We spoke to Jennifer Carson, Canada Lead — Loyalty, Payments, & Strategic Partnerships at Starbucks Canada about the importance of cultivating diverse perspectives within organizations, the keys to developing effective and engaging customer rewards programs, and what the future of the loyalty and rewards industry has in store.
Tell us about your experience working in the Customer Loyalty & Rewards industry.
I’ve had an amazing 20-year career journey in strategic partnerships and loyalty. Bringing businesses together to build shared loyalty programs and customer experience takes a lot of effort, but it’s incredibly rewarding. You also get to learn so much about how different industries work.
Perspective is important. I’ve been fortunate to work with some of Canada’s most iconic brands on both the client-side and agency side. This has allowed me to be involved in developing a partnership strategy from scratch, building a business case, finding the right partners, designing the loyalty product, and all the way through to program execution. It’s very satisfying to create new value for customers, and for business. I love what I do!
How does a diverse perspective within an organization help shape programs and consumer experiences?
I’ve had the greatest successes when there are multiple and differing viewpoints at the table, working towards the same goals. I’m always looking to work with people who have different industry backgrounds and ways of thinking. This is especially true when I’m working with organizations from different industries. Bringing together teams from a bank, an airline, and a retailer to tackle a common opportunity has been a fascinating process.
I’ve been incredibly lucky to have worked with amazingly talented people throughout my entire career who wouldn’t settle for the status quo and pushed boundaries. This has helped me develop a ‘should do’ versus ‘can do’ mentality.
How have you seen the loyalty space evolve in 2021?
Over the last year, loyalty programs have become even more important to Canadians. In a time of uncertainty and disruption, we’ve seen people rely on their favourite brands and loyalty programs to give them a sense of normalcy — and an occasional spark of joy!
It’s been very interesting to see how mature loyalty programs such as Aeroplan have evolved their programs to include everyday categories. While their primary focus is still travel, partnering with brands like Starbucks and Uber creates day-to-day engagement.
This trend was well underway before COVID but the loyalty programs that were able to pivot quickly and accelerate their evolution have stood out to me. I’ve been lucky enough to work on and with some of the biggest and best loyalty programs in Canada. The industry is always evolving — led by customer demands and the ever-changing world we live in. It’s always an exciting time to be in loyalty!