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Panini America brings real-time in-app trading to sports card enthusiasts

Panini America, the world’s largest sports and entertainment collectibles company, has launched a rewards program in cooperation with Kodak to allow trading-card and memorabilia collectors to earn points by scanning randomly inserted rewards cards with their mobile devices.

The result of research and development two years in the making, the Panini Rewards Program functions in a standalone application and delivers value to collectors by giving them the ability to choose replacements and other items through an established point value system tied to Panini Rewards. Collectors will also have the chance to use their points immediately for any available single cards, or accumulate points to earn higher-value cards, other collectibles and unique Panini experiences.

“Kudos to the companies that know their users well enough to understand that the most active five percent of their users require something special and extra to turn their apps and brands into self-perpetuating marketing machines,” said Len Shneyder, director of marketing at OtherLevels.

“Loyalty features help create brand stickiness and increase the company’s ability to engage users with unique content, offers and programs that improve customer lifetime value.”

“Apps that bring to bear special rewards for repeat usage, reaching certain purchase levels etc. have essentially been instrumented to appeal to a user’s sense of games and also caters to the highest spenders,” he said.

Panini and Kodak did not respond to press inquiries.

Mr. Shneyder is not associated with Panini and commented based on his subject expertise.

Draft pick
The rewards program offers the opportunity to eliminate and further reduce redemption cards, replacing them with digital points that can be used to acquire available cards immediately.

Upon a product’s launch, collectors will have immediate access to Panini America’s available single-card inventory directly from their mobile devices which enables them to choose their own replacements from the platform.

Panini America officials worked with Kodak to implement a high-resolution image-capture station designed to recreate the experience for collectors to view memorabilia and autograph cards for every available card.

Future enhancements will give collectors the ability to self-authenticate their trading cards to ensure authenticity and eliminate issues related to potential counterfeit trading cards on the secondary market.

For now, the app supports the release of 2014 Score Football products and will follow with Panini America MLBPA, NBA and NFL products.

Kodak’s system not only offers security for the Panini brand, but for consumers as well. Future Rewards Platform enhancements will give collectors the ability to self-authenticate their trading cards and eliminate issues related to potential counterfeit trading cards on the secondary market.

Gamifying loyalty
For retailers, hotels, the travel and leisure industry in general, loyalty programs within apps make absolute sense, and similar to Panini understand the patterns of their customers and deliver unique, contextualized rewards based on purchase or brand behavior.

Sports cards seem like a cultural touchstone destined to lose their luster in the digital age as stats and photos of players can be instantaneously revived with a simple search through a mobile browser, which may make it hard to imagine fans would continue to pay for pricy cardboard supplements.

However, those who think trading cards are a dying breed are inherently mistaken. Iconic publisher Topps has released three buying and trading apps within the last 15 months which allow its more than 1 million users to pay for virtual currency that can be redeemed for packs of digital cards and earn rewards for playing games.

“I like to think of loyalty programs as an early form of gamification – think about the way that airlines create point systems for upgrades and status,” Mr. Shneyder said. “It’s almost like a treasure hunt where you accumulate enough of something to achieve a certain rank or level. Once the level has been achieved you’re rewarded and treated differently.”

Using game mechanics via points and competition entices users to use or pay for a digital service.

For instance LinkedIn pushes users to complete their profiles and make connections by telling them they’ll reach “All-Star” status.

Twitter in part relies on its users obsession over follower counts with some paying to promote certain tweets to accumulate more fans. And foursquare initially became popular due its rewarding individuals who checked-in the most with badges.

And though social media has its perks, it is a world without loyalty.

Brands can follow this model too, and not be doomed by the belief that loyalty is essential to all mobile dabbling.

Established brands can create a unique presence and offering for their most loyal customers without a rewards program and can enjoy success by understanding how customers engage with them.

On mobile, enabling smart push notifications that address users at different stages of the funnel: e.g. New users with nurture messages to help them matriculate through to conversion, and repeat users with unique offers and discounts like they would get in a loyalty program.

Essentially an app without a loyalty program should look at how they target and segment their audience as if they had a loyalty program.

“The most active customers have realized the value of their app, they don’t need as much coddling and nurturing as new users who may not understand how to convert, why they should use the app or what kind of unique features make the app an indispensable piece of software on their mobile device,” Mr. Shneyder said.

Final Take
Michelle is editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York