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

Gage Skidmore via Creative Commons
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Donald Trump brings home his dark vision of America at the Republican convention

The Presidential nominee pledged: "Safety must be restored."

Donald Trump brought home the Republican convention Thursday night with a dark vision of contemporary America – a darkness he claimed only his leadership could lift. It was a lengthy, tightly-scripted speech framed around polarities – insiders and outsiders, criminals and victims, the United States and the rest of the world – and infused with righteous anger. And yet against the darkness, he offered not lightness but “greatness” – a bombastic, personalistic vision of how through sheer force of will he could right the American ship before it plunged irretrievably into the depths. “I alone can solve,” he famously tweeted earlier in the campaign. This was the 80-minute version.

Any presidential challenger, of course, has to lay out a set of problems they believe need fixing and a case for why their leadership might make a difference. It was the breathtaking scale and intensity of Trump’s diagnosis, and the lack of optimistic alternative to counterbalance it, that was notable compared to other acceptance speeches. He portrayed the United States as a country riddled with crime and corruption, a “rigged system” in which politicians like Hillary Clinton can evade justice, while police officers trying to protect its citizens become targets; a fearful country, its economy sluggish, its infrastructure crumbling, its security an illusion, and its international stature in freefall

For a candidate who has mocked the soaring rhetoric of President Obama (the “hopey-changey stuff,” as Sarah Palin once called it), it was perhaps not surprising that Trump’s speech would be short on uplift. It was at least more disciplined than his other campaign speeches, if in keeping with their tone and content – the much-maligned teleprompter rolling a script to which he largely stuck. (“He sounds presidential,” a lady behind me remarked, though his press conference Friday morning marked a reversion to free-wheeling form).

It was short on substance too, though acceptance speeches aren’t designed to be policy laundry lists like a State of the Union. Still, there were few specifics, beyond a pledge to revise tax laws which inhibit religious groups from political advocacy, and a newfound concern with student loans. It was daughter Ivanka’s speech that had the greater substantive heft, promising her father would push for new labour laws to help working mothers, and for affordable childcare in the US. Neither are traditional Republican positions, but the crowd seemed on board for anything Trump might offer.

He even had them cheering for LGBTQ rights, after recalling the tragedy in Florida last month, and the need to protect gay Americans from a “hateful foreign ideology” in radical Islam. “It is so nice as a Republican to hear you cheering for what I just said,” he commended the delegates in an unscripted moment. But whether they had really embraced this unexpected message – or if it was the anti-terror chaser that really got them on their feet – remains to be seen. In either case, it was a rare grace note in an otherwise bruising speech.

Presenting himself repeatedly as the candidate of “law and order,” Trump evoked Richard Nixon’s 1968 presidential campaign. At a time when American cities were erupting in race riots and protests over the Vietnam War, Nixon had pitched himself as the face of stability and security. Likewise Trump has reacted to the simmering racial tensions and terrorist attacks this summer with a hard-line stance on “lawlessness.” “Safety must be restored,” Trump said, in one of the eerier lines he delivered. Yet in his convention speech, Nixon had balanced his tough talk with a positive message – speaking of love, courage, and lighting a “lamp of hope” in partnership with the American people. 

Trump channeled another president in his speech, too, when he promised to give voice to “the forgotten men and women of our country” – drawing on the language of Franklin Roosevelt. Roosevelt had promised to aid “the forgotten man at the bottom of the economic pyramid” during the 1932 campaign. But Roosevelt’s solution to the forgotten man’s distress was economic internationalism – tearing down tariff walls and trading freely with the world – which the Republican Party then opposed. Trump’s solution is the protectionist policies Roosevelt had railed against.

Trump’s economic and security philosophy is encapsulated in another, more notorious phrase associated with that era: “America First.” A rallying cry for isolationists seeking to avoid US entanglement in World War II, it acquired an anti-Semitic taint. But Trump has employed it nonetheless, capturing as it does his core argument that America must do more to protect its own citizens against threats from within and without – from illegal immigrants, from radicalized Islamic terrorists, from the downsides of free international trade. Little wonder that former George W.

Bush staffer Nicolle Wallace announced that the Republican party she knew “died in this room tonight.” In embracing elements of isolationism, protectionism, and nativism, however, it is perhaps truer to say that Trump’s Republican party reverted to an earlier form.

Often disconcerting, at times mesmerizing, the question remains how effective this speech will be. The delegates responded enthusiastically to Trump’s fierce rhetoric, but many prominent Republicans had stayed away from the convention altogether. Combined with Senator Ted Cruz’s non-endorsement, Trump goes into the general election campaign without a fully united party behind him. For both partisans and the public, Trump’s speech offered a cast of villains to rally against, but no positive, unifying vision to rally behind – beyond the much-touted yet elusive “greatness,” of course. In a typical election year, that would seem a critical flaw in a campaign – but Trump loves to confound the naysayers. As his convention speech showed, he thinks the formula that got him this far - showcasing his fame and fanning Americans’ fears – can land him in the White House.