Loyalty programs get 21st century makeover

Media release | 16 January 2018

University of NSW (UNSW) students have been earning cryptocurrency for shopping with retailers, restaurants and cafes in a world-first trial set to shake up the way traditional loyalty programs are run for the first time since frequent flyer points were introduced.

Sydney startup LoyaltyX has been working with UNSW on the trial, with backing from the NSW Government’s Boosting Business Innovation Program, which has seen 170 staff and students rewarded with the cryptocurrency “Ether” for making their day to day purchases.

More than a dozen on-campus retailers including well known retailers IGA and Boost and a range of local eateries participated in the trial which saw 83 per cent of participants changing their spending in order to earn more cryptocurrency.

Deputy Premier and Minister for Skills and Small Business John Barilaro said the research project – the results of which are now in - was supported with a $14,996 TechVoucher grant from the NSW Government’s Boosting Business Innovation Program.

“The Boosting Business Innovation Program is providing $18 million to the state’s 11 universities – including $1.5 million to UNSW – and the CSIRO to work with businesses to support innovation,” Mr Barilaro said.

“The Boost program brings business and research brains together in one place to develop new ideas and opportunities, including through Techvoucher supported research projects,” he said.

LoyaltyX CEO Philip Shelper said participants in the UNSW trial earned a digital stamp for each purchase with10 stamps converting to $10 worth of Ether cryptocurrency.

“The research results have been extremely positive with students excited by being rewarded with cryptocurrency that can grow in value, providing a major opportunity to reinvent loyalty programs,” Mr Shelper said.

“Ether is a floating currency, and over the course of the trial participants saw their Ether balance increase in value by 30 per cent. Those that chose to keep their Ether rather than cash it in have seen a gain of over 450%. Cryptocurrencies could provide the first major advancement in loyalty program design since frequent flyer programs were launched in the early 80s.”

UNSW student Elly Jones said: "The loyalty program made it easy to get cryptocurrency for buying coffee or food. It was easier than using a loyalty card as you could just scan your phone.

Associate Professor Salil Kanhere of UNSW's School of Computer Science and Engineering said: “Through this trial we are conducting extensive research the results of which will guide the design of cryptocurrency based loyalty platforms in the future.”