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The watchword in retailing these days seems to be partnerships and, in the world of loyalty marketing, the alliance between MasterCard and shopping app shopkick is bringing a new dimension to the concept of retail rewards and customer service.

Launched in late June, it enables cardholders to earn rewards and special offers called Kicks, a proprietary reward currency, when their cards are linked to the Buy & Collect program at shopkick.

The core of the mobile app is the “shopkick Signal,” which detects when customers are in partner stores and automatically credits rewards to their account. “As showrooming becomes more of a threat to physical stores, shopkick and MasterCard can help retailers retain customers by offering rewards for in-store purchases,” says Cyriac Roeding, co-founder and CEO of shopkick.

For MasterCard, this is the latest development in two decades of managing loyalty and rewards programs, which now include:

• Borderlinx: A collaboration between MasterCard and Borderlinx to facilitate international e-commerce.

• MasterCard Easy Savings: Providing small businesses with automatic rebates on eligible purchases and a loyalty program which now consists of about 40,000 retail locations.

• MasterCard Marketplace: A social network site that allows consumers and small business cardholders to see hundreds of deals in a wide range of categories.

• MasterCard Relationship Rewards: Giving cardholders the chance to earn rewards based on the number of cards held, transactions made and monthly services used.

• MasterCard Selection: A partnership with more than 400 luxury companies in Russia where cardholders can get up to 50 percent discounts on high-send goods and services.

• MasterCard Surpreenda: A Latin American program with more than one million cardholders. The program combines high-value assets with emotional appeal to drive loyalty for 35 well-known brands like Black & Decker, Lego and Bulgari.

In discussing the shopkick program, MasterCard vice president of commerce solutions Andrea Gilman says consumers don’t necessarily want better loyalty programs but are increasingly looking for new elements.

“In addition to a rewarding experience, they want something that is simple and fun,” she says. “A lot of loyalty marketers are focusing on that, and shopkick is a good example. Our cardholder solutions group has focused on customer loyalty for years. But part of our strategy is to work with companies that focus directly on merchants.”

While hard numbers have yet to be released, results of the program with shopkick have been encouraging. “We’re very pleased both in terms of [the] number of consumers linking their cards and what we’re hearing through the social channels,” Gilman says, noting that partnerships with other firms are likely. “We have enabled this technology specifically to support additional partners.”

Could the program reduce showrooming and get more people to buy at the stores? “We’ll see,” Gilman says. “We want to work with our merchants and help them achieve their marketing strategies. We’ve heard this is a way to reduce that effect and we’ll be looking at the results to see how it plays out.”

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