Glenn Baker – a Loyalty Leader who believes in the brilliance of loyalty programs as both an art and a science

An interview by Adam Posner with Glenn Baker – General Manager, Everyday Rewards at Woolworths

Oh, my goodness...this Loyalty Leader interview was a rare treat!

Rare, because I have been waiting for many moons to interview Glenn Baker for my series on Loyalty Leaders.

A treat, because when it happened, I was inspired by his wisdom, insight, and the clarity of how he expresses the power and nuances of loyalty programs as both an art and a science.

From his university days where he worked in a credit card rewards program call-centre to this day where he leads one of Australia’s most well-known loyalty programs - Woolworths Everyday Rewards, Glenn knows what it takes to keep on delivering a loyalty program that is meaningful to its members (many millions of them) and an asset to the Woolworths business and partners.

This interview (#26) has many gems and some solid reminders on how to keep a loyalty program thriving.

I hope you enjoy the read as much as I enjoyed the interview with Glenn!

  1. So, who is Glenn (outside of work) + a little on your work biography

I'm originally a Sydneysider and still a Sydneysider. I’m a dad of three kids - 13, 11 and 9, so a full-time loyalty professional and part-time taxi driver, the cliches that are part of life. I love sports (rugby league is my passion and pain), entertainment and socialising.

From a career perspective, I started in retail working for Target through high school and uni and towards the end of my degree (economics with a major in marketing). I landed in loyalty - you could say when I became an inbound call centre person working for Carlson Marketing (back in 2000).

I still remember my opening line on the call… ”Welcome to Citibank Rewards, this is Glenn…can I start with your credit card number please….”

The degree I completed, and those early days, set me up to love loyalty, using the creative side of my brain and the data and numbers that are now so core to what I do and love.

I worked for some years in sports and entertainment, then worked at Qantas Frequent Flyer and now I have been at Woolworths and Everyday Rewards for eight and half years.

  1. Tell us a little about the Woolworths Everyday Rewards loyalty program. Any stats you can share?

While I know in the industry everyone has their own definitions of membership size I would comfortably say we are right up there as one of, if not the largest, loyalty program in Australia.

Being part of the Woolworths Group, we provide a Rewards program for Australians' food and everyday needs, and shortly in NZ too, both within the Woolies Group and with key partners in important verticals everywhere everyday value makes sense to our members.

We proudly are not interested in having 100’s of partnerships, rather, we are focused on those who provide for the everyday needs of members. Our program is about making it simple and easy and meaningful for our members to get value.

What I like the most about Everyday Rewards is the ‘Bank for Christmas’ benefit. Simply because it is a useful goal-setting benefit for members and a straightforward loyalty mechanic, motivating Christmas savings and giving lots of value throughout the year.

We have almost a million members who have chosen it and they're going to have an average of $100 banked for Christmas this year (2023), which is, considering the economic conditions, really neat.

For loyalty industry people out there, they would appreciate that we're not very focused on the expiry of points. We proudly want our members to use their points. We drive it heavily. That's why it's automatic at our point of sale or a seamless redemption to QFF points if preferred by members.

What's interesting now for us on top, is what we've done with member pricing, which we're rolling out at both Woolworths and Big W at the moment, in-store and online. Member pricing is a great addition and we're excited about where we take that next. It's another way to provide instant value for our members. And I think, it doesn't diminish the role of points, boosts and bonus points, redeeming for offers or even the Fuel $0.04c per litre benefit.

Also, the performance of the Everyday Rewards App consistently impresses and surprises me. Every time I think we've grown it to a point that it's going to plateau, it just grows again.

It's the program in your hands (Comment: I love this statement)

There is so much utility in the App. It’s faster at the register. It's everything from your card to your offers, your activity statement, and e-receipts, which we now have over 1.5 million people opting out of paper receipts, saving paper. While there’s lots of plumbing in the back end, it’s something simple that provides value to members that lives in the app.

 I love the App, it's done so well.

  1. What is the most unique element of the program?

I think uniqueness lies in the simplicity of our program. Spend a dollar to get a point. 2000 points equals $10 or 1000 Qantas points. Done.

And obviously, while simple for the member it adds some complexity in the background for us. But our priority is to make it easy for our members to understand ‘how to get value’ and ‘where to use that value’ which is so critical to our success. Particularly in retail, it's quite unique.

Also, we have a variety of strategic partners where you can either earn or redeem which helps to distinguish us in the market. For us, it’s about what's right for our customers, not what's right for us.

