Rewards Case Study: Verizon Up Rewards

August 28, 2018
Verizon Up Rewards - Banner

Everybody loves having a cellphone, but nobody likes paying for it.  In an effort to soothe the sting, Verizon created Verizon Up. Verizon Up is an online only rewards program that puts an emphasis on giving their customers rewards that they actually want.


In order to find out whether that goal was met, let’s take a closer look at Verizon Up to determine if it rings true or whether customers should hang up the phone on this rewards program.

 

Where Verizon Up rewards ring true

As one of the top 20 largest companies in the US, Verizon has the firepower necessary to make a truly appealing and rewarding program. From the way it looks to the rewards they offer, they’ve set the stage for a program that can deliver a truly rewarding customer experience.

Eye catching explainer page

As soon as you land on the Verizon Up page, you’re hit with an eye-catching banner video that flashes images of iced coffee, phones, shoes, and Justin Timberlake concerts. Each of these act as a way to show you exactly why you should sign up to the program: to get rewards you really, really want.

Verizon Up Rewards - coffee shoes concerts

This short video is extremely powerful for a number of reasons. For starters, it’s a highly effective way to show off the program in a way that is easy to understand. It also promises  customers a ton of additional value for joining, acting as a clear hook to the program. Finally, the video looks slick and polished, which is exactly what you would expect a media giant like Verizon to put together.

Verizon Up Rewards - Super Ticket to see Maroon 5

Besides looking good, the Verizon Up explainer page is a fantastic example of what it means to appeal to your target audience. Verizon understands that their customers are a bit younger with an interest in pop culture, and the rewards they highlight emphasize this fact.  

As you scroll down the page, you’re shown a slideshow of some of the concert rewards that customers can earn, including Justin Timberlake, Luke Bryan, and Maroon 5. In addition, each slide tells you a bit more about these “Super Ticket” luxury experiences, including the chance to get VIP treatment at other select events.

By putting their best rewards front and centre, Verizon makes it easy for their customers to understand why they need to join the program. Customers want to know what’s in it for them, and with this explainer page members will quickly know they are in for a treat.

Benefits start immediately after joining

One of the best ways to make a rewards program valuable is to make rewards easy to earn. For every $300 a Verizon Up member spends on their phone bill, they receive one credit. That credit is then redeemable for a reward — any reward you want!

Verizon Up Rewards  - turn bills to thrills Apple Music, HBO, Concerts, Startbucks

The best part is that you’re given 1 credit immediately, without having to pay a dime. So not only do customers earn a reward quickly, but they also earn good rewards. Unlike many other points-based programs, Verizon Up lets customers redeem credits on a one to one ratio. That means they can choose any reward they’d like, regardless of their value!

With an expansive rewards catalog at their fingertips, Verizon Up customers can choose the reward that’s perfect for them. For some that might be gift cards for Starbucks or Amazon, while others go right for top tier rewards like concert tickets and event passes.  

This process is made even more enjoyable by the scarcity principle. Each of these high-ticket items only have a limited number available, which means members have to be logged in when the reward becomes available in order to snag one of those valuable tickets. This “lottery” system adds a unique element of gamification to the program that makes earning and redeeming credits a lot more engaging.

With an earning and redeeming system like this, Verizon Up is a fantastic example of the magic of welcome points. By giving each of their members significant value right out of the gate, they make members feel appreciated and motivated to continue participating in the program.

Great mix of transactional and experiential rewards

By far the greatest plus to the Verizon Up program is the amazing luxury reward catalogue they offer. Whether you’ve got elaborate or simple tastes, Verizon’s mix of small and extravagant rewards is sure to have something that appeals to every customer.

 

 

This is a perfect example of a program that understands how to balance transactional and experiential rewards.  By letting users choose to cash in credits for discounts or take a chance to receive a Super Ticket reward, Verizon Up members get to experience a wide variety of perks that offer them immediate, tangible value or an experience they will never forget.

As if this wasn’t great enough, Verizon has also designed their program to track what type of rewards each member prefers. By looking at what kinds of rewards they’ve redeemed in the past, Verizon Up can tailor future reward offerings to each each member’s individual taste. This creates an exceptionally personalized experience that makes each customer feel recognized for their specific needs and guarantees they find value in the program every step of the way.

