Loyalty Stories 12: The Competition Is On – Gwendolin Tiltmann

This time on Antavo’s Loyalty Stories video podcast we welcome Gwendolin Tiltmann who gives us her insight on loyalty market competition


In the twelfth episode of our Loyalty Stories podcast, we welcome Gwendolin Tiltmann, Senior Loyalty Consultant at valantic DMC.

The interview for this podcast has been a valuable source for Antavo’s Global Customer Loyalty Report 2024. Make sure to download it for over 30 statistics on loyalty program trends. 

In today’s episode, we discuss Gwendolin’s favorite loyalty program, Booking.com, and how she thinks it could be even better. She highlights the reason why looking at a loyalty program concept from both the company’s and the customer’s point of view is crucial, how digitalization quickly became the industry standard for loyalty programs, and why a proactive vendor approach is a must.

Highlights from our conversation with Gwendolin:

  • Which approach helps you find the loyalty program sweet spot
  • Three recent changes with the biggest industry impact
  • Why brands should learn how to best utilize AI in their strategy
  • Which vendor capability helps decision-makers the most

Learn more:

Podcast Transcription

Hi and welcome to Loyalty Stories, that is Antavo’s podcast on customer loyalty and loyalty programs. I am Gabor Vigh, one of the Partnership Managers at Antavo, and Antavo is a technology vendor that empowers loyalty programs all over the world. We help various great businesses such as KFC, Benefit Cosmetics, and very well-known global automotive, fashion brands, airports and so on.

In this Loyalty Stories podcast we dive into the trends around loyalty programs and customer loyalty. We will talk with industry experts all around the world to pick their brains to learn what’s next and what’s new on the loyalty programs. 

Today’s guest is Gwendolin Tiltmann, the Senior Loyalty Consultant at valantic DMC. Valantic is a leading digital transformation, digital solutions, loyalty consulting, and software company on the DACH market. They work with a lot of large and mid-size brands from the region, and they currently have around 3,500 specialized consultants and developers to support these clients. 

So, let’s dive in. Hi Gwendolin, how are you?


Hi, I’m doing good, great.


Thank you very much for joining us today. We are really excited to hear your opinion and hear your thoughts about the latest in loyalty. But first, can you please give us just a short brief introduction to our audience?


Yes, I can do that. So hello everyone, I’m Gwendolin and I’m part of valantic since January this year, so freshly started in the world of consulting. Before I have worked at the client side, so I studied marketing and I have always been a passionate marketeer. And yes, when I had my career started, I quickly got to know that data-driven marketing is the way forward for me. 

So I always focused on data-driven marketing, fell in love with loyalty and had several retailers where I worked in loyalty programs and the conception of loyalty programs and strategy before I started at valantic. And today I’m doing data-driven marketing consulting and loyalty consulting at valantic. And yeah, really love working on how to make customers happy and how to keeps them loyal to the brand.


Great, thank you Gwendolin. And yeah, because you have spent quite a long time now on the field of marketing and loyalty, what would you say, what is your favourite loyalty programme and why?


Being asked that question, I always come from a customer perspective, because that’s something which I think the most loyalty consultants don’t do and rather look at how are the mechanics, how is the loyalty strategy. But I think a true fact is that a loyalty program is only a loyalty program you love when you love the brand and when you are engaging with the loyalty program using it, and when you are in great engaging with the brand. 

So coming from that perspective, my favorite loyalty program is from Booking because I love to travel and I travel a lot. And that’s why I easily stepped up all tiers to become part of the highest tier. And I also have a connection to my Amazon account. That’s why I always receive a 10% cashback. And that’s why I profit a lot from that loyalty program.

Nevertheless, comparing that to loyalty programs that are in the market, I see a very transactional focus. I also see that the tier was reached super easily by me and that I can’t upgrade to any other tier. So I also have a lot of ideas how to improve this loyalty program so that I can benefit from it even more. But for now, that’s my favorite program because I use it like super frequently.


Great, I can relate to you on that because I love Booking.com’s loyalty program. Yes, I am genius 3 level now. So recently when I was off, I was able to benefit from something like free breakfasts or free room upgrades. So yeah, this is something really appreciated from the customer side. 


Yes, exactly.


And now that you are on other side, on the consultancy and the implementation side. What is the work that you are the most proud of at the moment?


So as I only started working as a consultant this year, I don’t have a program where I can say, we went from strategy to implementation to a rollout ready program. So that’s not where I can name one program where I can say, this is all mine and that’s what I’m proud of. That’s why I would focus on the topic of why I love the conceptual work on loyalty programs. 