We're a big retailer and part of a big business, so why add mental load or complexity into customers' lives, especially when doing their grocery shopping which is not everyone's favourite task of the week.

So, let's be real about who we are.

And that's where simple supports.

  1. If you had to choose the most important measures of success for your program, what would they be?

 I always go straight to our member engagement measures.

For our program it's scan rates. Then boosting rates - how many of our members are participating in the bonus point promotions and earning and redeeming of points. Also, App usage every week and now moving to daily.

Engagement is our fundamental measurement principle. If we get engagement right for members and we're driving their usage of the program, everything else follows. The commercials follow. (Comment: I love the confidence and clarity of this statement)

The measures are member-focused. If a member scans, they are going to get money off their shopping faster. If they're participating in boosts and they're getting bonus points, they will get money off faster.

We know that members who use the app get far more value out of the program than those who don't, because it's just simple and easy. It's explained to them. They're not just ‘zombie scanning’, which some people can do in retail loyalty programs.

Some are getting hundreds and hundreds off. There’s a member who has $1100 Banked for Christmas… that's gifts, that's Christmas dinner. It's a lot. And that's someone who has just really rallied around their fuel, their groceries and their Big W spend and boosting offers. They are engaged in the program!

They're not a one-off because there are many others like them, it just shows you the potential.

And so, when you can talk to the teams internally - whether it's a marketing coordinator or a data scientist or a finance person or someone in the buying team in supermarkets or partners and you focus on the engagement, the purposefulness works for all.

After all, it is Everyday Rewards. Our job is to reward people. Let's focus on that.

(Comment: I do admire the relentless focus on the engagement metrics because the rest will follow. It’s a clear, succinct strategic intent.)

  1. What are some of the challenges you face on an ongoing basis to keep the program relevant/fresh/thriving (internally and externally) and how do you overcome these?

Members' expectations are constantly changing. They've got higher standards.

They judge us not just by what others do in retail, but they'll see great things in any type of loyalty program and then there's an expectation that a program like ours needs to meet those.

It's a good challenge because it keeps pushing us forward.

From a business perspective, I think increasing the understanding across our business of the value of the loyalty program, the first-party data, and the connections that we have with members, is very important.

Again, it’s a challenge, but it's a good challenge to keep us moving, both member and businesswise.

The current economic environment means that we do have a more important role to play for our members. And so, one of the things that's a feature of our app is we curate the weekly specials and talk about the ones that you buy most often, rather than having to go through 6000 specials amongst Woolies a week, we're going to show you the 12 or 16 that we know you buy the most often, and with economic conditions, that's more important than ever. We've been doing this for a few years.

This also needs to be appreciated internally, for people to understand that personalisation and relevance is not just nice to have, it's an expectation and it's better for everyone.

If we talk to members about what we're confident they care about, you'll get a more effective result in both the short and long term.

If we hold to these principles, you get the head and heart connected, with the numbers to prove it.

6.What advice would you give brands thinking about a loyalty program?

1. Why do you want a program?
Does it suit your business purpose? What do you think would make your customers choose you more often, and then how are you going to do that?

Avoid a cookie-cutter approach. Just don't do it because you see others do it.

A reward or a loyalty program is for the long term. It isn't for next month or the next six months, it's a three to five year or hopefully longer investment. Don't just treat it like another marketing campaign. You need to make sure it makes sense for the long term.

4. BREATHE. Just don't rush it. It’s better to get it late and get it right, than rush and get it wrong because it's very hard to put the “Genie back in the bottle”.

  1. What’s the biggest frustration you have with loyalty programs?

When they are over-complicated. Some over-promise. Programs try to get ‘too clever by half’ with rules and constraints and do x, y and z to get one, two, three.

Also, too many programs have tiers when they are irrelevant.  I know why hotels and airlines do tiering but be careful to add them into a program, they do create complexity.

The reason so many programs have ‘spend a dollar, get a point’ is because it's easy to understand.

  1. What do you think is creeping up on programs that could disrupt them for better or worse?

Generative AI and everything to do with that could be a great thing. Chatbots for servicing can be fantastic but I think some businesses might run at these without really understanding what it is and why it's a good tool and then use it appropriately.

The other one that I hope isn't creeping up on anyone is everything around privacy and evolving legislation. While we can get focused on the legislation, it's changing because customers’ expectations are changing.

If you are prepared and you realise this is because of what customers want, then you can give them more choice, control and service, which is a proactive approach.

