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September 2013

Loyalty Innovation in Other Industries, Global

The Goal

As Canada’s first earn-per-ride program, Metrobus’s m-Points proved that loyalty strategies could succeed on mass transit. But after six years, and with flat ridership growth, Metrobus felt it should make inroads into new markets. So in May 2012, it partnered with Canada’s Air Miles Reward Program with the goal of increasing ridership by 2.5% to 3% in one year.

The Initiative

Metrobus and Air Miles knew that the program’s success depended on the strength of their partnership, and that meant making the most of each organization’s core strengths. Metrobus realized, for instance, that managing a loyalty program was an onerous undertaking, and it would benefit from outside expertise. Air Miles, with 10 million members and 80% penetration rate in the Metrobus Canadian community, already had that expertise, as well as national recognition and a network of more than 100 merchant partners.

Together, the two parties launched a joint campaign that leveraged Air Miles brand awareness with Metrobus’s service, by offering one reward mile for every two taps of a passenger’s m-card on Metrobus. The plan was to eventually eliminate m-Points in favor of Air Miles reward miles.

To get the word out, Metrobus and Air Miles developed an integrative communications strategy that exercised both Air Miles’s and Metrobus’s multiple channels. This included messaging on TV, newspaper, radio, in bus shelter posters and on the buses, as well as targeted communications to Air Miles members via email and on its Facebook fan page. They also got the word out through public relations campaigns that attracted coverage on regional television and radio.

The Results

With help from Air Miles, Metrobus was able to fill the aisles. It recorded a 6% gain in 2012 ridership – beating expectations. Online purchases of m-Cards rose 54% from 2011, and m-Card use rose 10%, enriching Metrobus’s database. Lastly, 44% of Metrobus riders opted into earning Air Miles reward miles instead of m-Points in the first year following the launch. Metrobus is now running a promotion to help increase ridership during the low season.

2013 COLLOQUY Loyalty Award: Metrobus from St John's Transportation