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Leveraging the cloud to improve customer loyalty

With the Microsoft Azure data platform, Advocado was able to build its data warehouse solution and witness a spectacular outcome.

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Gone are the days where consumers will go through a tedious form, physical or digital, to sign up for any kind of loyalty membership.

MERCHANTS are increasingly at the mercy of fickle consumers. Every day, consumers change their minds about what they like, how they want to engage with brands, and what they are willing to trade dollars for. And yet, so many loyalty solution providers choose to just be apps, or points, or physical cards.

Gone are the days where consumers will go through a tedious form, physical or digital, to sign up for any kind of loyalty membership.

Branded applications aren't faring any better with consumers being overwhelmed with too many applications on their phones that they do not use, resulting in a reluctance to download yet another application for loyalty.

Among the few who do, traction remains low. In fact, every step that consumers take before they use an application sees up to 20 per cent reduction of users.

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It is for this reason, that branded applications often report poor results pertaining to loyalty rewards for merchants.

The motivating factor

What Advocado, a cloud loyalty customer relationship management software company, knows is that, at their core, incentive programmes are data programs. So, when it wanted to consolidate its data and optimise data analytics to improve the insights it delivers to clients, Advocado turned to Microsoft Azure and its cognitive services.

According to Maslow's hierarchy of needs, two of the most important needs we have as humans are the need to be recognised and the need to belong. This is true inside our work lives as well as outside.

Businesses have begun to understand the power of recognition in keeping employees engaged. In fact, studies show that companies that regularly recognise and thank their employees for their hard work see a measurable boost in productivity, customer service, and business results.

Of course, creating a culture that motivates employees to contribute to the corporate strategy takes more than a gold watch or a wall plaque. Effective programmes that measurably increase employee engagement, boost sales, and build customer loyalty are part art and part science - a formula Advocado has committed to perfecting.

An award-winning cloud loyalty software provider, Advocado serves over 600 merchants and more than 300,000 participants across six markets by helping them better understand how to motivate and recognise people.

Without using the common physical cards, or even the hassle of encouraging consumers to download applications, Advocado empowers B2C businesses of any size, from F&B, retail, beauty and wellness, sports and fitness to generate additional tangible revenue and motivates customers to return by simply using their mobile numbers - it's simple, fast yet secure.

Improving the data environment

Running these programs creates large amounts of data that includes point trends, redemption statistics, and the supply chain connected to three large fulfillment warehouses. Advocado tracks how people browse for incentive gifts, when they decide to cash in their points, and what they ultimately choose as their reward on a branded online shopping site.

But processing millions of data points in real-time requires a robust infrastructure with low latency.

As a startup, rising costs in computing power is absolutely critical in scaling its business. This is when the team at Advocado reached out to Microsoft to explore its Azure Cognitive Services, where it is now leveraging Azure SQL Data Warehouse to boost active users, workload and performance, at an affordable cost.

With the Microsoft Azure data platform, Advocado was able to build its data warehouse solution with workload isolation, advanced security and virtually unlimited concurrency.

And the outcome is spectacular. Currently, Advocado takes pride in the fact that a member of any brand can log in to his or her loyalty account at the storefront of its merchants in under seven seconds. Following the integration of its development environment with Microsoft cognitive services, that timing has now been reduced to just under three seconds, with incredible accuracy, using facial recognition.

By building the Advocado loyalty software in Azure, Advocado has found that:

  • An F&B chain enjoys increased repeated visits by 30 per cent and the spending of members in six months is in excess of S$600,000;
  • A retail chain experiences consistent growth of more than S$49,000 monthly;
  • A hobby chain sees more than S$750,000 cashflow generated monthly from new and repeating customers.

Today, Advocado is exploring how Microsoft Cognitive Services can be deployed to recognise receipts printed from point-of-sale machines - a task that used to be extremely tedious as it needed human eyes to confirm, analyse and make sense of.

What previously would take minutes to achieve could possible only require seconds to automate, saving the company thousands of man hours a week, but more importantly, scaling this component of Advocado's service would no longer pose an insurmountable challenge.

  • The writer is founder and chief executive officer at Advocado.