Last week, Vodafone released its Fantastic Fridays TVC, a creative effort that stoked the dying embers of hate that viewers still held for Rebecca Black's 2011 viral song while simultaneously introducing the telco's new reward programme. And while the spot was greeted with revile from some quarters, there were few complaints from the Vodafone customers who stand to receive rewards as part of the programme.
The Fantastic Fridays reward programme has been incorporated into the MyVodafone app, which the telco's head of digital Geri Ellis says has been updated on about a monthly basis since its inception three years ago. And although the addition of the loyalty scheme took longer than a month to develop, Ellis says that it's the next step in the evolution of Vodafone's mobile offering.
Until now, the Vodafone app has largely been used by customers for more pragmatic purposes, such as managing accounts, topping up and keeping track of bills.
"You can manage your account as well as your family's accounts," says Ellis. "It gives customers more control of of their spending and bills. And it also enables parents to educate their kids on usage."
And while the app has played an important role in enhancing the user experience for the customer, Ellis says that it was time to introduce a loyalty programme.
"Our customers are logging in eight to 16 times a month on desktops and laptops, whereas it's more like once or twice a day on mobile—and we want to encourage this usage," she says.
To do this, Vodafone has not only incorporated the loyalty programme into its app, but also introduced a game element to encourage users to engage with the initiative. When customers log into the Fantastic Friday extension, they are taken to a page that features three hidden cards. Upon swiping over the cards, the user's deals for a given week will be revealed.
While this is a first for Vodafone, several other Kiwi companies have already created some impressive app-based digital loyalty programmes. Most notably, Subway's Subcard app won 2012's Colloquy Loyalty Awards, which are presented annually to honour groundbreaking innovations in loyalty.
And although not necessarily novel, Ellis says that Vodafone aims to make the programme successful through personalisation, a point she illustrates by sharing her daughter's experiences with Vodafone's Fantastic Fridays offering.
"My daughter was recently using all her credit texting her boyfriend in the UK to arrange his visit to New Zealand. Then, when she logged into the app, Vodafone had rewarded her with an international text bundle."
Vodafone is able to track this kind of information with all the users on its database and then provide rewards that are specific to the needs of the users. And by making the user interface fun and the rewards personal, Ellis says that the telco has been able to move away from the previous strategy of using push notifications to let customers know when rewards are available.
So, rather than forcing a marketing message or a reward onto the users when they might not be interested, Vodafone has created a platform that users can visit voluntarily when it suits them. And, when they decide to do so, they will be greeted with rewards that match their user habits.
But with great powers of personalisation comes a high risk of appearing creepy—and this, says Ellis, is something Vodafone aims to avoid.
"Vodafone doesn't want to become a Big Brother," she says. "It's important that our users continue trusting Vodafone, and this can only be done protecting the personal information of those in our database.
Ellis says that Vodafone has incorporated security measures that one would usually only expect to see in online banking, thereby ensuring that every customer's information is stored safely.
Another challenge that Vodafone faces is how quickly technology becomes dated in the mobile field. As Ellis explains, whereas technological changes were previously introduced in 10-year cycles (she cites desktop to laptop and then to tablet as examples), the shift to mobile occurred in a period of around only three years.
For this reason, Vodafone has invested heavily in continuously updating its app to ensure that it remains compatible with changing digital trends.
"We are moving from the phase of 'internet everywhere,' in the sense of connecting anywhere, to 'internet everything', which is more about everything being connected to the internet," says Ellis. "We are entering a stage now when heat pumps can even be controlled through apps. We definitely see the possibility of the smartphone becoming the universal remote in the future, [and] we don't want to be left out of this space."