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What’s the Deal with Uber Rewards?

Jeff Kreisler
Jeff Kreisler
Editor PeopleScience.com and Co-Author “Dollars and Sense”

I was invited to join Uber Rewards this morning. I admit some conflicting emotions. On the one hand, it’s nice to be wanted. On the other hand, as Groucho Marks famously said, “I don’t want to belong to any club that would accept people like me as a member.” I don’t have the cigar or wiggly eyebrows to complete the Groucho impersonation, but Uber has an iffy corporate reputation and do I really need another loyalty program and maybe I should walk more to combat Early Onset Dad Bod?

What to do? I, of course, looked to science and loyalty pros to at least understand why Uber is jumping into the rewards game. They did not disappoint.

According to experts in the fields of behavioral science and consumer loyalty, starting a loyalty and rewards programs is a smart move by Uber (and Lyft, which will also launch a loyalty program soon).

“The goal of loyalty is to create an emotional bond between the brand and consumer which will supersede the brain’s default desire to undergo a thorough rational analysis,” Evan Snively, Loyalty Strategist at Maritz Loyalty pointed out earlier on PeopleScience. “The result? Your brand’s product is always the right decision in the mind of the consumer. No further discussion necessary.” It’s also a great way to overcome other negatives associated with a brand, an issue that continues to plague Uber.

When given the choice between a traditional taxi or other service and an Uber, the loyalty program creates an emotional shortcut for the consumer who, feeling connected, will choose the loyalty over going through other analysis.

When given the choice between a traditional taxi or other service and an Uber, the loyalty program creates an emotional shortcut for the consumer.

In order to really drive that emotion connection home, Uber has wisely chosen to de-emphasize the financial rewards in their program. They exist, but they don’t appear to be the driver of the campaign.  Numerous studies show that non-monetary rewards have much greater emotional, motivational and incentivizing impact than monetary ones. This is because, in large part, they trigger a sense of identity, they validate our sense of intrinsic value, our sense of belonging to something special. “Diamond Level Uber,” “Executive Premier” and “Super Duper Global Extra Special First Class” are all ways to make us feel like kings of a very specific castle, the one that houses our brand. 

By launching a rewards program that meets customers where they are and fulfills their emotional needs Uber has positioned itself well.

JR Slubowski, Sr. Marketing Strategy Director at Maritz Loyalty, believes the shift to loyalty is a choice made to combat new entrants and existing direct competitors. Traditional taxi companies are improving the experience of using their services, which was a big differentiator for Uber & Lyft. Now, with that gap closing, Uber and Lyft are shifting from the experience to the reward.

Snively notes that this is a great opportunity for Uber to cross-sell and keep customers within their growing universe, which now includes Uber Eats. He’s right: The invitation I got today really pushed Uber Eats as a companion program.  

Snively also highlights in another PeopleScience piece that this type of program can create loyalty among younger consumers, who tend to be less brand loyal: 

“I wouldn’t say that younger generations are any less loyal than previous generations, they are just differently loyal. In fact, Maritz research has found that younger generations actually have a higher propensity for loyalty than their older counterparts and are more likely to be Resolutes in their consumption behavior. This stems from their tendency to create deeper personal connections with the select brands that they do choose to engage with. The tricky part is capturing their attention so that the relationship can begin to take root.”

So, by launching a rewards program that meets customers where they are and fulfills their emotional needs – key principles of behavioral design – Uber has positioned itself well to increase engagement and loyalty among existing riders, attract new, younger riders and fend off competition. 

There may be reasons not to like Uber, but, as this move shows, you cannot deny that they’re good at business. 

Editor’s note: I still haven’t joined. But I might.

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More PeopleScience thoughts on loyalty:

- From Kevin Brilliant of the Chicago Bulls on endowing progress and value in loyalty programs.

- From Barry Kirk, Vice President, Customer Loyalty Strategy, on liquidity of loyalty points, so that it’s not just cash.

Jeff Kreisler
Jeff Kreisler
Editor PeopleScience.com and Co-Author “Dollars and Sense”

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