The UK’s largest loyalty scheme, Nectar, was facing a series of challenges. The loyalty landscape had completely changed since the brand’s inception in 2002, with multiple new competitors bringing new business models. Nectar itself was moving away from an expensive printed coupon business to a digital service, while updating its legacy back-end systems.
There was also a desire to deliver more of the value offered by its broad coalition of partners and shift user behaviour from relatively passive card swiping to more considered and more frequent engagement. ustwo was tasked with bringing user centred product thinking and Lean/Agile methodologies while designing and building a new app and leading the web team with mobile-first design.
Initially, we embedded our team within Nectar to learn as much about the business as possible. This project was about something much more than a new app – it was about engaging with a business in transformation and assisting that change. The sheer scale of Nectar, with nearly 20 million users, and the complexity of over 500 brand partners meant we needed to quickly learn as much as possible about customers’ attitudes and interactions with partners and their offers.
Our first step was to throw ourselves into long-form interviews, and offer testing with users, to learn about their behaviours and motivations. We realised that to get the product right, the way offers are articulated had to change. Our guidelines called “What makes a good offer?” shared insight into how users scan for value, advised on language and word counts, and showed how clear, simple offer redemption mechanics were almost as important as the offer itself.
ustwo developers and designers brought a new way of working plus new tools to the Nectar design and development teams, helping them to be faster, more effective, and more focused on user needs and insights. This was a huge learning curve for an organisation still expecting to be able to share wireframes with its partners months in advance. We helped shift the focus to value and outcomes rather than feature lists.
As the project progressed we became aware of further challenges facing the business and realised that we could bring extraordinary value beyond building the app itself by helping Nectar to become a more product-centred organisation. We embarked on a consulting phase where we helped reset the purpose and vision for each of Nectar’s digital channels, and specially tailored a suite of new product development tools for their needs.
We also worked to bring a new approach to product ownership, vision and management. We created the first ever holistic picture of Nectar using a service blueprint, bringing together all their digital channels, human contact, and partner contributions to form a new understanding of customer experience and what it takes to create it. We integrated this with product tools, such as a modified User Story Map to surface upcoming features to all their teams in an easy to understand format. It also provided a summary and focal point to talk through the program with both existing and upcoming brand partners.
It’s incredibly hard to make necessary changes when you have been so successful. Nectar has become fully embedded in many users’ shopping habits, and while perhaps simple on the surface, the loyalty scheme is in fact part of a complex ecosystem of partners and rewards. So Nectar was expecting a negative response from users of the previous app which had a wider feature set. It’s not been an easy journey. But by some key metrics, the app has helped Nectar achieve its goals. Downloads doubled from 2 to 4 million. A key goal of this transformation was to encourage redemption of points outside the core partner brands because users can get much higher value this way and this has had some big successes for the business. For example, redemptions of an offer where users paid for a product with their points far outperformed a rival loyalty scheme that offered the same product for free.
We are very proud of our impact on Nectar’s product mindset. After our engagement and based on our conversations over 9 months with senior management, the company restructured around its products, empowering its teams to drive decisions combining user insight and partner needs.
The business now has clarity regarding the role and requirements of its product owners. ustwo had developed a suite of integrated tools tailored for Nectar and these have also been adopted throughout the organisation. The business has embraced a newly defined set of Principles, Goals, and Purpose for each product. Their evolving Service Blueprint highlights upcoming features in all channels, enabling a shared understanding that breaks down silos and exposes a common purpose. The offer guidelines we wrote are now also firmly embedded in the organisation because as their product manager says, “they are proved to be right again and again in all our user testing.”
While we’ve helped businesses transform through product many times in the past, this is the first time we have offered a formal consulting phase to cement this transformation, providing tools and processes to empower the organisation to evolve itself into the future.