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An Interview With Len Covello, Chief Technology Officer At Engage People

Q: What is Engage People’s mission, and how is it unique in the loyalty solutions space?

A: Engage People is a platform-first company, and we create solutions that can be deployed quickly and efficiently, both in time and cost. Our goal is to help brands create loyalty and engagement with their customers, retail partners and the financial institutions that power loyalty reward programs.

Our team is redefining how customers spend their loyalty points. We work with both retailers and financial institutions to give customers the flexibility to pay with points just as easily as they’d pay with debit or credit cards, allowing them to incorporate loyalty points into their everyday lives.

We integrate pay with points into the check-out process because, ultimately, emotional engagement happens when consumers feel they are choosing their rewards, whether that be a flight, hotel or every-day items from the brands they love.

Q: How would you describe the relationship between banks and fintechs? Is it more competitive or collaborative?

A: Many financial institutions still lack the internal resources to deliver the same nimbleness and creativity as fintechs. We’re seeing that most banks continue to be more open to early investments in or partnerships with fintechs. In the loyalty space specifically, there’s tremendous interest and opportunity for tech innovation, whether through partnerships or acquisitions. The flexibility to pay with points is really taking hold, and banks are looking to capitalize through partnerships that power this capability because they see any new payment option as attractive for their customers.

From a consumer’s perspective, they don’t necessarily know which financial products they want until the products are shown to them, but they do want to experience the same innovative experiences through their bank or credit union as they do in their every-day lives. The quickest and oftentimes most efficient way to deliver these new products to the market is for FIs to partner with fintechs. We see this collaboration continuing to drive the industry forward.

Q: How has the “pay with points” trend evolved, and how does that play into the success of Engage?

A: To gain a better understanding of consumer appetite for the flexibility to pay with points, Engage People recently surveyed more than 2,000 U.S. consumers that are members of credit card loyalty programs. We found that:

  • 72% of customers sign up for loyalty programs to get some value for the spending they are already doing; 6% of customers remain engaged because of the program offers
  • 62% of loyalty members would rather have the ability to use their points on the spot, just like a credit or debit card, rather than receiving a gift card or cashback
  • 33% of loyalty customers indicate lack of engagement is due to the lack of places or options to redeem their program points
  • Nearly 50% of respondents say ease of spending and redeeming points is the number one reason they actively engage in their current loyalty program

Having always viewed loyalty points as a form of currency, these results confirm that loyalty program members are starting to adopt the same mindset. With an increased demand for flexible payment capabilities, Engage is able to serve as a conduit between banks and retailers to help fuel meaningful connections.

Q: What advice would you give to a financial institution looking to launch or revamp its loyalty program?

A: While customer acquisition is an important part of a loyalty program, retention is the key to long-term connection and brand loyalty. Results from our recent loyalty program customer survey found that having the ability to pay with points and increased redemption options are key trends in increasing loyalty program customer retention. Adopting these capabilities can help make loyalty programs more appealing to customers.

To that end, Engage People is proud to have built an extensive retail network that offers more choices for loyalty program members, which helps fuel a meaningful connection between consumers and their financial institutions.

Q: Following Engage People’s partnership with Priceline earlier this year, what trends are you noticing in the realm of loyalty points and industries like travel services?

A: With the recent situation with COVID-19 we are working to expand to more experiential and day-to-day offerings like events, dinner reservations and more. As Engage drives the movement of pay with points, you will likely see a growth in applications that truly are personalized for the customer. Our role is to make the process as seamless as possible.

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