But if you aren't paying attention and you are thinking… let's just wait until the government puts controls in place, well then you could miss a trick.

  1. What’s the most underestimated force behind a program’s performance?

For us, it's our team, our employees.

We have approximately 200,000 everyday Aussies who interact with our customers every day, and if they can advocate for the program, something as simple as saying, “Do you have your Everyday Rewards card?” and then also being able to answer if they get the question back - ‘why?’ then we have a fantastic head start in our relationship with the member.

For our team, we have a program called Everyday Rewards Plus, which is our employee program and is Everyday Rewards PLUS a series of benefits on top.

It wasn't always that way, but we have recently turbocharged that for the team with Everyday Rewards Plus bringing together the team discount with Everyday Rewards. And so, our team get additional boosters, free Everyday Extra for Team subscription and their staff discount facilitated through this.

This has helped them understand the program as it is proudly Everyday Rewards. Our team get all our Everyday Rewards offers PLUS more and their engagement levels are outstanding.

It's making a real difference for us with members!

I still think we as an industry can underestimate how important it is to get the team to appreciate and understand our program, whether it's in the simple moments, like feeling comfortable to ask if you’ve got a card, or do you have any offers, or to have them trying to get customers to download the app.

Whatever it might be, the team are critical.

 10. What are three important skills a loyalty program marketer needs?

  1. Communication skills – listening, speaking or writing. It's critical to be able to effectively communicate to all parts of the business, with partners and of course, with members.

  2. Data and all its parts - understanding data, how to work with data, questioning data, to interpreting data. And this is what distinguishes loyalty and rewards programs compared to other forms of marketing or media spend and that’s what is great about it, it’s the measurability that’s brilliant.

  3. Commercial acumen and a head for numbers. A real understanding of how it all adds up, why it's an effective use of funds and what are the right levers to pull and when.  Commercial isn't only about finance, it’s also about how the program needs to deliver the right things for the business so we can deliver the right things to members. If you can drive the right behaviours, then you will have more money to invest in member engagement type activities.

    It permits you to do a lot more for customers if you can measure and be commercial.

So, in summary, if you get the data and you've got a good head for the numbers and you're communicating effectively with your members, your partners, and your team, you're a rounded loyalty marketer. And you're off to a good start.

A bonus 4th skill is a partnership mindset and partnering skills. Understanding what it means to be a good partner or be good at partnerships.

There's a degree of empathy in it and there's a degree of negotiation. This is important.

This is not only about external partnerships, it’s also about a loyalty marketer needing to partner with all the key internal teams from brand, tech, operations, finance and so on.

11. If we are chatting again in (say) 2 years’ time, what do you predict would be the hot topic related to loyalty programs?

Automation and AI will still be on the agenda.

However, everything we do is a mix of art and science. So, I don't think robots are taking over the world or anything like that. But there'll be a sharper focus on automation and how can we do activities at scale like personalization. Doing it better and more efficiently.

There's lots of talk about NFTs and different types of rewards and badges and gamification. I feel like there’s a killer use case out there and someone is going to nail it, and that's going to set the standard. Someone will get there as I believe everyone's thinking about it.

12. Leave us with a lasting loyalty/loyalty program thought


I have read this interview many times and every time I read it, I find a statement made by Glenn that just needs to be on the billboard!

The reminders are powerful. The clarity is refreshing.

Some of my preferences are:

1. Measuring success

Engagement is our fundamental measurement principle. If we get engagement right for members and we're driving their usage of the program, everything else follows. The commercials follow.

2. Changing privacy and legislation

While we can get focused on the legislation, it's changing because customers’ expectations are changing. If you are prepared and you realise this is because of what customers want, then you can give them more choice, control and service which is a proactive approach.

3. Enrol your wider team in the program

It's making a real difference for us with members!

4. Love data and you will love loyalty programs

Data and all its parts - understanding data, how to work with data, to question data, to interpret data. And this is what distinguishes loyalty and rewards programs compared to other forms of marketing or media spend and what is great about it, it’s the measurability and, why I love loyalty programs.

5. One of the important skills a loyalty program marketer needs

Commercial acumen and a head for numbers - It permits you to do a lot more if you can measure and be commercial.

6. Advice to brands thinking of a loyalty program

BREATHE. Just don't rush it. It’s better to get it late and get it right, then rush and get it wrong because it's very hard to put the “Genie back in the bottle”.

Thanks Glenn!

Have a happy loyalty day.