Thushanee Illangakoon: Initiating Loyalty Programmes for School Alumni

May 06 2024.

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The Metho OGA Loyalty Programme is a groundbreaking initiative conceived by Thushanee Illangakoon, an esteemed alumna of the school. Thushanee who works as a Director at Talos Consulting (Pvt) Ltd had a vision which was simple yet profound: to forge a strong bond among former pupils while providing them with tangible rewards through discounts and benefits. Since its inception, the programme has garnered widespread appreciation, fostering a sense of community and pride among alumni. Now, with ambitious plans on the horizon, including the introduction of a digital loyalty card, the Metho OGA aims to revolutionize alumni engagement further. As the programme continues to thrive, it serves as a beacon of inspiration, paving the way for other educational institutions to follow suit and strengthen their ties with past alumni.

Q WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO CREATE THIS LOYALTY PROGRAMME FOR PAST STUDENTS OF YOUR SCHOOL? I was reappointed to the Methodist College OGA committee as the registrar in 2020. As we all collectively recall this was at the height of the pandemic and I wanted to provide OGA members with tangible benefits and rewards for their membership; to incentivize and recognize their loyalty to the alumni in those challenging circumstances. After discussing and deliberating my idea of a loyalty programme with the then secretary Mrs. Sashika Liyanage and her successor Ms. Ranjula Mendis we launched our Metho OGA Loyalty Programme in Dec 2021 with the first set of loyalty offers.

Q WHAT  SETS IT APART FROM OTHERS IN THE MARKET? The Metho OGA loyalty programme offers a monetary benefit through discounts or special rates for our members on products and services from various establishments. Additionally, given the timing of our programme launch just after the COVID-19 pandemic, we decided to support a wider national cause by encouraging our members to patronize institutions especially SMEs and cottage industries. This initiative aimed to uplift businesses, increase foot traffic, enhance engagement, and generate word-of-mouth marketing.

Q HOW DOES THE LOYALTY CLUB PROGRAMME AIM TO FOSTER A SENSE OF COMMUNITY AMONG ALUMNI? Alumni often form valuable networks that can benefit both the school and its past pupils. By creating a loyalty programme, the OGA aims to foster connections among alumni, facilitating professional networking among its members and also providing an opportunity for our very own entrepreneurs to market their businesses among our member network.

Q CAN YOU SHARE ANY SUCCESS STORIES OR MEMORABLE MOMENTS SINCE LAUNCHING THE LOYALTY PROGRAMME? One of the key success stories occurred in 2023 when a couple of establishments approached us, requesting to host a special offer for our members instead of us reaching out to them. This was a memorable moment and a measure of the success of the hard work we put in as a team since 2020.

Q WHAT STRATEGIES DO YOU EMPLOY TO ENCOURAGE CUSTOMER ENGAGEMENT AND PARTICIPATION IN THE LOYALTY PROGRAMME? We focus on regular communication of the exclusive offers of the loyalty programme through various channels such as email, and social media channels to incentivize enrollment. We have kept our enrollment simple and easy – when you become an OGA member, your membership card automatically makes you entitled to the ongoing loyalty offers. 

Q HOW DO YOU ENVISION THE LOYALTY PROGRAMME BENEFITING BOTH ALUMNI AND THE SCHOOL ITSELF? Alumni support can come in various forms, such as donations, volunteering, or advocating for the school. A loyalty programme provides a platform to encourage and channel such support from its members and its partners towards the school's initiatives, projects, and fundraising efforts.

Q WHAT UNIQUE FEATURES OR BENEFITS DOES THE LOYALTY PROGRAMME OFFER TO ITS MEMBERS? So far we have secured a wide range of exclusive offers from Dining and Entertainment, Clothing, Beauty Care, Gift items, Lifestyle offers, Kids products and Hotel stays to name a few, by our partners which are made available either as a year-round offer or as a seasonal offer. Data analytics has helped us to identify the type of benefits and rewards which are most appealing to our alumni. Continually evaluating the redemption of benefits helps us tailor and refine our offerings to meet the specific preferences of different alumni segments. Women's Day and the School's Birthday, by planning our loyalty offer launches around these impactful days.

Q HOW DO YOU PLAN TO KEEP ALUMNI ENGAGED AND CONNECTED THROUGH THE LOYALTY PROGRAMME? Apart from the year-round and seasonal offers, we keep the alumni engaged and connected by hosting exclusive access events such as “Indulgence Days“at various establishments that provide an informal networking event and opportunity for alumni members to connect with each other.

Q HAVE THERE BEEN ANY CHALLENGES IN ESTABLISHING AND MANAGING THE LOYALTY PROGRAMME SPECIFICALLY FOR ALUMNI, AND HOW HAVE YOU ADDRESSED THEM? Low initial engagement presented a challenge, which we addressed with a compelling promotional campaign that highlighted the benefits of the programme. Another key challenge was maintaining interest over time but with regular communication and increasing the number of tailored offerings to suit alumni preferences significantly helped us overcome this challenge.

Q HOW DOES DATA ANALYTICS PLAY A ROLE IN SHAPING THE OFFERINGS AND REWARDS OF THE LOYALTY PROGRAMME? Our loyalty programme commemorates special days for ladies and alumni such as ‘International Data Analytics has helped us to identify the type of benefits and rewards which are most appealing to our alumni. Continually evaluating the redemption of benefits helps us tailor and refine our offerings to meet the specific preferences of different alumni segments. Additionally, it enables us to request repeat offerings from popular vendors that are highly preferred by our members. Analytics also provides us with insights into the effectiveness of the loyalty programme, enabling us to make informed decisions, improve personalization, and enhance overall engagement with alumni.

Q HOW DO YOU INCORPORATE FEEDBACK FROM ALUMNI TO CONTINUOUSLY IMPROVE AND EVOLVE THE LOYALTY PROGRAMME? By actively soliciting and incorporating feedback from alumni through various channels such as email, social media, focus groups and direct communication with committee members, as well as reviewing analytics related to alumni engagement, participation rates, benefit redemption, and more.

Q ARE THERE ANY UPCOMING EVENTS OR INITIATIVES PLANNED FOR MEMBERS OF THE LOYALTY PROGRAMME? We have launched the 2024 collection of loyalty offers, both annual and seasonal, in collaboration with International  Women's Day.

Q FINALLY, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO OTHER SCHOOLS OR EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS CONSIDERING IMPLEMENTING A SIMILAR LOYALTY CLUB PROGRAMME FOR THEIR ALUMNI? A few key things - understand and identify what matters most to your alumni community. Start small, scale up, you can gradually expand over time. Provide tangible benefits and rewards that appeal to your alumni.

Q WHAT OTHER PLANS DO YOU HAVE IN THE OFFING? Our next step would be to explore a collaboration with a supermarket chain and eventually graduate to an exclusive co-branded digital loyalty card.  

(Pix courtesy Thushanee)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tina Edward Gunawardhana

Tina Edward Gunawardhana is a journalist specialising in travel, fashion, lifestyle, cuisine and personalities. She is also the Deputy Editor for Hi!! Magazine. An intrepid traveller, she likes to show readers the world through her eyes and experiences. Follow her on Facebook,¬†Twitter and Instagram - tinajourno [email protected]

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