These features come together to make sure Verizon Up members can take advantage of day to day value while also keeping them excited for what the next big event might be.

 

Where Verizon Up gets a dial tone

Even though the program may seem fantastic, it’s not all sunshine and roses once you take a closer look at the details.

Program details are hard to find

While their explainer page may look amazing, it offers very little information beyond the banner video and stylized reward images. In order to fully understand the ins and outs of how the program works, I had to dig into the FAQ’s — a page that is not only boring to look at but also forces me to click through a series of answers that aren’t very clearly laid out.

Verizon Up Rewards - Frequently asked questions

This created an incredibly mismatched experience from the polished, high quality imagery and design that went into the main program page. For a massive, brand-minded organization like Verizon, I would have expected them to build more of the experience around the rest of their explainer page — not make me read a wall of text just to learn what I already knew.

 

Even more troubling is the fact that, as a non-member, it is impossible for me to see what rewards are currently being offered. In order find out I would have to register as a Verizon customer, install the My Verizon app, and then opt into the Verizon Up program. Until that point, there is nowhere for me to see what rewards are currently available or what Super Ticket events are up for grabs.

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These things lead me to believe that the program needs to completely revamp their explainer page in order to make it truly effective.. By critically assessing what information is presented and how, they could draw even more members to the Verizon Up program and turn it into a true community-building tool as opposed to just another piece of their retention strategy. 

Rewards have a short lifespan

As I mentioned earlier, reward credits are earned for every $300 members spend on their monthly bills. The problem is that these credits expire after only 60 days and this information is buried in the FAQ fine-print.

Verizon Up Rewards  - Why did I lose credit 60 day expiry FAQ

If there are currently no rewards that appeal to you, you have no choice but to either choose one anyways or completely lose the reward. This wouldn’t be so bad if Verizon Up didn’t track which rewards each member are redeeming. It’s a great feature until customers are forced to pick rewards they have no real interest in. By setting them up to see more rewards they probably don’t want in the future, a vicious cycle of discontent is established.

On top of that, the rewards themselves have an expiry date. So not only do members have to cash in their credits for invaluable rewards, but they also only have a limited time to use that unwanted reward before it is lost forever.

While points expiration can motivate members to stay engaged in a rewards program, they should never feel trapped or rushed by the expiration window. That’s one of the best ways to demotivate customers and encourage them to disengage from the program. In this situation, Verizon Up customers are clearly getting the short end of the stick.

Customer information is up for sale

In a world where data protection is such a hot topic, this is definitely the biggest downside to the Verizon Up program. A large number of tech and media outlets have reported on the terms and conditions of joining Verizon Up, outlining that members need to opt into the Verizon Selects program in order to join.

Verizon Up Rewards - Verizon Selects customer data collection sources

While this might sound innocent enough, the Verizon Selects program allows Verizon to first collect a pile of information like location data, web history, and shopping preferences from users’ mobile devices and then share (or sell) that information with other companies.  Invasions of privacy like this are one of the best ways to breaks a user’s trust, making it no surprise that Verizon hasn’t made it onto the list of the 100 most trustworthy companies.

Since  91% of customers are willing to buy or recommend a brand they find authentic, companies should be striving to show more authenticity, not less. Concepts like authenticity and trust are the pillars of building a sustainable online community, and without it even big brands like Verizon may soon find themselves scrambling to retain customers.

 

Should you hang up on Verizon Up rewards?

While the high value of Verizon Up’s experiential rewards will probably be enough to make the program a winner for existing Verizon customers, the extreme difficulty to find information about the program or see what rewards are currently available makes it very hard for new customers to find value in it. Combine this with the fact that none of the best rewards are a guarantee and you’d be hard-pressed to find a customer willing to switch cell phone providers just to try their luck at scoring free tickets to their next concert.

Ultimately the fast reward expiry, coupled with the overall brand untrustworthiness from the not-so-secret data collection policy depreciates the value of Verizon Up’s awesome rewards, especially when their privacy is up for sale.  

While Verizon is no longer asking “Can you hear me now?,” we simply don’t like what they have to say.

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