Loyalty Tech Platforms w/ Jon Siegal
Patrick Tripp: Welcome to the PULSE, the Cheetah Product podcast. I'm Patrick Tripp, SVP of product marketing joined today by SVP of sales for Cheetah Digital, John Seagull. We're excited to have him finally and talk about John's background, his expertise in the industry, our unique approach to loyalty at Cheetah Digital. We'll also get into some new research that was published by Forrester research, as well as Loyalty360, and really talk about what it means out there for brands. So John, excited to dig into it.
John Seagull: Awesome, Patrick, great to be here with you.
Patrick Tripp: Welcome back to PULSE, the Cheetah Product podcast. We're here today with John Seagull. John, great to have you on.
John Seagull: Great to be here with you, Patrick.
Patrick Tripp: We've been trying to get you on for a while and we're excited to start our new fiscal year here in April. And that's no joke, it's April 1st. And that was a fantastic year for Cheetah Digital and a lot of momentum going into this year.
John Seagull: Yeah, absolutely. When you think of what's happened this last year with the pandemic and all the craziness associated with that, to have what has really been a record year for Cheetah Digital, is amazing.
Patrick Tripp: Yeah. Fantastic. Lot to cover today. But John, we always kick off with... PULSE is what's resonating in the market. And we often times keep a music theme going. I'm into all sorts of music, jazz and all kinds of stuff. What's pumping through your speakers right now, John, in your house?
John Seagull: I listen to a little bit of everything. I played the drums for many years growing up, so I've always kind of found, I listen to a lot of the bands that have really good drummers. I mean, growing up it was Led Zeppelin, it was one that I was very much into. But I listen to everything. I listen to more modern artists like The Weekend, like the Superbowl, hopefully everyone enjoyed the Superbowl.
Patrick Tripp: Yeah.
John Seagull: And everything in between. If you had to play welcome music for me, it would probably be ACDC, Hells Bells or crosstalk.
Patrick Tripp: Nice.
John Seagull: Probably.
Patrick Tripp: I think we can arrange that. Fantastic. Love it. Well, a lot to dig into today, John. You're an expert in the loyalty space and you have a long history. For the viewers out there, I'd love for you to give us a little bit of background on your career journey as you've kind of made your way to Cheetah Digital.
John Seagull: Yeah. I'd love to do that. Yeah, early in my career, I was one of the earlier employees at Siebel Systems. And if people aren't familiar with Siebel Systems, we created the CRM software category many years back. And there's a group of us that worked together there that eventually got back together in 2014 and created Cheetah Loyalty, what essentially is Cheetah Loyalty today. But when we were at Siebel, we helped grow that company from a startup to a multi- billion dollar business and actually built one of the first enterprise loyalty applications when we were there, which went on to power brands like Starbucks and Southwest Airlines and American Airlines and many, many more. So that was really my first focus and experience from a career standpoint in CRM and in loyalty. And as I said, when this group got back together in 2014, we decided there was a really big opportunity to re- imagine how consumer brands could interact with their customers. Because we went out and looked at what other solutions were doing and it was really quite scary, actually. You talked to CMOs and their level of dissatisfaction with their current provider was really high. And a lot of it had to do with the inflexibility of the systems and the costs, and they could just not get their ideas brought to life quickly enough. And so when we created Cheetah Loyalty, these were key ideas that we had in terms of problems we wanted to solve. And I think these are some of the things that have really led to the success we had this last year.
Patrick Tripp: Fantastic. Yeah. Cheetah Loyalty becoming a linchpin to our full customer engagement suite in our approach across the life cycle. We work with some of the world's largest brands, helping them really revitalize and reorganize their loyalty programs. Maybe you can talk a little bit about our unique approach at Cheetah and some of the key brands that we work with.
John Seagull: Definitely. I mean, I think a lot of what we've learned over the years is that many brands have put in loyalty programs and not really thought about," How do I do this in a way that creates a competitive advantage?" And many times they just, they think they need to do it and they check the box and they move on. And at Cheetah, we really see that loyalty journey and the loyalty tactics that brands can use is really a key component of an overall customer engagement framework. And so we have the customer engagement suite and it's really about how do we take every possible signal you can get about a customer and use that to motivate and reward behaviors and loyalty is a part of that. And I think that's very different from what other loyalty providers do where all they're thinking of is loyalty and in an isolated way from the rest of the business. And so I think it gives our solution far more capability in solving the bigger problem, which is how do I learn everything about a customer and motivate them as opposed to just the focus on tracking points and coupons and things that traditionally loyalty programs have done in isolation.
Patrick Tripp: Yeah, it's definitely moving beyond the traditional earning and burning and points management to really emotional loyalty and really creating that affinity with the brand across the entire life cycle and that's a unique focus for us. Maybe you can talk about some of the brands, I know we've had award winning loyalty programs among many of our customers.
John Seagull: Yeah. It's very excited about some of the clients we've had a chance to work with over the years and who've won awards. One in particular here in North America, Vans has been recognized numerous times for the Vans family loyalty program. Very proud of what they've accomplished. We have a great client in Europe that has won a number of awards inaudible group. They launched a new loyalty program with us and they're a very large retailer in Denmark. And the results they've seen had been outstanding. And so it's great to see not only the client relationships being built, but also seeing the clients see the benefit and then get recognized by their peers and others in the industry, it's really exciting.
