lewis she seems to come back with a boot full of new purchases). The similarity to the current John Lewis scheme also stretches to the fact that Sparks is housed within the Marks and Spencer App and so forgetting your card at home doesn’t mean you lose out on offers or recognition. (I’m particularly of fond of shaking my smartphone to make my John Lewis card appear ready to be scanned.
The scheme’s focus on rewarding key customer behaviours beyond just spending is of real interest for me at the moment because of the opportunities we’ve been discussing with clients around similar themes where we can encourage customers to take certain actions that could enhance their experience but also contribute to the organisation’s commercial objectives. For example, recognizing and rewarding customers for giving us their content and communications preferences so that they receive tailored content, that drives greater engagement and usage – something we know reduces customer attrition.
Or rewarding App download and log in because we know that customers who have the app are likely to engage with us during those Google Micro Moments or even simply getting the customer to activate their service or product.
A link is also made with customers other relationships with the retailer. Premium members apparently automatically get their earned Sparks doubled.
Sparks also invites members to nominate a charity to which M&S will donate 1p every time the card is used.
And I even got to select my first reward!
The gamification element continues as further reward options are unlocked as you gain more Sparks
But rewarding me with 25 sparks for some information to tailor my rewards is the bit I liked the most
Will delve more onto my sparks experience over the next few days as a strive to get my audience with Mr David Gandy