Shopping for miles

Jun 01, 1998 9:30 PM  By

According to Inside Flyer magazine, nearly half of the 40 million worldwide participants in frequent flier programs have access to the Internet. So 1-800-Flowers, Garden Escape, SkyMall, and Music Boulevard, among other online catalogers, saw the logic in participating in the new ClickRewards program, which rewards online shoppers with airline miles, hotel discounts, and even catalog merchandise.

“Most catalogers strive for customer loyalty and retention regardless of the distribution channel,” says Donna Iucolano, manager of interactive services for flower cataloger 1-800-Flowers, whose Website accounts for 10% of the company’s $300 million in annual sales.

ClickRewards is the brainchild of NetCentives, a San Francisco-based promotional tools and marketing company. Consumers can earn ClickPoints, the digital currency of ClickRewards, by making purchases or filling out surveys from online merchants. Each ClickPoint is worth one frequent flier mile on any of six major airlines, including American Airlines, Delta, and British Airways. NetCentives handles all management, distribution, and fulfillment of the frequent flier accounts.

Participating catalogers buy ClickPoints from NetCentives. The cost to catalogers of the points depends on the amount purchased, but NetCentives says the ClickPoints cost less than the average 7 cents per mile that the airlines charge marketing partners for frequent flier miles.

Once catalogers buy the ClickPoints, they’re free to decide how many points to reward for particular promotions. 1-800-Flowers, for instance, gives 300 ClickPoints to buyers of certain flower arrangements. Music Boulevard, the online music store from N2K Entertainment, gives customers who buy three or more CDs 100 points. Garden Escape, an online gardening tools and accessories cataloger, offers 150 points to customers who spend $50 and 350 points to those who spend $100.

“We’re also giving out points in exchange for filling out membership surveys,” says Cliff Sharples, president/ CEO of Garden Escape. “We wanted to find ways to entice people to come back and interact with the site.”

Beyond frequent fliers Consumers who aren’t interested in earning frequent flier miles can redeem their points for merchandise from the catalogers featured on NetCentives’ Website. “It was the ability to be a redemption site for ClickPoints that was the real motivation behind our participation,” says Debbie Newman, vice president of marketing/advertising/sales at N2K Entertainment. “Converting visitors into customers is the goal of our Website, and it’s easier to redeem points for music than for, say, golf clubs,” which many consumers prefer to try out before buying.

Even though at press time the program had been up and running only a few months, participating catalogers were already reporting a favorable response. 1-800-Flowers says that 15% of its recent orders were related to the program, and Garden Escape has seen a slight rise in the number of repeat visitors.