So how many loyalty cards do you own?

And do you actually use them?

So how many loyalty or rewards cards do you use regularly? I stress the word regularly. On a quick straw poll of colleagues around the office, wallets and especially purses are full of loyalty cards.

Ask the follow up question of how engaged are workmates with their various rewards programmes and enthusiasm wanes. Consumer behaviour is changing at a rate of knots. In the UK 8 million of us are using our loyalty cards less than we did one year ago, according to figures released by payments processor WorldPay.

I was not greatly surprised to note that as many as 1 in 3 consumers say that they fail to derive any value from their loyalty cards. The reasons are various but include difficulty in spending points and the potential for cards to be lost. I have never forgiven British Airways for its sneaky time bar rules on loyalty points I had accrued.

The Ts and Cs were in the contract right enough – no argument there and it was complete mea culpa – but slashing my balance to zero due to being dilatory in encashing points means that I now choose BA as a last resort. There are a lot of loyalty programmes out there that can at best be described as useless.

For a rewards programme to work, customers need to feel as if loyalty is earned through loyalty to a brand, not through fumbling through their wallet to find a card – so it must be easy to access and spend.

How might this be achieved?

The survey found that 21 per cent want loyalty cards to be stored on a smartphone payment app - dispense with all cards and have a loyalty scheme tied to your smartphone. That number is, I suggest, set to grow and rise sharply.

A number of payments start-ups are launching mobile wallet apps, offering secure contactless payments via smartphone. Earlier in the summer, Zync launched its mobile wallet and then last week international payment technology firm MPayMe announced a new mobile business platform, dubbed ZNAP.

The service from ZNAP optimises transactions through the bundling of secure multi-channel mobile payments with value added solutions – that means rewards to you and me. I have lost count of the number of tech companies claiming to offer the neatest and most novel way for consumers to pay retailers.

If any of the new payments start-ups are to prosper, they would do well to remember that customers are more likely to use payment apps if they also make it easy to redeem loyalty rewards.  There is also an argument that women could hold the key here – they are by a distance more loyal to brands than men. If marketers can get women using mobile payments, combined with a unique customer experience, they are on to a winner.

But as Jane Cunningham, founder of strategic marketing consultancy Pretty Little Head and co-author of The Daring Book for Boys in Business tells me, too few brands are capable of connecting powerfully with the female market. The winners – and losers – among the new tech payments start-ups will certainly be worth watching and one or two will no doubt prosper. The only safe prediction is that their investors will require patience and deep pockets in the short to medium term.

Loyalty card. Photograph: Getty Images

Douglas Blakey is the editor of Retail Banker International

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What David Hockney has to tell us about football

Why the sudden glut of blond footballers? A conversation I had with the artist back in 1966 gave me a clue. . .

In 1966, I went to interview David Hockney at a rather run-down flat in Bayswater, central London. He was 28 and had just won a gold medal at the Royal College of Art.

In his lavatory, I noticed a cut-out photograph from a newspaper of Denis Law scoring a goal. I asked if he was a football fan. He said no, he just liked Denis Law’s thighs.

The sub-editors cut that remark out of the story, to save any gossip or legal problems. In 1966 homosexual activity could still be an offence.

Hockney and a friend had recently been in the United States and had been watching an advert on TV that said “Blondes have more fun”. At two o’clock in the morning, slightly drunk, they both went out, bought some hair dye and became blond. Hockney decided to remain blond from then on, though he has naturally dark hair.

Is it true that blonds have more fun? Lionel Messi presumably thinks so, otherwise why has he greeted this brand-new season with that weird blond hair? We look at his face, his figure, his posture and we know it’s him – then we blink, thinking what the heck, does he realise some joker has been pouring stuff on his head?

He has always been such a staid, old-fashioned-looking lad, never messing around with his hair till now. Neymar, beside him, has gone even blonder, but somehow we expect it of him. He had foony hair even before he left Brazil.

Over here, blonds are popping up all over the shop. Most teams now have a born-again blondie. It must take a fortune for Marouane Fellaini of Man United to brighten up his hair, as he has so much. But it’s already fading. Cheapskate.

Mesut Özil of Arsenal held back, not going the full head, just bits of it, which I suspect is a clue to his wavering, hesitant personality. His colleague Aaron Ramsey has almost the full blond monty. Paul Pogba of Man United has a sort of blond streak, more like a marker pen than a makeover. His colleague Phil Jones has appeared blond, but he seems to have disappeared from the team sheet. Samir Nasri of Man City went startlingly blond, but is on loan to Seville, so we’re not able to enjoy his locks. And Didier Ndong of Sunderland is a striking blond, thanks to gallons of bleach.

Remember the Romanians in the 1998 World Cup? They suddenly appeared blond, every one of them. God, that was brilliant. One of my all-time best World Cup moments, and I was at Wembley in 1966.

So, why do they do it? Well, Hockney was right, in a sense. Not to have more fun – meaning more sex – because top footballers are more than well supplied, but because their normal working lives are on the whole devoid of fun.

They can’t stuff their faces with fast food, drink themselves stupid, stay up all night, take a few silly pills – which is what many of our healthy 25-year-old lads consider a reasonably fun evening. Nor can they spend all their millions on fun hols, such as skiing in the winter, a safari in the spring, or hang-gliding at the weekend. Prem players have to be so boringly sensible these days, or their foreign managers will be screaming at them in their funny foreign accents.

While not on the pitch, or training, which takes up only a few hours a day, the boredom is appalling, endlessly on planes or coaches or in some hotel that could be anywhere.

The only bright spot in the long days is to look in the mirror and think: “Hmm, I wonder what highlights would look like? I’ve done the beard and the tattoos. Now let’s go for blond. Wow, gorgeous.”

They influence each other, being simple souls, so when one dyes his hair, depending on where he is in the macho pecking order, others follow. They put in the day by looking at themselves. Harmless fun. Bless ’em.

But I expect all the faux blonds to have gone by Christmas. Along with Mourinho. I said that to myself the moment he arrived in Manchester, smirking away. Pep will see him off. OK then, let’s say Easter at the latest . . . 

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 22 September 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The New Times