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Nov 01, 2000
How To

Aaron O’Sullivan On How Gained 250,000 Members, 85% of Whom Actively Shop Online

SUMMARY: No summary available.
Having recently announced a quarter of a million members, has firmly established itself as the main online loyalty programme in the UK. Now working with over 40 UK e-tail partners the company believes it “separates mere surfers from active online buyers” and, indeed, 85% of their members are actively shopping online. We spoke to Managing Director Aaron O’Sullivan to find out more...

Q: What are you currently doing to drive great traffic to the site?

O’Sullivan: We generate traffic in a number of ways. One of the key ways for us to get members is through our partners. People who shop with our partners see the ipoints offering and join up to take advantage of the ipoints they receive from shopping with them. We are also constantly running competitions and promotions with 3rd party sites in order to drive traffic and members. In September, for instance, we sponsored the 'Fetch' promotion on Lycos. We run offline competitions in consumer publications too - for example, at the moment we are offering ipoints to people who subscribe to the Future Publishing House titles i.e. “.net”. Another method for us is exhibitions - we’ve been involved with several to date. Recently, we linked up with Live2000 and The Net magazine to promote the ipoints proposition - we offered incentives for visitors to join up. Our ipoints sales teams in key locations carry out street signing in order to encourage sign ups – places like EasyEverything cafes, Universities, CBDs, etc. We also banner advertise – Flycast gives us the run of the network.

Finally, there’s word of mouth. A testament to the strength of our offering is that the largest number of new members each month comes from the recommendation of existing members.

Q: Which of your marketing campaigns do you feel have worked best, and why?

O’Sullivan: Partner promotions and 3rd party competitions have had extremely high sign up rates from partner sites - people want to take advantage of ipoints earning opportunity. Our own competitions and promotions are also very successful due to the strength of offers - everyone wins with our offer of ferry vouchers!

We consistently generate high response rates to our customer retention campaigns. On a basic level, we're talking to existing customers who have bought into the idea of earning ipoints either for registering at a partner site or purchasing through them. As such, they are open to offers that will earn them extra ipoints and get them closer to redeeming some of the rewards on offer. Naturally, the greater the ipoints available through an offer the more appealing it is to members. The real reason they work so well, however, is that we utilise direct marketing techniques, through analysis and segmentation of customer data, to ensure relevancy of each offer to the target audience. We identify customers’ interest level and profile, previous uptake and their propensity to purchase/re-purchase/up-sell/cross-sell depending on the activity we are considering at the time.

Q: You mentioned the free ferry trip to France or Ireland that you've recently been offering to anyone who signs up. How did that work for you?

O’Sullivan: It's been a brilliant campaign for us, because it's been versatile enough to use as a tactical tool for ourselves, as well as for third parties and partner sites. The offer itself demonstrated perfectly the 'earn ipoints and get free rewards' proposition in a very simple fashion. Because of the way it works, new members quickly get to experience the proposition right through to redemption, which helps them understand all our processes, and gives them reassurance. This has prompted repeat visits and purchases - and due to the way the customers redeem the offer, we've generated greater site 'stickiness', allowing members to see and access further content. While they’ve varied according to where the offer has been hosted, response and conversion rates have generally been fantastic.

Q: You ask new users to say where they heard about Can you give us a breakdown of the results of this survey?

O’Sullivan: 35% of sign ups happen as a result of word of mouth. 20% come from partner sites, 30% from online competitions, and 10% from offline activities. The remaining 5% of sign ups come from various other sources.

Q: How successful is your affiliate programme? And what about your refer-a-friend scheme?

O’Sullivan: We have a conversion rate of 30% for our affiliate programme - i.e. 30% of those that click on a banner and come through to our site actually join up. It’s an extremely good way of getting new members and brand exposure. Our refer a friend programme is also very strong, with an average of 3 new members being referred by each new ipoints member.

Q: What have you learned from your online questionnaire? Has the offer of 10 ipoints for completion encouraged many users to take part?

O’Sullivan: The questionnaire plays a valuable part for us, enabling us to gather more information on our members. As a result, we can ensure they receive only relevant information and offers. ipoints members can (and do) provide this information at any time when they check their own account, and flagging the 10 ipoints offer has worked well to prompt those who haven't completed it to do so. Purchasing habits online can change over time and it's important that we're flexible and give our members the opportunity to change their personal preferences whenever they want to.

Q: You're currently working with 40+ partners. How do you encourage e-commerce companies to work with you?

O’Sullivan: We have a membership base of over 1/4 of a million members with 85% actively shopping - this is a huge potential market for new partners. We also work very closely will all our partner companies to uplift their sales and communicate their offering to our members. It allows them to offer to their shoppers the ipoints virtual circle of online retailers and a fast way of obtaining free rewards for activities they are already undertaking. In addition we provide bespoke loyalty systems for e-tailers, so they can in effect set up their own programme and can choose to opt-in to our rewards offering.

Q: What are your top tips for encouraging online loyalty?

O’Sullivan: Be more customer-focussed - find out what your customers want and make sure you can deliver it. The key thing for encouraging loyalty is to give consumers what they want, and make it happen conveniently, and in real time – if you can give good rewards so much the better. Consumers do not want to be spending huge amounts of money for years to get low-value products back. They want to see real rewards faster, and that’s what ipoints offers them. Instead of shopping from several sources and collecting small rewards from different places they can get all their requirements from one place, so the points add up that much faster. In a very short time frame they are earning real rewards - and they haven't even had to change their behaviour! It is the perfect solution.
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