Points, dollars, "beenz." Loyalty programs abound on the Web. But consumers who sign up for them may soon realize that it can take a while before they build up enough markers to be worth anything.
A few companies are trying to remedy that problem -- and pick up more customers in the process.
RocketCash Corp., an e-commerce site aimed at teens, has signed deals with CyberGold Inc., Beenz.com and InfoPost to allow consumers to convert currencies earned in those programs to dollars that can be spent at the RocketCash site.
The phenomenon should be familiar to anyone who has signed up for frequent-flyer miles or credit card reward programs. Every company has its own program, so people end up with lots of accounts, each with tiny balances.
RocketCash CEO Jeff Mason said the company's Currency Exchange program should alleviate that problem online.
"Today teens are participating in a lot of different sites and earning different rewards: points, beenz, CyberGold dollars," he said. "We started getting requests from teens asking 'How can I convert $3 or $4 I'm earning on different sites to RocketCash?'"
Consumers testing waters
RocketCash uses varying exchange rates to convert the points earned at other sites, and teens can spend it at any of the participating RocketCash merchants.
'We started getting requests from teens asking, "How can I convert $3 or $4 I'm earning on different sites to RocketCash?"'
- RocketCash CEO Jeff Mason
Reward programs have proven popular with online merchants, but consumers may still be testing the waters. The average consumer belongs to only three affinity programs both online and offline, said Melissa Shore, an analyst at Jupiter Communications in New York.
That means there will probably be more programs like these, which allow consumers to consolidate some of their earnings.
"The smaller programs will have to do more of this switching to survive ... and develop 'intercurrencies.' Larger programs will try to develop more relevance on their own," Shore said. Larger programs such as Netcentives and MyPoints will partner online and offline, she said.
Let the deal-making begin
Those partnerships have already begun. In January, America Online Inc. took out a stake in Netcentives and agreed to use its technology to combine its AOL Rewards program with American Airlines' AAdvantage program.
Last month MyPoints signed a deal with Catalina Marketing Corp. that would allow consumers to earn online points at grocery stores.
"As the programs become more relevant, the consumer interest in adding another program decreases," Shore said.