The long previewed points earning linkage between Woolworths and Qantas gets yet another media launch today, this time with a start date and some interesting extra spin.

Richard Umbers, the general manager of customer engagement for Woolworths says on the how-to-write-this story PR release:

“No other loyalty partnership operation in Australia currently offers customers the same opportunity to earn rewards, without the need to change their shopping habits or increase their spend.”

This is no longer the all conquering, lock up groceries and frequent flyers points, mega-retailing coup d’etat of all time (which of course it is).

It is all just “an opportunity”, even “the same opportunity”.

Petrol comes later. But from 22 June you get Qantas points on your Everyday Rewards card for any spend above $30. Later offers will be made for participating Caltex Woolworths co-branded fuel outlets, the BWS liquor chain, Big W and Dick Smith electronics stores.

Although the plan to create an umbrella loyalty program linking groceries, petrol, flights, liquor and other consumer goods is by far the most ambitious and wide ranging in Australia, it is also another nail in the coffin of print media because it will also be the largest direct data base marketing opportunity the country has ever seen.

It will create protective barriers for Woolworths to grocery competition from Aldi and Coles, for example, and for Qantas from Virgin Blue, Singapore Airlines and Tiger, and to the petrol majors from any independents left standing.

Qantas currently has 5.6 million members of its Frequent Flyer program. Those whose membership didn’t come “free” with a corporate account would have in recent years paid $82.50 to join.

However, those who join through the Everyday Rewards scheme don’t pay either. Whether or not Woolworths will pay for them, in full or at a bulk discount, remains to be seen, but it is quite possible the Qantas scheme, which the airline would like to float one day, could gain several million new members in the coming months. Qantas could also possibly pick up $100 million or more in fees paid for by its partner, which would be a big boost in a tough year for air travel.

Qantas recently diverted significant revenue on its existing card based loyalty schemes to its accounts from the likes of American Express and the banks by persuading some of its membership to use only its preferred card programs which sweep all points earned on non-flight goods and services purchased on credit directly into its program.

These loyalty streams are starting to look more like rivers of gold, for Qantas in particular, with the banks, newspapers and competitors all losers.

Peter Fray

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