So when you do loyalty project management with a strategic focus, you deeply dive into two double roles. So you are once on the one side, you deeply dive into the strategies, the visions, the goals of a company and really gain an understanding for their product and their way forward. 

But on the other side, you also become a real customer of the company and take your steps into the shoes of the customers and really try to understand the desires and the need of the customers. And that is super interesting to really look from both angles. And the most fun part is to find that sweet spot where you match 100% the business desires, but also the customer’s desires. And that is what I do with my customers on a daily base. 

And the feedback I received is always super positive and I’m super happy to have those valuable discussions with the customers for both angles. How do we find that sweet spot between business requirements and customer requirements and build a perfect loyalty program on that? And that is really my favorite part of the work.


Great. And as you mentioned that you started as a consultant since this January, but because you have been working in this business for quite a long time, what do you think, what are the big changes in loyalty from the recent years? What was kind of like groundbreaking?


I think in the last years what I observed is firstly a huge growth in the loyalty market. So coming from a point where I made benchmarks which loyalty program is the best and only had like a very short list to a point where I can’t even do benchmarks anymore because every single brand out there has a loyalty program, seems like that. So there are way more programs in the market also a tendency to have more standalone programs to move back from loyalty programs that which have like a multiplayer approach. 

So that I see that loyalty programs rather become something like standard in the market, which means that there’s high competition towards the customer because you can’t actively participate in a hundred programs, but you decide for the most relevant ones. 

So that growth doesn’t lead to a separate market where nothing happens, but to competition between the loyalty programs to a continuous development of the loyalty programs to be able to stand out in the market of loyalty programs. And that would be the first big change I saw. 

Second big change is clearly nothing surprising, digitalization. And that was really a discussion that was super political. Everybody was totally afraid about not having that physical card anymore as an identifacator. And nowadays, if I step into discussions about new loyalty programs, loyalty program development, it’s like not even a topic anymore to have a physical card. Everything is digital first with an app approach.

The registration is digital first, the channels are digital first, we have digital couponing, so everything’s digital without even questioning a paper approach. And that is, I think, a huge change that has been made quite fast from my point of view within the loyalty sector, probably also connected to specialized loyalty vendors that have a fast solution and an easy approach to have a digital solution on a loyalty program. 

The third part, which is from my point of view, an ongoing trend is individualization. So there are less transactional and more individual engagement based loyalty programs in the market. You don’t only get points for transaction, but for all of your behavior. Yeah, it’s highly connected to the growth. So you also have more individual programs on the market. It’s not only tier one, two, three, and you get points and you redeem points, but it’s way more individuality in the way you can do a loyalty program. And that’s also quite fun to see that it’s not like copying one concept to the other, but that you have diverse options, how to create a loyalty program. 

And coming to that topic, also, if you look deeper into the loyalty program, there’s also more individualization in terms of personalization. So personalization has become like a major topic for loyalty programs because why wouldn’t you start with loyalty programs with personalization if you have all data because of the participation of the loyalty program. 

So it starts with relevant communication, but also goes to a selection of the relevant channel for the customers and to hopefully one-to-one personalization of offers to the customers, which is in the best case also automated. So there is a huge development regarding individualization and personalization of loyalty programs.


Great, and I do feel that these two trends will evolve in the future or will be still like streamlining the loyalty industry or will there be any other trends that will overcome on these which would be like a hotter topic.


Yeah, I think those trends which I mentioned are trends that will continue. I think growth, yes, that’s something that will continue. Sometimes the market will be saturated, but that doesn’t mean that competition stops. So the saturated market means that the loyalty program owners have to think about how to optimize that program and there will be a lot of movement from that classical programs towards more highly developed programs. 

Digitalization is from my point of view, like almost finished. I think there won’t be programs surviving in the market that don’t get to that digital approach of loyalty program in future. But personalization just started. 

So I think one trend that will be also a future trend and the number one trend is personalization. But that’s like multidimensional. So I think personalization will also develop in parts of which data do we use. We won’t use anymore only transactional data, but maybe also IoT, (Internet of Things -editor) data and have a customer 360 approach to really use all potential data we could use as data input to the loyalty program and as a data output. 

It’s really striving into how can we do one-to-one personalization for our customers of offers, of content, and how can we have an intelligent way to spread our communication and our offers and our benefits to the customers in an individualized approach. So that’s staying, and I think one topic that will be coming up in future that will also have a high impact on the personalization topic as well as AI. 

So I think artificial intelligence is influencing the whole businesses already today, but it just started. And talking about loyalty, we have so many customer data in the loyalty program. And that’s why I think AI will catch up there and AI will have an influence on loyalty. It will have an influence both on the customer side as well as on the business side, because for the customers, it is also easy to have more transparency on brands behavior. 

