Baiba Ebuliņa enjoys her job as the Chief Commercial Officer of Coalition Rewards, the operator of the PINS loyalty programme, which has no national borders and makes her think globally. The energetic and enterprising woman says that she is inspired by her colleagues, by the challenges of her position and by the opportunity for further growth. Another motivator is the continued stream of loyalty awards that the PINS loyalty program has received, along with a growing number of PINS members that will soon reach two million.
How did you come to join airBaltic and how has your previous experience helped you in your current position?
My first significant job involved business planning and development at Lattelecom after the company’s monopoly in Latvia had ended and it had to start operating competitively. Later I worked in roles related to marketing and corporate client services. After 13 great years with the company, I was ready for new challenges and decided to found my own business consultancy firm together with partners. That was also a successful and valuable experience but I was soon ready for bigger projects, so the offer to join airBaltic group about five years ago came at just the right time. Loyalty programmes were a new and undeveloped sphere of business in Latvia. I was drawn to the challenge of turning the airline’s loyalty programme into a separate enterprise and expanding it to coalition. I feel very good when I have to develop and sell a product and attract new partners, especially when communicating with high-level decision makers. Teamwork and leadership are also very important – we have a great team in Coalition Rewards. For the past three years, Gabi Kool, one of the most talented managers with whom I have ever worked, has led our enterprise. He certainly deserved being named Industry Personality of the Year across the EMEA region at this year’s Loyalty Awards ceremony in London.
Who is in your team?
In my team there are two main lines of work. One is business development, in which our business development people seek to attract new partners. Then we have key account managers who work at post-sales support for our partners. The team is based in Latvia as well as in Lithuania, Estonia, Finland and Russia.
What is PINS? How and why did the transition occur from BalticMiles to PINS?
The name of our enterprise, Coalition Rewards, reveals the business model by which we work. We analyse consumer wallet spending and then in the most popular categories we find PINS partners PINS without borders with whom PINS program members will be able to collect PINS. Because of the coalition of non-competing partners and shared investment, our partners find it less expensive to collect data about their clients and create promotional campaigns, while our clients can collect PINS more quickly. The other part of the member value proposition is the attractive goods and experiences that can be exchanged for PINS. We are investing a great deal into data analysis to better understand our members and to offer additional added value to our members and partners. When airBaltic created its own BalticMiles programme, it gained a far greater degree of flexibility in addressing its loyal clients. However, only some consumers fly very frequently and collect points quickly enough to be rewarded for their loyalty. That’s why the coalition model can deliver a more rewarding program at a better cost to airBaltic and other program partners. In order to expand the programme and not place emphasis on any participating partner or region, the brand had to become more neutral, which is why PINS was created – a short, succinct and international name. It takes a considerable investment to change one’s brand name, but our research reveals that the PINS programme was launched successfully and is now very wellknown, particularly in Finland. We are introducing all kinds of unique and significant innovations in the loyalty field. For example, our shopper-flyer programme was the first in the industry globally to actually combine a frequent flyer programme with a retail loyalty programme. In doing so, we conducted productlevel data analyses and implemented promotional campaigns aimed at everyday shoppers. We are continuing to expand our operations, we are getting excellent results, and this is being appreciated. So far this year, we have already received eight global awards in our field!
What are the advantages and benefits of being a PINS cardholder?
Cardholders can collect PINS through their daily activities, such as by purchasing something at a pharmacy, book or consumer electronics store, having their clothes cleaned at a dry-cleaner’s or going out to a restaurant. The coalition model means that we, as an operator, invest in the infrastructure – the data analysis, the rewards portfolio and brand recognition. Since this loyalty programme is our principal sphere of business activity, we are constantly upgrading it and making it easier for clients to spend their PINS on all kinds of products. For example, among other rewards, our shop even offers flights into space! Admittedly, nobody has chosen this option so far. Our partners gain a lot because they can use the data that we collect in their own marketing activities. A discount or a cashback opportunity is not as enticing as collecting PINS for a specific item, such as a holiday trip with one’s friends or family, a bicycle or earrings. Our key account managers work with each partner, providing detailed information about the data that we have collected and offering targeted promotional campaigns that are relevant for individual consumers. Both our partners and our cardholders gain from this. Our partners offer products that make it worth collecting PINS, while our cardholders gain a wider opportunity to collect PINS faster and spend them on items that they truly want. We launched the PINS programme in Finland on May 7 and have already attained one million members there in only a few months. That might be because among large well-known retail partners we are also working with small and medium-sized companies to make this a neighbourhood programme that is accessible to everyone.
How do you explain this rapid growth? What accounts for the considerable support that you have received and for all those awards?
An enthusiastic and hard-working team of people obtained our results. Our team is highly motivated and our work environment is very open and encouraging. Our work culture is geared towards teamwork, growth and innovation.
What gives you the greatest sense ofsatisfaction?
I really enjoy this work environment. I spend a lot of days travelling and working with people from other cultures. We are an ambitious team that has accomplished a great deal, with the knowledge that we have the ability to receive global recognition.
How do people spend their PINS?
It is different in every market because we have a good choice of both local and global reward items. The most popular rewards in Latvia are airBaltic flights; Lux Express bus tickets; Kino Citadele movie cards; Kolonna, Vīna studija and Līvu Akvaparks gift cards; and Mobilly account supplement coupons. In Finland it is redemption at the grocery store, but now as our members discover many other attractive rewards options it is shifting more towards items from our online rewards shop.
And how do you spend your PINS?
I have used my PINS to get plane tickets, and recently I purchased a docking station for my phone. I have also donated my points because we have many charity options in the rewards portfolio. I can say from my personal experience that if one makes a concerted effort to collect PINS, then one can quickly accumulate enough for fulfilling a smaller or bigger dream. It’s also important for me to collect and redeem because I want to know first-hand what it’s like to be an ordinary PINS member. BO