UTU empowers shoppers to earn, redeem and convert rewards points through smartphones, in real time, at any UTU merchant outlet worldwide.
UTU drives users, payment card schemes and card issuers to increase tourist and local spending at acquirers’ merchants.
Father and son team Asad and Ameer Jumabhoy from tourist VAT refund and payments technology company The Scotts Group, and Jeremy Tan, an expert in financial technology, mobile payments and loyalty platforms from Korvac Holdings, announce the launch of UTU, a cross-border loyalty and rewards platform that enables people to convert, earn and redeem points in real time at any UTU merchant outlet worldwide through their smartphone.
UTU consolidates rewards points from multiple credit and debit cards; eliminates the time it takes for those points to be processed; removes the barriers to cross-border loyalty; and offers shoppers a new kind of consumer model – one that enables them to earn rewards points now and pay with them at point of sale. The platform also features a merchant portal that allows brands to set up their own promotions, optimize campaigns and track their return on engagement.
“UTU’s potential lies in its ability to engage merchants with consumers, acquirers with merchants and issuers with their consumers on a single integrated platform,” says Asad Jumabhoy, an entrepreneur and pioneer in the digitization of global tax-free shopping. “Real innovation minimizes the gap between process and people. With UTU, we’re bringing it all together in the retail, travel and rewards space at home and away, online and instore.”
UTU launches in Thailand in November, with further roll out happening in Asia in 2016/2017. The choice of Thailand as a launch location is attributed to the country’s deep loyalty culture, and presents UTU the opportunity to fill an immediate need (e.g. as of August 2016 over 70 million credit and debit cards were in circulation in the country; Thais carry an average of seven loyalty cards each; and brand rewards programs are the country’s most popular Google search category). Brand partners at launch include Visa Thailand, the Tourism Authority of Thailand, RSH Limited and Singapore’s NTUC Link. Availability in the UK, Europe and US is anticipated in 2017.
“We are excited to be working with UTU on the expansion of the Plus! Partners network beyond Singapore and is in line with our vision to provide gratifying experiences for members of the Plus! Rewards Program,” says Tony Tan, CEO of NTUC Link. “This synergistic partnership allows Plus! Members to maximize the mileage of their overseas expenditure as points earned during their travels can be converted and redeemed for rewards when they return home. The growing number of leisure and business travelers in our membership base will definitely benefit from the enriched array of options UTU will make available around the world.”
“UTU promises to enhance everyday retail experiences by providing greater seamlessness between customers and brands across borders,” says IndranuHati, CEO of RSH Thailand Group. “UTU is the perfect loyalty service partner for us, given our growing footprint in nearly a dozen countries across Pan Asia.”
UTU is a response to the observation that the tourist today is a local tomorrow, and a local today is a tourist tomorrow. With more than one billion people travelling to foreign countries a year, locals and tourists want integrated loyalty programs, greater ease in managing their rewards points and more relevant deals from merchants. With UTU, shoppers continue to be rewarded, regardless of geography, through the one piece of technology they use every day – their mobile phone.
To use UTU, users download the free mobile application; register up to five credit or debit cards on to the UTU app; earn rewards points when they shop; convert those points through the UTU platform; and spend them at thousands of participating redemption outlets. Users can also gift points, select to receive promotions and earn extra points through merchant engagement.
The global loyalty industry is estimated to reach US$20 billion by 2020. Loyalty management Wandatoday is an expensive and segmented process which has resulted in a plethora of programs delivering incremental advantages to the consumer. Merchants bear the cost of loyalty systems and front line education and training. Shoppers are burdened with physical cards and are responsible for monitoring their points and merchant offers through separate portals. UTU eliminates the inconvenience for all parties and provides a streamlined experience.
“We congratulate UTU on launching this global loyalty rewards program and choosing Thailand as its springboard,” says Suripong Tantiyanon, Country Manager, Visa Thailand. “Through Visa Direct, UTU taps the push payment capability of Visa’s global payment system to redeem points and rewards.”
“Loyalty is the key to brand success in a digital world, yet we’re still limited in how we are rewarded for how we choose to spend our money,” says Ameer Jumabhoy, a second-generation student at MIT Sloan School of Management involved in MIT’s Digital Currency Initiative. “What we’re working to achieve with UTU is to remove those boundaries and give people the freedom to get more.”