M Rewards, a consumer reward scheme offering free mobile phone airtime, is described
by leading IT analysts Gartner as a "world first".
The company behind it, M Cashback Ltd, chose iMeta as its strategic technical partner
to build a solution that links retailers, mobile operators and brand manufacturers
with their consumers.
M is the brainchild of Bob Cooper, a former executive director at Sainsbury's. Bob’s
operational team includes Tom Vadaboncoeur, former European vice-president for Coca-Cola.
M rewards work as follows:
- Any supermarket consumer who buys certain promotional products at a participating retailer is entitled to airtime credits on their mobile phone, whether pay-as-you-go or contract. For example: "buy this coffee brand and get £1 worth of airtime on your mobile phone free."
- At the checkout, the consumer pays for the product. iMeta’s software built into the till identifies the product and calculates the amount of airtime credit the shopper is entitled to.
- The till prints a unique top-up code on the consumer’s receipt together with instructions on how to use the code.
- When ready to claim, the consumer follows the instructions and sends a text message with the top-up code to M’s clearing centre.
- At the clearing centre, the software checks that the reward has not been claimed before; works out which network operator the consumer’s phone number belongs to; and then contacts the appropriate network operator to add the airtime credit to the consumer’s mobile phone account.
- M sends a "thank you" text and acknowledgement to the consumer.
Revenues come from the branded goods manufacturers who pay M a handling fee in addition
to funding the cost of the airtime.
The scheme was launched on leading brands such as Nestlé and Gillette in over 250
supermarkets in Indonesia, and will be extended to other Asian and European countries
over the coming months.
Supporting each of these launches is M’s IT platform, which has been developed and
built by a nine-strong team, led by Dr Adrian Roe, iMeta’s Director of Mobile.
"There were many challenges we faced when creating the IT to support the concept,"
he said. "We needed to interact across retailers, mobile operators and brand manufacturers
as well as their consumers, and have a secure, scalable platform capable of handling
millions of transactions every day.
"In many of the countries where we are launching, the retail environment is pretty
hostile to IT. Tills are not connected to head office in real time and there are
many different till standards. We had to ensure the operating system software would
be compatible with any standard electronic point-of-sale system.
"With the mobile operators, we found that most handle top-ups in round figures.
But if a consumer purchases more than one product offering free airtime, the final
amount may be an odd number. So we needed to be able to provide consumers with credits
for any amount.
"And we needed to give the brand manufacturers access to valuable data about who
their consumers are. This means they can begin to use the data to have a one-to-one
relationship with their consumers and send them more offers, such as virtual money-off
coupons for related products they may not currently buy," said Adrian.
Reduced costs and risk
The basis of the solution was the proven metaCore product, that provides an environment
in which a solution is built from the business users' definition of the business
"Using metaCore meant we delivered an efficient project with high levels of reuse
and reduced timescales, costs, risk and maintenance," commented Adrian.
Tim Cornell, managing director of M Rewards, said: "iMeta demonstrated they have
a unique understanding of the challenges around text-messagebased marketing, and
proved that they can make technology work across multiple stakeholders with different