Ashish Dhruva, Senior Vice President – Marketing, InterMiles speaks about the brand’s journey from an airline loyalty programme to a successful lifestyle rewards programme
With over 10 million patrons, InterMiles is further working to add value by delivering daily lifestyle experience. The programme has also identified opportunities to reward its members with new, relevant benefits once they begin to resume their travels and familiarise themselves with the new normal.
How has been the journey for InterMiles, from being associated with a premium airline to rebranding and changing the model to become a standalone loyalty programme?
InterMiles, over the years, has evolved into a daily lifestyle rewards programme and a new age ubiquitous digital currency, which can be earned and redeemed across a range of experiences, products, and services. With our strong member-first approach, we continually focus on adding value to their ongoing experience with us and introducing engagement opportunities that would be relevant to their daily lifestyle, including essential, everyday utilities as well as long-term aspirational needs. Which means that InterMiles can be used to redeem free flights, while the same currency can be used to pay for your next meal or to get heavy discounts the next time you shop.
We are even more relevant today. Our rapidly growing 10 million+ member base is testament to this. InterMiles is now more experiential, more aspirational and more powerful. What, therefore, began as a frequent flyer program has, today, become an independent and partner agnostic platform of choice that enables our members’ travel and lifestyle aspirations.
What has been your strategy to promote the brand throughout the pandemic?
Even before the pandemic hit, consumers were skewing towards digital channels for services. With the pandemic accelerating that shift, consumers have gone from just being comfortable with using online platforms to preferring these platforms for all their needs including entertainment, daily essentials, healthcare, and e-learning. Therefore, our member acquisition strategy has strategically been a digital first one; this helps us connect with a wider audience range, while also offering them a more customised approach.
As InterMiles members begin to resume their travels and familiarise themselves with the new normal, we have also identified opportunities to reward them with new, relevant benefits. With the launch of our App exclusive product – Dine, members can now book tables, order food and pay using InterMiles at over 25,000 restaurants across India. We have also undertaken several major investments with regards to customer engagement tools; they allow us to use a mix of contextual information driven by data science, thus enabling effective communication with customers. Additionally, we recently introduced our eCommerce marketplace – Digi Stores. The marketplace houses rewards, options to save with Miles, vouchers and raffles, along with massive deals and discounts across our broadened partner ecosystem.
In June 2020, we introduced InterMiles Everyday, presenting an expanded range of opportunities that enables members to broad base their earning potential of our digital rewards currency. InterMiles Everyday enables members to earn assured Miles as they conduct their daily transactions via our App and engage with various aspects of the programme. We have strengthened our partnerships in categories like e-learning, online subscriptions, healthcare, fitness, and knowledge series-led webinars, amongst others to successfully create a robust ecosystem through which our members can constantly earn and redeem InterMiles. Our ability to add value to and make our members’ everyday lifestyle a rewarding one makes our programme unique.
We have recently introduced ‘Save with Miles’, a unique, industry-first redemption option that offers members assured savings on their payments every time they shop through InterMiles to purchase flight tickets, avail accommodation, pay for their dining bills or purchase vouchers. This feature grants our members the freedom to choose how they want to use their earned Miles.
We remain focused in our endeavor to create engagement opportunities for our members, which are sustainable from a short to medium to a long-term perspective. Exclusive invitations to events, early access to products and priority customer service are privileges that members seek along with the opportunity to earn loyalty points for unrestricted future use/spends. These ultimate drivers will encourage consumer stickiness even in the presence of multiple other brands offering similar propositions.
With Jet Airways planning to restart operations under a new management, will you be looking to partner with the airline, as earlier it had a strong loyal customer base?
With InterMiles, members have the option of booking their air tickets with over 250+ airlines that fly across the globe. We have a range of domestic and international flights that members can choose from including Indigo, SpiceJet, Go Air, Air India, Etihad, Emirates, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines, Turkish Airways, Cathay Pacific, Air France, British Airways & more. Towards adding more value to members, we are always open to adding newer partners to our existing flights portfolio.
What is the current market size of loyalty programme / Miles in the global aviation market? And what is the growth trend in this segment?
While the global aviation sector has pioneered and led the loyalty market by incentivising customers with free flights, priority boarding, VIP lounge access, additional baggage allowances, free upgrades and more, this customer retention system has expanded to almost every sector. Intending to earn the trust and allegiance of customers, loyalty is increasingly taking center stage as businesses adapt to changing consumer practices.
Today, technology is enabling nimble companies to offer a level of communication, personalisation and excitement that has not previously been possible. Making investments in loyalty initiatives to drive an emotional connection with customers will significantly increase customer value, grow spend and engagement, and even attract new customers to a brand.
The scope for growth is immense, as customers want personalized experiences as much as they want to be rewarded for their loyalty. Using data collected in a multichannel loyalty programme, brands can engage customers in relevant, meaningful ways that create a positive experience. We have noticed that customers find it more convenient and enjoyable to earn and spend loyalty points or referral rewards across a family of brands, rather than being limited to just one brand.
What kind of growth has the group witnessed in 2020-21? What are your targets in terms of member acquisition in 2021?
Through the InterMiles app, we have successfully been able to drive new member enrollments while also considerably increasing engagement with our existing member base. Presently, we have over 200 brands partnering with the programme and our teams continue to identify additional strategic partnerships that would bring immense value and convenience to our members.
We have been constantly innovating and adding new features/sub-platforms to make InterMiles the digital currency of choice driving loyalty enabled commerce. Our differentiated member experience & value across a captive ecosystem of products, platforms & partnerships is what sets us apart from other programmes.