Patrick Tripp: Yeah. And they're using some real innovative technologies to achieve that. So great exciting stuff. And we've been featured in some key market research recently as well. The Forrester wave for loyalty solutions just came out recently and we were listed as a strong performer there. The focus on that wave has shifted a little bit. Now. It is a heavy focus on those big agencies, those service bureaus and less of a focus on technology where we really shine is really one of the only independent tech platforms out there, but we'll make sure that folks have access to that research. But another one that just came out as well, right? Loyalty360's technology today industry report, which just published a very broad, comprehensive analysis. Actually, the broadest one I've seen in the market, really covering the full spectrum of solutions out there. And in fact, there's some interesting research, John, in there. It's a 52% of brands are considering replacing their loyalty tech stack in the next 18 months. I think that's similar to some of the challenges you've identified upfront around where brands are struggling with loyalty.
John Seagull: Absolutely. I mean, this was one of the key problems we set out to solve when we created Cheetah loyalty as part of the engagement suite. Which was we'd go out and talk to chief marketing officers and they were coming up with all these ideas on a daily and weekly basis and they could not get any of them brought to life because their current partner, the systems were so inflexible, it would take months or years, or hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars because most of those traditional platforms were not really built thinking about how we help the client continuously improve and innovate. They built some tech, they're more of a services business. Most of them aren't even self- service, you have to depend entirely on that third party provider to do all of the changes and the work for you. And so it creates a very costly proposition. And Cheetah on the other hand, really wants to give customers choice. So if you want to be self- service and want to manage it on your own and have access to your own data, we give you that choice. If you want to have a more full service relationship, we have people who can help you, but we at least give you the choice. And at the same time, the system was built to allow those ideas that you have to be very quickly implemented and brought to life because of the modernist and flexibility of the way we architected the solution. And you can't do that with these other solutions that have been around for a number of years, just because of the sheer limitation of how they were built and the cost to run them.
Patrick Tripp: Yeah, absolutely. And that's reflected in this research as well. Some of the key challenges, as you've mentioned, some inaudible identified in the research around changing expectations, the inexperience and lack of experts to manage the technology, the complexity around pricing and inconsistency and confusion that some of these vendors provide in the market really does make it difficult for buyers to decide on how to best invest in this technology. But the research does break out the categories of vendors pretty well, right? They do have an all in one category, they have tech with supporting services' category. There's a strategy category, as well as some of the ancillary complimentary technology. Cheetah is listed as an all in one solution, a mix of technology and services. And in fact, we've been identified as a preferred vendor, which really sets us among the best, among the broadest and the most comprehensive offerings out there. And are really able to compete and win against a number of these other vendors. Some of the key areas of the research, and we'll make this available at the end of the podcast, but things around program strategy, design, competitive benchmarking, market research, journey mapping, performance marketing, pricing, data management, which is a big part of a lot of this. And of course, campaigns and execution. But John, I mean, maybe you can help us summarize, what does this mean for marketers and brands out there that are trying to take advantage of loyalty programs?
John Seagull: Well, I mean, I think if you look into the research and even just taking a step back, I think we've all learned, especially this last year, that the strength of your digital connections and your connections to your customers is absolutely critical and it's a competitive advantage. And it's why you see in industry after industry digital transformations taking place because brands want to establish those strong connections. And if you want to achieve a competitive advantage, you need to have a solution and a partner that can help you continuously adapt and change as the world changes, nothing stays the same. And so anyone who invests in one of these monolithic providers, they're basically putting concrete blocks around their ankles and not allowing themselves to change over time. And so I feel like the research really brings to light the need to have a partner who can help you adapt and help you innovate so that you get the benefits of what your original intentions were, not just in the first few months of being alive, but over the life cycle of that relationship.
Patrick Tripp: Yep, absolutely. And for me, I really think of this as really empowering brands to really take back ownership of their programs, right? Being able to own their data, not have to rely on thousands of dollars of retainers to try to be able to access data and change programs. It's about owning your own program and defining how that should work and making it work best for your customers. Being able to leverage best in class technology to deliver on that and really help you create that emotional, that bond with the consumer in a way that's flexible and can be adaptable over time, as you mentioned. So great, great conversation, John. We'll make both of these reports available for folks they want to dig into and learn a little bit more about Cheetah's approach, but it was fun having you on and we'll talk to you more soon, John.
John Seagull: Thanks, Patrick.
Patrick Tripp: Awesome.
John Seagull: Good to be here again.
Patrick Tripp: Thank you.
Today on PULSE, Patrick Tripp hosts Jon Siegal. Jon is the SVP of Sales at Cheetah Digital and loyalty expert. You'll hear Jon talk about where he began and how that led to the beginning of Cheetah, starting with an idea to re-imagine how consumer brands can interact with their customers. Tune in now and listen to Patrick and Jon talk about the emergence of independent loyalty tech platforms in 2021.