Unlike many parts of retail, loyalty is an industry that hasn’t seen much innovation in recent years. Yet just like every other part of the sector, it’s facing a lot of change and challenge.

One of the biggest issues is the hidden £6billion of unspent rewards that are currently sitting on loyalty cards across the UK – a figure climbs to a staggering $360 billion globally. 

Pete Howroyd, Founder, Swapi

Why is this a problem? And what’s causing it? This dormant loyalty cash is a major headache for retail finance teams in terms of loyalty liability on their balance sheet. It’s also bad news for brands. The average UK adult holds £47 worth of unspent points across multiple cards, signalling inertia and a lack of engagement in the schemes they’re attached to. Research shows that people just don’t want what’s on offer, they belong to too many schemes, their points have expired or redemption is too complicated.

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Created to meet loyalty’s biggest challenges

These are the challenges that global loyalty expert and entrepreneur Pete Howroyd, who previously led loyalty programs for the likes of Harrods and Harvey Nichols, sat down to tackle at the start of the pandemic. Alarmed by the devastation the pandemic was bringing to many of the retail brands he has links to, he wanted to create a way to unlock some of this loyalty cash as fresh tender for the retail economy. In the process, he wanted to offer consumers a fresh and long overdue reboot of the traditional loyalty card system with flexibility and customer choice at its heart. All the while helping to reduce the problem of points liability for CFOs.

His ingenious solution is Swapi. Set to launch this summer, the Swapi mobile app is an industry-first ‘digital wallet’, allowing shoppers to swap their unspent loyalty points into rewards with other brands.

People simply sign up to consolidate all their cards and points in the Swapi app, and then they can choose where to spend them – switching unwanted points into tender to spend with the brands they love within the Swapi marketplace.

As Pete Howroyd explains: ‘Today’s customers hold all the power when it comes to where, how and when they shop. Swapi is meeting that consumer need in the loyalty sector, giving people control, flexibility and an incentive to spend their loyalty points in a way that hasn’t been done before.

‘It’s also a win for participating brands. It might seem counterintuitive, but for the brands that shoppers swap ‘from’, it’s actually a very positive message, since a customer is more likely to stick with a loyalty program if it’s flexible and gets them rewards with a wider range of products. For brands gaining new customers from the ‘swap’, Swapi boosts customer acquisition and provides a new source of revenue coming into the business.’

Unique points ‘swapping’ function at the heart of the app

Development in 2020 focused on creating the custom made technology at the heart of the app which will allow for the points swap function, built as a scalable microservices application that allows for a non ‘buying and selling’ model of loyalty points swapping, unique to Swapi. Pete has also built a team of tech and loyalty leaders to bring the app to market, including former Marks & Spencer loyalty lead Louise Hutchins, Saas expert Chris Mays and gift card industry leader Brian Dunn.

The early response from retailers and industry partners has been overwhelming positive. Pete continued: ‘When we took our first plans for Swapi out to the industry to get their feedback, we were blown away by how many businesses showed an interest at this early stage. Swapi is a simple idea but it’s a powerful one. Brands and partners have been quick to understand its potential to solve loyalty’s most urgent problems in one go. We’re confident that Swapi will be equally appealing for consumers, once they see the benefits of having one easy and flexible way to redeem loyalty rewards and put a bit of extra spending power in their pocket.

Find out more about Swapi’s game changing loyalty app at swapi.global