Loyalty scheme offers points for clicking on Web sites

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LONDON -- A customer loyalty scheme is to offer reward points to U.K. cardholders merely for visiting the Web sites of participating companies and clicking on special flashing credits.

Holders of the card - branded Smart - will be able to collect cyber points from the sites of seven U.K.-based businesses, including Shell, UCI Cinemas and Victoria Wine, which can then be used to redeem gifts or free cinema tickets. Before now, cardholders have only been able to earn points by buying goods or services from Smart members.

A subsidiary of Shell U.K., but run as a separate business unit, Smart launched in the U.K. last March, claiming to be the first multi-partner customer loyalty scheme operated via a single card. So far, it has 10 companies signed up and running the program in Scotland. It is slated to roll out nationwide over the next year, with new partners soon to be announced. Ultimately, the aim is for customers to collect Smart points on 70% of their weekly shopping.

Smart Manager Gary Anderton, who believes the scheme may be the first in the world to offer loyalty points on Web sites, predicts that they may become a new currency. The rationale behind Smart's cyber offering is to recruit new cardholders and to make them aware of the many partners involved in the Smart scheme before it launches across the whole country.

Smart claims to be the leading card- based loyalty program in Europe, with more than four million card holders in the U.K. and France. However, cyber Smart points are not currently available to those in France.

The extension of the scheme into cyberspace comes at the same time as the launch of the Shell U.K. Web site, designed in conjunction with H&K Netcoms, the new media division of PR consultancy Hill & Knowlton.

The site includes the latest TV ads for Shell's Select convenience stores, a cartoon game about finding oil, a routeplanner (including details of Shell service stations along the way) and "speeches" from management. "We're featuring some of our people and aiming to get across something that might have been forgotten a bit in recent years - that Shell has a sense of humor," says Fran Morrison, Shell U.K. media and communications manager.

Copyright November 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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