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A Deeper Dive into the World of Apple Loyalty and Its Philosophy

When the Apple Card was first announced, most critics shrugged at its seemingly mundane perks. While it’s true that the incentives and rewards offered are nothing unique in the world of credit cards, we may have been too quick to jump on the judgment bandwagon. Taking a step back and looking at how this plays into all of its new services, the larger Apple ecosystem and the company’s overall loyalty philosophy paints a somewhat different picture.

 If you missed the Apple Card announcement the first time around in March, it came alongside the introduction of several other services coming down the pike this year. First was Apple News+, a premium magazine subscription service that will recommend new issues based on your interests and reading history. Next, a new Apple TV promising to put all your subscriptions, channels and add-ons into one place. Building on from there was Apple TV+, which is essentially Apple’s version of Netflix or Hulu and will come complete with original film and television content built by big names you might recognize – like Spielberg. Finally, Apple Arcade, another new subscription service helping consumers to find premium games, all of which are exclusive to Apple. 

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As we know, Apple is taking data and privacy seriously with Apple Card. As they say, “Even Apple doesn’t know what you bought. Or where. Or how much you paid.” That means purchase information won’t be used to advertise to you or personalize your offers in any of the usual ways we see from credit card companies. 

But here’s where Apple’s advantage lies. It isn’t just another credit card company – it has its own products and services ecosystem. And that means it can build overall user experiences in ways that other companies can’t. 

Even without knowing SKUs, locations and spending, Apple can leverage its expanding network of products and services to deliver unexpected perks. For example, just like a Star-Belly Sneetch, Apple can create different in-store or online experiences for people that use the Apple Card compared to those that lack one. It could provide surprise incentives like free movies, magazines, games or discounts for people that use their card to buy three or more items on Apple TV+. To be clear, we’re not saying these perks exist, but they could easily be done, unpublicized, just for the coolness factor – kind of like an Apple-insider Easter egg. 

For the consumer, the ability to get not only services but also perks seamlessly already means buying more Apple stuff. The opportunity to obtain a new “insider” status would mean journeying forward into the Apple ecosystem and ultimately becoming more loyal to the company, its devices, and services. The question is, what’s the likelihood that Apple takes this type of approach? 

During its most recent earnings call on April 30, Apple reported slumping iPhone sales (largely blamed on reduced sales in the China region). Its services revenue however which currently includes things like app sales, grew 16.2% to $11.45 billion.

Based on these numbers alone, it’s easy to see why Apple would look towards cross-product and ecosystem promotion opportunities. It would be foolish to ignore an opportunity to expand its footprint in a market that appears increasingly saturated with its devices. 

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In the interest of full disclosure, I have no inside track at Apple and the company hasn’t stated plans to take this covert loyalty approach anywhere directly. However, that is the direction the most progressive brands are heading when it comes to loyalty programs. Just look at Uber Rewards, which yes, includes pre-announced perks, but also dishes out many of them at unexpected moments for the consumer. Apple is a company notorious for its “surprise and delight” approach to customer loyalty (prominently touted by an Apple PR veteran in his tenure postmortem), so a similarly furtive rewards structure would fit perfectly with the company’s ethos. Covert product leaks and the famous “one more thing” announcements no longer take customers by surprise, but unpublicized loyalty measures can easily fill that void. 

As they stand, Apple’s loyalty perks may not “wow” in the traditional sense. The company’s strength, however, is in the way it’s upending and modernizing the user experience. From that perspective, it’s easy to imagine a near future where it plays new services like the Apple Card, Apple News+, Apple TV+ and Apple Arcade off of one another in order to find fresh engagement tactics. We’ll just have to wait, see and hopefully, enjoy the benefits. If there’s one company to “Think Different” about loyalty, my money is on Apple.

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