Greek €pistrofi has already proved its worth through one recession. Post-pandemic it is well placed to cement its position in the event of another.
Loyalty programmes operating in financial services have struggled post-interchange cuts, but one bank bucking the trend and proving the power of a strong customer offering is Eurobank with €pistrofi.
Launched in 2006, few would have been surprised if Eurobank had decided to shelve the programme when the financial crisis hit in 2008. Greece suffered badly, and the fall-out lasted a decade. Instead, Eurobank ramped up the multi-partner programme – which proved a very wise decision.
Now, as the world begins to address the likelihood of another tough recession, it is interesting to examine how €pistrofi helped Eurobank weather the last big storm and grow its customer base.
Andreas Marneris. Head of Cards Issuing and Loyalty Programmes for Eurobank is absolutely certain of the benefits the €pistrofi loyalty programme delivers to his Greek bank.
“We saw the need for customers to be rewarded and we could prove the benefit,” said Andreas. “In a survey 68% of our customers said they were willing to share data with with a bank if loyalty points were offered. The European average is about 35%. People bank with us because of €pistrofi.”
Andreas is a strong advocate of loyalty as a long term strategy. “It is not about short term promos. It is an ecosystem – a long-term customer journey both for the bank, for the merchant and the customer. It is something that is embedded in our culture,” he said.
The €pistrofi concept
It is important to understand how €pistrofi works to realise the potential. Working with 8,500 partners across retail and many other sectors, including Aegean Airlines, customers with an €pistrofi card can earn Euros by spending with Eurobank cards and using the €pistrofi eco-system. The benefits can be substantial.
During the financial crisis in Greece, people where forced to use cards. This is being repeated in the Covid-19 pandemic as retailers try to avoid the use of cash. This use of credit and debit cards is positive for €pistrofi, providing Andreas and his team with a widening understanding of their customers’ behaviour. This helps them to provide services and offers that are valued.
Andreas explained: “We launched our app a few years ago, and now have 500,000 unique users out of 2.8 million members. All users agree to the use of their data, which means that we can understand their behaviour and respond. For example, we don’t bother sending offers in the morning to people who only use their app in the evening. We wouldn’t send an offer for high price electronics to someone who had made a similar purchase recently. We make sure our messages are valued.”
Loyalty as a differentiator
The potential to earn €pistrofi euros means customers are encouraged to use their app to make as many purchases as possible, which could includetaxis, flights, and of course shopping. A recent addition was a digital wallet which Andreas believes will be significant in the Eurobank fight against the financial disruptors, such as M26, Revolut and Curve. “They have interesting services, but we have €pistrofi. It matters to people. And if we can offer the same services as the disruptors, then we have a major advantage.”
A recent campaign with Ikea illustrates how powerful €pistrofi can prove to be. In just six weeks, incremental turnover reached €1.8m. For the customers, they had the chance to earn €10 for every €100 spent. “If customers put all their spend through €pistrofi, they can very quickly save enough for a major benefit, such as a trip to Paris,” said Andreas.
A large part of the success of €pistrofi is attributed to its 12/14 long term partners which have proved a great incentive for customers to use an €pistrofi card for a purchase rather than one from another bank. It also means that redemption rates are extremely high, at 60%, which Andreas does not see as a problem. “Would we be happy with a lower redemption rate? Yes it would improve the P&L in the short term, but the customer base would be less engaged. €pistrofi brings back business,” said Andreas, “then we can upsell and cross-sell.”
The €pistrofi programme is self-funded and is carefully managed, both by Andreas and his team and by their partners, who can choose the value of their reward. For example a gas company would only offer 1% while retailers and hotels may be prepared to offer more.
€pistrofi has a large marketing budget, which will be maintained over the coming difficult period of recovery post Covid-19. “We run around 160 campaigns a year, with a specific time period for each. We filter the audience very carefully for each one, so we are not sending unwanted messages. We also encourage our merchants to market their promotions and in 2019, €pistrofi was mentioned in TV advertisements in 27 out of 52 weeks. These campaigns are paid for either by merchants or in co-operation with them.”
Andreas is passionate about loyalty and its role as a differentiator. “Our competitors have imitated us in many ways, but we are the only programme in Greece that offers euros, so it is transparent. But we are not standing still,” Andreas assures. “In the future, we will concentrate more on experiences – we will facilitate dreams – and we are working on our eco offering, having already issued a biodegradeable payment card. We have reached the stage where merchants are happy with the proposition and our management are backing us. €pistrofi is the main arrow in our quiver and now it is time to get back to business, using e-commerce to full advantage.”
Andreas believes the future game will be played on three pillars.
The app – There will be the big players, such as Google and Apple, but Eurobank has taken the decision to launch its own wallet, which is embedded in the bank app. The intention is to make the bank app and its wallet part of customers’ every day life.
Full mobile services – from payment through to communication enabling strong customer participation
Engaged retailers who see the benefit of being part of the €pistrofi eco-system.