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TechBytes with Bill Swift, EVP and CTO at Brierley+Partners

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TechBytes with Bill Swift, EVP and CTO at Brierley+Partners

Hi Bill, tell us about your role and the team/technology you handle at Brierley.

I’m the CTO at Brierley and my primary responsibilities are product direction/strategy/development, sales presentations, global expansion, partnerships, client delivery, and ongoing support. In terms of the technology I handle in my role, I focus on transformation initiatives. Specifically, product architecture, client delivery models, organization/team structure, methodology, automation, and employee satisfaction and growth.

How much has global loyalty technology evolved in the last 20 years?

Loyalty technology has changed tremendously over the past 20 years and will continue to do so. I think there are three main areas of change to call out:

Customer Identity – we’ve seen the industry evolve from a physical punch card to manual phone and email lookup, to digital cards accessed in mobile or desktop apps, and finally to facial recognition using biometrics.

– Immediacy – customers today expect real-time integration from their loyalty programs, whether that be around awarded points or rewards or mission-critical response times addressing visible impacts on CX when systems are down.

– Evolution from core value proposition (CVP) to engagement and experience – emotional advocacy, gamification (badges, spin-to-win, games, sweeps, AR experiences). Some view this evolution as mutually exclusive characteristics of loyalty, we believe that all dimensions are important.

Lastly, it’s important to consider the fact that loyalty currencies more closely aligned with financial currency but with added complexities of multiple concurrent types of rewards and a variety of expiration strategies. Now more than ever Brierley is accounting for regulations and potential liabilities.

Which technologies have made the most disruptive impact on customer loyalty technology?

SaaS and UX – software startups focused on the low cost of entry and intuitive self-service have been disruptive and necessary for the industry. That being said, contrary to the belief that “everyone is a loyalty expert”, many companies buy into the promise of ease of use and lose sight of the fact that a financially sound loyalty program requires expertise to design.

CRM/CDP – campaign creation/execution, content delivery, and backend marketing/customer-centric databases are an essential aspect of the MarTech ecosystem. Loyalty has essentially become a “bank account” of earned benefits and rewards; digitally accessible and consumable in real-time across all customer touchpoints.

Brierley was at NRF 2020. Tell us about the most cutting-edge technology you saw or wished to have seen at the event?

The intersection between facial recognition and loyalty continues to be intriguing. While it’s not necessarily cutting-edge anymore, it promises another avenue toward convenience and efficiency – when balanced appropriately with privacy, of course.

We also saw the concept of unmanned stores (more headed toward Amazon Go experience) and facial identity at self-serve kiosks. Both technologies have loyalty integration potential that will surely drive efficiency and CX.

With laws like CCPA and GDPR impacting customer analytics and loyalty strategies for all online channels, what solution do you propose to overcome these challenges?

The biggest part of the solution specific to loyalty revolves around opt-in/out and the ability to satisfy requirements for data subject access requests and the right to be forgotten/deleted. As a solution provider, our specific requirements come from our clients. It’s important to have configurable capabilities to define what PII/Personal Information is uniquely for each client.

We’re seeing a rampant adoption of AI, Blockchain, and RPA in the e-commerce and retail tech businesses. What approach do you take in digitally transforming your product development and technology innovation functions with AI ML and RPA techniques? Have they borne you satisfactory results?

AI, Blockchain and RPA have the potential to change the mechanics in the way loyalty programs typically operate. Here are some perspectives on each:

– AI – at Brierley we’ve created a dedicated Data Science team, a combination of analytics and technology professionals, to incorporate AI/ML into our product suite. The primary focus areas revolve around personalization, next best action recommendations (offers, messages – “thank you!”, rewards) and real-time fraud detection.

– Blockchain – we’re monitoring advancements and loyalty specific use cases that leverage Blockchain. The primary usage pattern feels most appropriate for coalition type programs where loyalty currency is changing hands (and value) across a partner network. We’ve seen some examples of conversion of loyalty currency to cryptocurrencies, but it feels like broad adoption is still a way out.

– RPA – process automation is essential to remain competitive (in terms of cost and time-to-market). Our focus in automation revolves around regression/performance testing, automated entry to hundreds of offers/promotions and typical CI/CD best practices that remove humans from software builds, tests and deploy activities.

What are your predictions for “Customer Loyalty Technologies” for 2020-2024? How do you prepare yourself and your Marketing team for these events?

Trend 1 – more global programs with locale-specific variations, along with distributed hosting models to comply with data privacy/residency regulations.

Trend 2 – continued focus on simplification on the definition/configuration of loyalty programs while still enabling the complexities that exist on the backend.

Trend 3 – continued and expanded use of loyalty platforms to enable personalization, CX and rewarding customers for their engagement across an expanding realm of channels (e.g. Virtual Assistants, AR experiences, etc.)

How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a Business Leader?

My most important role is to ensure we have the right skills on the team to creatively assess and apply technology advancements to our offering so we can remain a competitive leader in the loyalty space. It’s very important to create cross-functional (e.g. PO, Data Science, Analytics, Software Engineer, QE/SDET), agile teams that can self-organize to deliver tangible products/services.

Bill has been leading Brierley+Partners’ technology organization since January of 2001. As CTO, his responsibilities span from technology architecture and product direction to client implementations and operational support.

Bill has been instrumental in expanding the company’s vision beyond customer loyalty solutions to also encompass broader CRM and data warehouse capabilities. The combined platform is now powering complex marketing strategies that capitalize upon having a single view of the customer; not only from a database perspective but also in terms of real-time customer data integration. Having participated in the successful adoption of international technology standards, Bill is a contributing author of publications focused on distributed computing architecture and holds several software design patents.

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Brierley is transforming loyalty around the world, turning client challenges into successful and profitable loyalty program solutions. We bring together innovative thought leadership, unparalleled expertise, and advanced technologies to help brands win customers’ hearts and minds.

Brierley offers the full breadth of services to drive unprecedented loyalty success: program design, strategy, research, analytics, customer insights, creative, and digital solutions. In addition, Brierley’s intuitive platform — LoyaltyOnDemand — empowers everything a loyalty program demands to engage customers across every channel and touchpoint. It represents a powerful evolution in loyalty technology, continuously evolving with new features to keep programs on the leading edge.

Experts you can count on. Solutions you can trust. Success you can measure.

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