Loyalty leader Mark Stemp shares valuable lessons from launching G8 Education’s innovative loyalty program Childcare Saver
An interview with Mark Stemp: Business Lead – Loyalty at G8 Education
My series of articles on ‘Loyalty Leaders’ continues with an interview with Mark Stemp (Business Lead – Loyalty at G8 Education) and one I have been looking forward to for a long time.
A little bit about G8 Education
G8 Education is one of Australia’s largest providers of quality early childhood education and care. With more than 440 early learning centres across 21 quality early learning brands, they play an important role in the lives of tens of thousands of Australian families.
Why have I been looking forward to this interview?
Childcare Saver is a loyalty program that solves a problem.
It’s not about points and perks.
It’s about a higher purpose.
It’s about rewarding families for investing in their child's early learning and development, while supporting families to continue to invest or extend their childcare days through savings made and rewards received on their everyday shopping…check out their great video!
“Accessibility of quality childcare is one of the biggest challenges facing many Australian families. The Childcare Saver program is an innovative way to support our families to continue investing in their child’s development, which is a win for our children, families, team members and society.” Gary Carroll - Managing Director G8 Education
Now back to Mark…
1. So, who is Mark Stemp (outside of work)
I am originally from the UK, arriving in Australia in 2007 on my own for a one year stay with a few kg of baggage. 14 years later, I am happily married, have two kids, a large(ish) house and more than a few kg’s of baggage!
In the UK I was in direct marketing working with Experian and I started my loyalty progam life here with AIMIA working on the Qantas Frequent Flyer program – a baptism of fire! I soon found myself working at Qantas with the highlight being the launch of the Qantas Golf Club.
From there, I had some time at Suncorp, then Caltex and now I am at G8 Education*, where I have been responsible for bringing to reality their new and innovative loyalty program (we call it a rewards program) - Childcare Saver.
2. Tell us about the new Childcare Saver program
Childcare Saver is aimed at families with children at childcare in the G8 Education Network, who are looking to reduce everyday shopping costs and offset their childcare fees through savings made from cashback on their everyday shopping.
There are just under 400 merchants, where members can shop and earn cashback.
They can then use these funds to afford more childcare days and remove the reliance on extended family to look after children when they are not at childcare. A truly innovative way to solve a problem.
It was launched in November 2021, hitting the first month’s target of signups within the first three days of launch, with 10% of eligible families signed up on the first weekend, which was amazing! We purposely launched the program before Black Friday for our families to gain the most benefit from the offers and to maximise their cashback.
Categories relating to families with children have been very popular, which is exactly as we had planned.
4. What are the most unique elements of the new program?
- There is an option to include additional members (e.g. extended family) to the ‘host’ families membership to maximise cashback from shopping and boost the savings to the primary family account.
- We can offboard members due to eligibility criteria, making it exclusively accessible to our G8 Education families.
- There is a greater opportunity to take the program to the wider childcare industry making childcare more affordable and accessible for families across Australia.
5. What were the top 3 challenges you faced in getting the program to market?
- Onboarding the right merchant mix to ensure we have a good cross section of relevant merchants for the families, with a focus on everyday spend categories such as grocery and fuel being foundational.
- A small team to take the program to market meant we were under pressure at times and so needed to be methodical and organised.
- The pandemic had an impact on the childcare industry although the program has turned out to be a silver lining for our families. (Personally, in over a year working on the program, I have only met one member of the team face-face, however that did not seem to hinder our focus and I am proud of such a great result (so far).
6. If you had your time again, what would you not do, do better or do more of
I’ve been happy with most aspects of the program implementation as we planned well and had contingency solutions for problems we might face. I also think it’s important that once a project is launched the handover to ‘business-as-usual’ needs to be meticulously planned.
7. What advice would you give to brands thinking about a loyalty program?
- Don’t just do it (launch a program) because your competitor has one – it’s about you, not them!
- Do the work internally to ensure everyone is on the journey. Find the sceptics and do your best to get them to believe.
- Researching your program design is critical.
- Make sure it provides long term value to customers otherwise it could be just a short PR exercise.
- Once launched make sure it evolves and keep adding to it.
8. What do you think is creeping up on programs that could disrupt them for better or worse?
- For worse…If one of the consequences of Covid-19 is the closure of businesses who have programs with earned benefits for members, this will have an adverse impact on loyalty programs as a brand.
- For better… the importance of brands realising the imperative of owning their data gained through loyalty programs.
9. What’s the most underestimated force behind a program’s performance?
Over my career I’ve seen brands with programs not invest enough in experienced loyalty practitioners to own and manage a program once launched. A program takes investment to get to market and therefore requires investment to keep it sustained and successful.
I think programs need to recruit experienced people to love the program for the long term.
It’s a product of value, a proof point of the brand and deserves the attention of the right people.
(I loved this comment by Mark as I also agree that a program needs to be on the boardroom agenda and not just a marketing work-in-progress item).
10. What are three important skills a loyalty program marketer needs?
- Strong internal influencing experience across management and the team. Everyone has an opinion on loyalty programs (after all 8/10 Australians are a member of at least one program). A loyalty program marketer must be able to manage these opinions and the loudest voice in the room.
- Listen with intent. Listen to customers carefully however realise that what they say is not always what they do!
- Use data to make smart decisions with commercial reality baked in.
11. Leave us with a lasting loyalty thought
A bug-bear of mine is to stop calling loyalty programs ‘schemes’. The word ‘scheme’ has a negative tone of secrecy and lack of transparency and programs should be the exact opposite – transparent, clear and simple.
Finally, my call out is for loyalty program managers to never stop evolving their programs and keeping them fresh for their members and their team. Don’t let it be a rinse and repeat!
There are some excellent reminders from Mark and for me the standouts were:
- Recruit loyalty program managers with experience and capability to keep a program thriving.
- Keep evolving the program. Don’t let it be rinse and repeat.
- Solve a customer problem with your program – which for me is a mantra!
Congratulations to Mark and his team at G8 Education on delivering a program which has a greater purpose.
Have a happy loyalty day!
(*At the time of interviewing Mark he was working with G8 Education, however he has subsequently moved to a new role at Endeavour Drinks looking after all things loyalty at BWS – Cheers Mark!)