Singapore’s biggest publisher has scored a million-dollar turnover in the first year of morphing a loyalty programme into an ecommerce site.
In an INMA ideas blog, SPH Media sales and partnership head Amy Leo tells how the success followed brainstorming challenges associated with revamping its loyalty programme.
Accounting challenges stood in the way of a rewards point-based system – with points reflected as a liability in company accounts – and it would have required constant sourcing of sponsorships for discounts and lucky draw prizes. News couldn’t be used as rewards due to the nature of the subscription business, and group titles being of different languages.
And Leo says data showed it was the same percentage of subscribers engaged with redemptions of deals, “which means we were not growing the proportion of engaged subscribers”.
Objectives then set for the project were that it had to be self-funding, with a minimal internal budget required to sustain it, and it had to increase subscriber engagement. “If it could generate revenue, that would be a bonus,” she says.
“COVID-19 changed everyone’s buying behaviour and gave us the idea to ride on the e-commerce trend to launch SHOP by SPH Media.
“This new model would not only engage our subscribers in the new climate but also earn us additional revenue to continue running a loyalty programme at a fraction of the cost.”
SPH Media subscribers would be able to enjoy specially curated seasonal deals at exclusive prices while SPH Media earned commission from the sales.
Leo says a group of subscribers and merchants were surveyed to better understand their wants in a loyalty programme, which helped in deals sourcing. Deals popular with subscribers included wines, household appliances, electronics, and entertainment experiences, all of which can be purchased on the website and delivered free.
Seasonal deals are sourced based on the latest trends in the market, the situational needs of subscribers, and also to help Singaporean local brands publicise their products.
In-house marketing of the deals was done via print advertisements and editorial features in various group publications, email marketing to subscribers, digital banners on key newspaper websites, and organic social media.
“As customer needs and the environment change over time, it was crucial that we enhance and tweak our programme along the way to suit their ever-changing needs,” she says. “During the development phase, we made it a point to release updates in phases and gather feedback along the way to find out what our customers wanted instead of creating new features based on assumptions.”
A pilot phase started in September 2020, with the official launch of SHOP by SPH Media in Oct 2021. “Through this project, we managed to revamp the loyalty programme from a rewards programme into a loyalty commerce initiative that has met all the objectives we set out – and then some.
“It was self-funding. We no longer had to source for sponsored prizes or spend our internal budget to buy them to keep the rewards programme going. Our subscribers pay for the deals they redeem and are happy to do so.
“It increased engagement with our subscribers. Previously, the open rate for the EDMs sent to subscribers for our loyalty programme was between 25-29 per cent in 2020. In 2021, it increased by around 40 per cent with an open rate of 37-40 per cent.
“We also created a new revenue stream where we earned a sales commission for every purchase made on SHOP. In 2021, we had a turnover of gross merchandise value of SGD$1 million.
“In all, it was a win-win-win solution where all stakeholders benefited – subscribers given access to exclusive deals, merchants able to partner a trusted brand such as SPH Media, and SPH Media itself, able to increase both increase engagement with subscribers, as well as create a new revenue stream.