One of the most elusive
segments across most types of card product are mass affluent and
high net worth clients. Vice Versa International is one
organisation that has successfully targeted these consumers,
through a rewards-based prepaid product aimed at incoming tourists
and business travellers in Dubai.
Launched in Dubai back
in 2005, Vice Versa International (VVI) is gathering momentum with
its prepaid rewards product that offers real-time rewards on
purchases made on the card. The system is an instant redemption and
rewards mechanism based on smart card technology.
VVI also monitors card usage,
account balances, measures the performance of different outlets and
offers staff incentives throughout its “plug-and-play” terminal
“Vice Versa is a rewards programme
that we offer exclusively to visitors to Dubai,” said Kira Milan,
managing director at Vice Versa – though it is understood she is in
talks to expand the offering internationally.
The product is operated using a
currency called Card-Cash. When consumers present the card at
participating retailers they earn Card-Cash, which is instantly
loaded to the card. Vice Versa targets high-end luxury brands, with
companies like Brioni, Bvlgari, Chanel, Cartier and Gucci taking
part in the scheme.
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Rewards are issued, usually via a
fixed%age of the purchase price of goods bought at one of the
retailers, and have been as high as 20%, according to Milan. The
points are redeemed instantly – once the purchase is made, a
receipt prints out featuring the Card-Cash balance in both UAE
dirhams and US dollars. It can then be used instantly at any
location throughout the partnership network.”
“We run our business primarily
through smart chip technology,” said Milan.
“We can monitor card usage, sales,
staff performance, staff incentives and so forth via this
infrastructure. One key thing is that you are immediately able to
check the balance you have on your card while you are going
shopping. So the technology can work both offline and in
One of the advantages of having
tourists and business visitors as your main demographic is the
ability to provide tiered programmes for these varying frequency
travellers, Milan added.
“We have a higher tier programme
called the gold card and those gold card members are more like
loyalty card members who can go online and check their balance and
so forth,” she said.
VVI offers two separate products, a
gold card and a silver card. The gold card is designed to provide
the benefits of a loyalty programme for those who intend to return
to Dubai or stay longer than a month. It requires registration and
can be ordered prior to travel, or as an upgrade from a Silver
“We are primarily tapping into the
premium travellers, the ones that are travelling with the more high
scale travel agents,” said Milan.
In 2009, the average user of a Vice
Versa card stayed in Dubai for around three days and spent around
$1120 through the card, excluding flights and hotels. The average
age of the company’s customers was 38.
“Some of the gift cards that are
available today for consumers are not very exciting,” said
“When I go and buy a gift card I
want it to be a gift experience.”
Milan said the product
was set up to be as user-friendly as possible, requiring the
minimum amount of time and information possible to sign up for
participants in the scheme. This was important, she said, because
when consumer purchased them “they did not feel the same smoothness
from these types of cards as they would have if they had just
bought a gift”.
According to Milan, the most
successful implementations of their closed loop system to date have
been a series of concerts taking place in Dubai.
“Our very first project was a
Shakira concert card where the card would give access into the VIP
lounge,” she said.
The card was used as an entry
ticket to the event. It also had a preloaded amount the cardholder
could spend on food and drinks.
“This was extremely popular with
corporates because they wanted to host certain clients at the event
but they didn’t want the budget to go sky high,” she said.
“So thereby they actually managed
to have a controlled budget by using these cards.”
The system was also used at a
Santana concert in Dubai, but VVI extended the functionality so
that consumers could load and purchase the product at the venue.
Promotional staff walked up and down the queues to get into the
venue selling the card.
It was also available at loading
stations. The card could again be used for buying food and drink at
the event, replacing paper tokens.
Vice Versa installed 93 terminals
at the venue and generated 20,000 transactions in under six
“The best part was that if the customer did not use up all the
money on the card they could then use it at another event run by
the same promoter,” Milan added.