Why Ford relaunched its loyalty program

The automaker is less interested on data and more focused on incentivizing owners to stay in its ecosystem for their automotive needs.

Ford of Canada is rolling out its own loyalty program to dealerships and customers across the country in a bid to drive greater customer retention.

The program, called FordPass Rewards, initially launched in the U.S. in April 2019, enrolling one million members within a month. In Canada, the program launched nearly two weeks ago and has already enrolled 200,000 members.

Using the FordPass Rewards program, customers can collect points by buying new or certified pre-owned vehicles or having their vehicle serviced at a Ford dealership. They can save those points without a cap, and then redeem them toward the purchase or lease of a new vehicle or to pay for parts and service.

The program is also integrated with the FordPass app, which has remote start, locking and fuel level functions, in addition to letting owners pay bills or schedule service through the app.

Ford was already well aware of the popularity and success of other loyalty programs in Canada before it launched FordPass Rewards, says Bill Rowe, VP of customer service at the automaker. Canadian engagement with loyalty programs is among the highest worldwide, according to a KPMG study.

However, most of those loyalty programs are in more high-frequency categories, like food, personal care and gas, where loyalty not only provides more frequent rewards, but more opportunities for brands to collect data from its customers, learn more about their spending habits and provide personalized offers and advertising.

But in automotive, interactions with a dealership are limited to a handful of service appointments a year and a vehicle purchase, which happens, on average, every six years or so. Rowe says that the bigger goal is not to capture swaths of data that come from frequent customer interactions, but making sure what interactions do happen, happen with “the Ford ecosystem” by making them as rewarding as possible.

“We’re trying to improve the customer experience, drive more loyalty and bring more people to the brand,” says Matt Drennan-Scace, Ford’s communications manager. “We’re always looking for new ways to improve and enhance the customer experience and this is just another example of that process.”

The automaker has also experienced success with an early loyalty program of its own – called Owner Advantage Rewards – which “tried to bind the customer to a specific dealer.” While it did succeed in increasing repeat business for the dealers that participated, says Rowe, the opportunity is to build more flexibility into the program.

“What we saw was an opportunity to build on the success of Owner Advantage Rewards by integrating it into the FordPass app,” he explains. “That allowed us to be a lot more flexible and also allowed the members of the program to go to any dealer in Canada and get their rewards.”

According to Rowe, allowing customers the flexibility to choose how and where they spend their points was important because it would make the user experience more convenient and further promote loyalty. To that end, Ford will collect data, but mostly about how customers use the program to help “fine-tune” the experience.