If you have a love brand and you know you want to buy a new t-shirt or whatever, AI might help you to see when will be the next promotion, because maybe it can calculate the next promotion of a business based on the prior campaign plannings, which are at least in the fashion sector, quite regularly and quite the same. So they can say, wait for a minute. Next week, there will be a 20% promotion again. And that’s how customer behavior can change. 

But also on the business side, AI gives great opportunities for one to one personalization so that you don’t only yeah, try to spread several different promotion values around a bunch of targeted customers, but maybe have an AI engine that spreads individualized coupons on individualized products in an individualized value, individualized channel, individualized redemption time to the right customers. And that is, I think, possible with AI. 

So lots of opportunities, but also challenges coming up with AI for loyalty programs.


Lovely. And what do you think how a loyalty program technology company should support this? What would be the main features on top of like AI that you just mentioned?


I think definitely loyalty management programs need to see and identify the trends of personalization, AI, competition, digitalization, and should build a proper base for a quick adaption on these. So a loyalty management program that is good comes up with regular updates on new features that don’t need to be demanded by the loyalty program users but yeah, come proactively. 

And what is important from my point of view is that loyalty programs can be used for everybody. So talking about adaptions of a loyalty program that shouldn’t be done by a technician, but that should be done by somebody who understands the market, who understands the customers and the strategy of the, yeah, of the company. 

And these should be the ones that identify changes that needs to be done and also are able to build those changes in the existing loyalty management program. So a no-code approach is from my point of view super important to enable those business decision makers to not only take the decision but only implement the decision directly in an easy way in the loyalty management platform.


I really like this idea Gwendolin, thank you very much for sharing. Because valantic

 is working with great brands and I know that loyalty might be kind of like a new field in the organisation, but still we have been in touch for a long time because of loyalty. And what do you see when you start a project or when you start a conversation around loyalty strategy? Who is your key stakeholder? Is it marketing, IT or a combination of different C-level stakeholders?


I think it’s always marketing that starts with the approach. So we definitely have to talk to marketing to find out about strategy, vision, and about the current customer, because it’s super important to understand the current customer. But when it comes to a later phase, where we have an idea about what should be done, what the customer should receive as additional benefits as new loyalty program, it’s quickly starting to get technical. 

Because having ideas doesn’t bring them to life, and that’s where you need a lot of different parties involved, not only IT, but also all departments where a potential benefit could be implemented. So it starts very marketing-focused, but becomes like a multi-department project as soon as it comes to an implementation.


Great, thank you. Is there anything else Gwendolin in mind that you would like to share with the audience about loyalty?


Nothing specific. I think it’s made clear that loyalty is a future and that everybody who hasn’t got a loyalty program in place yet should think about getting one to be able to have first-party data because that will be a crucial point that decides about the success of a company in future from my point of view and everybody who already has a loyalty program shouldn’t lay back and relax, but should really focus on getting in touch with the new trends and reviewing the current loyalty program. 

If it’s transactional, if it’s really meeting the customer desires and needs, if it’s exciting, if it’s outstanding of the other loyalty programs of the market and should think about how am I able to develop my loyalty program with the tech stack I currently have, and if they see a low flexibility about how they could adapt the loyalty program to the customer needs of today, they should definitely think about moving the loyalty program to an optimized solution, loyalty management platform, to be able to answer the future challenges regarding loyalty and to be a leader in the competition of loyalty programs.


This was a great closing thought, Grendelin. Thank you very much for being here with us today and sharing your predictions and point of view about loyalty. I really enjoyed our conversation. I had a couple of really great or favorite parts in the conversation when you were mentioning about individualization or personalization to continue becoming even more important as we just started the journey around that. 

And I think this resonates very well with your data-driven approach. So yeah, thank you very much for being here with us and sharing your thoughts on loyalty.


Great. Thank you. What a pleasure.


And for the viewers, wherever you listen to us, be it on a podcast platform, YouTube or LinkedIn, please like us, like this podcast, subscribe to our channel, so this way you will get notified when the next episode is out, and also tell us about your view on loyalty in the comment section below. 

Feel free to visit antavo.com to discover your next loyalty software. Antavo is a next-generation loyalty program technology company, used by global brands like KFC, Benefit Cosmetics, automotive, fashion companies and airports all over the world. 

But also visit valantic’s website at valantic.com or Gwendolin’s LinkedIn page to find out more exciting details of her work. Thank you and see you on the next one. Bye for now!