Transforming Brand Loyalty

type - big idea
Big Idea
sector - retail
Ross Basri, co-founder of Uptop, explains how non-fungible tokens (NFTs) could transcend fluctuating popularity to create value-driven loyalty networks for smaller brands.

It is becoming harder and more expensive to acquire new customers. The privacy-driven moves of major tech companies such as Google and Apple are making customer targeting and tracking trickier. Industry estimates suggest customer acquisition costs increased by 60% in the past five years (source: BusinessWire). This is why building customer loyalty and retention is vital – but for smaller brands, building loyalty schemes that offer true value can be cost-prohibitive.

But what if technology could make customer loyalty more seamless, interoperable and easier to execute? That is the vision of Ross Basri and John Timoney-Gomez, co-founders of the blockchain start-up Uptop, which helps smaller brands launch NFT loyalty programmes.

‘Traditionally, only the most well-capitalised companies could afford the expense and difficulty of executing [loyalty] programmes,’ says Basri. ‘By powering customer loyalty with blockchain technology, Uptop is enabling a paradigm shift in the way modern companies will acquire and retain customers.’

Why NFTs could unlock new loyalty networks

‘The magic of blockchain technology is simple when you start from first principles – the blockchain is a transparent, shared back end, and essentially, this enables interoperability in a way that was impossible previously,’ says Basri.

He uses the example of an independent coffee shop collaborating with a neighbouring home goods store. Implementing a loyalty scheme, where a customer could earn points towards purchasing a washing machine, for instance, would have been too cost-prohibitive previously.

But, using NFTs, independent brands and retailers could build new loyalty networks. ‘Interoperability of [NFTs] means that the coffee shop across the street can easily verify your status at the home goods store. This is a massive value unlock for loyalty networks,’ he explains. ‘Merchants with high-value and low-frequency purchasing patterns [home goods] can tap into the programmes of companies with complementary purchasing behaviour and product mixes [coffee]. That home goods store wants a way it can stay top of mind with its customers even when it isn’t thinking about home goods. What better way than letting the customer earn points towards a large ticket purchase by enjoying their morning coffee?’


Published by:

9 May 2023

Author: Daniela Walker

Image: AI artwork by Samuel Davies for The Future Laboratory


Uptop, US

Taking NFTs from novelty to utility

Brands have been quick to jump on NFTs as a way to engage with their customers, but with every NFT launch that is considered a success there are headlines about NFT failures, such as Porsche’s NFT launch, which failed to see many of its tokens minted and resulted in the brand cutting the project short. While in 2021–2022 governments and brands jumped onto the NFT bandwagon, by spring 2023 they had started rolling back on this.

‘The biggest mistake we see in brand NFT strategies today is creating a pay-to-play experience that becomes centred around speculation,’ says Basri. ‘When was the last time you paid to be part of a loyalty programme in Web2? This sort of strategy only tends to alienate a brand’s most loyal customers, who end up feeling like they are being asked to pay over and above what they already spend at the brand to put them on an equal footing with the speculators who decide to purchase the NFT.’

He sees the potential in NFTs because they essentially act as ‘digital property rights’. This means they can act as a blank slate for whatever value a brand wants to give them. He argues that the strongest NFT loyalty programmes won’t be focused on paid digital assets, but will be ‘centred around earned assets that unlock deserved benefits for power customers’. Think of Starbucks’ Odyssey programme, where users collect journey stamps (which are NFTs) through various activities, such as purchasing a new drink. As they collect stamps, more rewards are unlocked.

‘Traditionally, only the most well-capitalised companies could afford the expense and difficulty of executing [loyalty] programmes’
Ross Basri, co-founder, Uptop

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