Designing the PINS app: a global loyalty program gone mobile

So what’s the deal?

We’ve all been in that situation while shopping — we could be getting more free stuff through a loyalty program, but registering is a big hassle. This situation repeats itself more than you would think — after all, we want our shopping experience to be as easy as possible, including how we spend any accumulated points. Fortunately, a new trend is emerging in loyalty programs, in which registration is a cinch and loyalty points can be earned and spent amongst a large variety of companies through one program. An example of this kind of program is PINS, a loyalty program based in Northern Europe which encompasses companies from airlines to cafes to clothes stores. PINS came to us, Redmadrobot, and asked to design and develop an app for them due to our experience in other mobile loyalty programs for large grocery chains and our focus on crisp design.

Challenges. We’ve got some work to do

A successful loyalty program is one that boasts a large amount of retail partners, and over 700 currently participate in PINS. With rapid growth in both the number of retailers and the number of customers using the service, PINS was faced with several challenges, including:

  1. Creating a scalable solution
  2. Increasing customer acquisition
  3. Ease of use (most users are older than average and not the most tech-savvy)
  4. Offering relevant rewards to customers
  5. Localization in multiple countries and languages

Our initial discussions with PINS revealed that ease of use was paramount, as their average user was a bit on the older side and not as familiar with the latest mobile technology. Fortunately, PINS had a detailed vision of how the app should function, and clear communication and planning up front ensured a smooth start to the project.

Maxim Dimitrenko, Project Manager, Redmadrobot

“From the initial stages, PINS worked very tightly with us. For example, at the design stage, we spent three times the usual efforts to ensure that everything was up to spec. Regarding project management, we approached this project with standard reverse planning in sprint models, and PINS was happy to see that we worked under these conditions.”

Customer acquisition. Registration is the key

We turned to our first challenge — customer acquisition. The trick here was to get new customers to use the PINS service, customers who had previously not known about the service but would see an offer in a store that would catch their eye. How to best convert this fleeting interest into an engaged customer? Make the registration as simple as possible.

Sergey Galtsev, Art Director, Redmadrobot

“We were faced with two challenges — on the one hand, it was important for the customer to register as quickly and simply as possible, but on the other, companies needed to receive a lot of information about each customer. We solved this by creating a two-tiered registration process: a customer can get a virtual card to scan at the cash register simply by downloading the app and registering a phone number, but additional registration information must be provided at a later point in order to redeem reward points.”

We also made a design tweak to make registration quicker: most apps have a registration process which consists of swiping between several screens, but we chose to create a single screen with interchangeable fields. Instead of the user switching between different screens, PINS brings all the fields directly to the user.

Goals and rewards. The good stuff!

For the user, the most important part of any loyalty program is the rewards. Everyone loves getting free stuff, and PINS was designed to make it not just easy but fun. We designed a central news feed which would display the kinds of rewards and special offers available based on factors such as geolocation and personal preferences.

Each shopping experience is unique, and so too should rewards be. Since PINS encompasses many different retailers, a smart user can rack up a large amount of points, which necessitates juicy rewards like free flights and iPhones. For this purpose we incorporated several gamification elements — a user can set a goal (for example, earning enough points for an iPhone) and visually track their progress towards it. In this case, leveling up means something even better than personal satisfaction.

Denis Alekseychuk, Business Analyst, Redmadrobot

“We designed the app so that current goals and offers would appear on the main screen in a news feed format. Making sure that the right offer got to the right customer presented a bit of a challenge, as each offer depended on a variety of factors such as the customer’s age, gender, and location as well as the specific time period of the offer. We therefore constructed our own middleware to handle the data exchange between the app and PINS’ CRM.”

The nuts and bolts

Our middleware came in handy when it came to PINS’ internationalization. The program is currently available in five different countries and six different languages, which meant that a boatload of localization was required. We tackled this problem by dividing the language settings into two parts, the interface (things like buttons and icons) and the content (offers, updates, and other longer texts). The interface language was chosen based on the language of the phone’s OS, and the app would base the language of the content on the interface language, not the location of the user. This meant that we could store all of the content in every language in our middleware, and simply send the relevant content to each user based on their personal language preferences — an Estonian user, for example, can travel throughout Russia yet receive offers from Russian partners in Estonian.

Apps which are released on both iOS and Android almost always have different interfaces to reflect the standards of each platform, but we wanted PINS to have a consistent appearance befitting a large, established loyalty program. As we were developing the app, Google had just updated its design standards to include Bottom Navigation, which is known as the Tab Bar in iOS. In our research, we had found that this kind of design transplant was unprecedented, but fortunately our developers were up to the challenge. Keep your eyes peeled — if you see this kind of design in the future, you’ll be one of the cool folks who knew it before it was popular :)

Jānis Zeps, Director of Digital Marketing and Rewards at PINS

“We are always looking for ways to save our customers time and enhance the loyalty experience; therefore, the PINS mobile app is now the fastest and easiest way to track your progress on the go. We have paid close attention to the preferences of our members, as well as analyzed the best examples of global practice. It has helped us to understand members’ wishes and come up with the best possible solution, which we are very proud of.”

Wrapping it up

All of these features were certainly good on their own, but when combined they made something even better. The technical structure of the app allows it to scale easily, especially regarding different companies and users across multiple countries.

The ease of use of this app greatly aids customer acquisition, as we designed it to be fully grandmother-friendly. Finally, the news feed and goal setting aspects of the reward system show the customer not only the most relevant rewards, but the promise of earning more. We certainly enjoyed meeting the challenges faced by PINS, and had fun in creating new solutions to these. Those wishing to indulge their inner shopaholic should definitely give PINS a try — but we have to warn you that going back to other apps might be a bit difficult ;)

The PINS app is live on App Store and Google Play.