CBC takes Aerogold rewards online

CIBC Aerogold VISA cardholders can now earn Aeroplan Bonus Miles by shopping online. Indeed, CIBC is hoping frequent flyers won't miss a mile - now that they're armed with a Web-based tool that automatically notifies them of participating retailers and rewards...

CIBC Aerogold VISA cardholders can now earn Aeroplan Bonus Miles by shopping online. Indeed, CIBC is hoping frequent flyers won’t miss a mile – now that they’re armed with a Web-based tool that automatically notifies them of participating retailers and rewards them with Aeroplan miles.

Earlier this month, the Canadian financial institution began piloting its first major Internet cardholder benefit initiative, CIBC Aerogold Advantex Benefit Online, an Internet-based shopping rewards program developed by Toronto-based Advantex Marketing International.

Once registered for the program, CIBC Aerogold VISA cardholders can earn Aeroplan Bonus Miles on purchases at several partner Canadian and U.S. e-tailers, including Indigo.ca, IBM.ca, eBags.com, Sharperimage.com and Justwhiteshirts.com, as well as receive instant notifications and alerts via the online program’s main component, the CIBC Aerogold SmartBar.

‘For us, it’s about adding a value-added benefit to our cards, which we’re continuously trying to do,’ says Kathy Buckworth, director of co-branded cards at CIBC VISA Marketing.

‘We have seen how popular the offline programs are in terms of earning extra bonus miles. It really made sense for us to move it to an online world, where the portion of consumer spend is growing a great deal. We saw that as an opportunity to move in there with this product and be a leader in terms of providing a unique benefit to credit cardholders.’

The latest project is an extension of CIBC’s five-year relationship with Advantex, which specializes in developing and managing multipartner loyalty programs. The duo first began working together in 1996 to offer restaurant discounts to Gold and Aerogold cardholders.

‘The way we look at the Internet for everything we’re doing is that it’s just another way – and an efficient way – to distribute information and value-added benefits to people. And for the operator of the loyalty program, the cost of delivering is so much less than when we were doing things like coupon books, when everything was done with paper,’ says Advantex chairman and CEO Randall Munger.

The Advantex SmartBar is actually a Web browser extension that is visible to users on their computer screen as they move around the Web. In addition to being able to automatically calculate and issue rewards to registered program members, the SmartBar will be able to tell which sites are being visited and make recommendations to users about similar sites that may be part of the Advantex program. (The bar can be hidden, he adds, and will only appear when there’s information to give.)

‘One of the biggest challenges that marketers and consumers face in marketing loyalty programs and in taking advantage of loyalty programs is their ability to keep all this stuff in their heads. There’s so much coming at them and so many opportunities, how do you keep track of it all? If you deploy the SmartBar, it’s all done for you,’ says Munger.

‘It’s designed to make it easier for the customer. But really what it is for the airline or operator is a very powerful communication link – we call it loyalty link – that links the customer with the airline, for example. You now have the ability to instantly message and communicate with customers – it’s like tattooing them – it’s a wonderful loyalty marketing tool.’

Last month, Advantex announced a similar program with Arlington, Va.-based US Airways, allowing the airline’s members to earn Dividend Miles when they make purchases at more than 70 participating e-tailer shopping establishments, including Amazon.com and Allpets.com. The online deal will benefit more than 20 million Canadian and U.S. customers, says Munger.

Closer to home, Air Canada also announced plans late last year to launch a SmartBar-powered online Aeroplan program – once it finalized the integration of Canadian Airlines’ Canadian Plus loyalty program into its own – as part of a larger overall strategy by the airline to expand its loyalty program onto the Internet. The rollout is expected sometime this year.

CIBC Aerogold Advantex Benefit Online, accessible at www.aerogoldadvantex.com, will first be made available in pilot to a select part of the Aerogold cardholder base, says CIBC’s Buckworth – most of whom are established, affluent 35- to 50-year-olds who tend to consolidate their spending on the one card. A direct mail campaign – the first wave hit post offices at the beginning of June – is being launched to target 50,000 (of 500,000) Aerogold cardholders (a second wave of direct mail, which will roll out June 22, will include a Bonus Bar installation CD-ROM).

‘It’s available to anyone who wants to sign up, but we’re only promoting it to a select part our base. We will be in full launch in the fall timeframe,’ says Buckworth, adding that the main promotional messages are ‘never miss a mile’ and ‘click your way to free travel.”