AIR MILES: "Unfair Advantage: - Powering Artificial Intelligence at Scale with Canada's Best Retail Dataset

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Sean O’Brien, AVP Data Science and Analytics, AI, AIR MILES® Reward Program
The rapid growth of technology and digital transformation that makes it easier for organizations to engage with customers has accelerated as a result of the pandemic. And, amid this rapid shift in the consumer landscape, organizations are realizing the true power of data and insights when interacting with customers.

What most brands struggle with, however, is generating a holistic view of their customers to clearly understand how to create impactful experiences for them. “While data and insights on customer behaviour and purchasing patterns may be available, stitching these together into a comprehensive profile that is actionable and creates incremental commercial value can be challenging,” says Sean O’Brien, AVP Data Science and Analytics, AI, AIR MILES® Reward Program.

With that said, technology-driven capabilities are only the first step to building strong relationships with customers: algorithms, while widely available, require the connection to quality data to deliver best-in-class, personalized experiences.

Combining unparalleled data and AI capabilities to increase Partner profitability

AIR MILES is one of the few companies in Canada able to make clear connections between data and consumer behaviour. By leveraging artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and other innovative capabilities, they analyze insights of nearly 11 million AIR MILES Collectors across 30,000 data dimensions to deliver an elevated shopping experience for these consumers while also identifying increased sales and marketing opportunities for Partners within the AIR MILES coalition.

This combination of data and technology, unmatched in the Canadian retail space, allows AIR MILES to turn data into value for its Partners by delivering improved marketing outcomes and actionable results that can be used to influence business decisions. While many organizations are in the early stages of building out their data assets and capabilities, AIR MILES has been doing this for decades. “Our best-in-class data, insights and extensive experience bridge the gap for Partners, allowing them to focus their attention on their core business and, ultimately, supporting organizational growth,” mentions O’Brien.
Each customer has different needs and desires, and an organization’s loyalty and marketing program should reflect this. AIR MILES’ tools enable Partners to create personalized experiences for their customers based on its world-class data assets.

The power of reinforcement learning

At its core, AIR MILES is a data company that continually looks for new ways to leverage insights and deliver them to Partners in a clear and understandable format while ensuring a superior experience for the Collectors. The company has made significant investments in reinforcement and deep learning and, in mid-2019, launched the SMOKEY™ platform. SMOKEY™ is a one-to-one marketing personalization platform aimed at optimizing campaign return on investment – it allows personalized offer recommendations at scale by using reinforcement learning to determine the best offer to send to a Collector at the right time. “Recently, we worked with a major Canadian financial institution to support its objective of increasing topline sales through our SMOKEY™ platform,” states O’Brien. The product implementation was extremely successful and increased sales, proving to be more profitable than the Partner’s average campaign.

AIR MILES also drives scale and efficiency by streamlining access to insights for Partners via its new client digital platform, Panorama™. Through best-in-class security, speed, and utility, the platform provides Partners with immediate access to reports, dashboards, and insights on a variety of AIR MILES products, all in one location from any device and in real-time.

Eliminating pain points to drive brand affinity

Having worked with organizations of all sizes and across industries, AIR MILES has focused on many different objectives. However, what its Partners most often express is the need to elevate the shopping experience and understand how to best communicate with their customers. While the technology boom has decreased barriers to entry and increased access to AI, ML, and other advanced capabilities, few organizations have the data or expertise needed to effectively deliver an elevated and personalized customer experience.


Sean O’Brien, AVP Data Science and Analytics, AI, AIR MILES® Reward Program

Founded in 1992, the AIR MILES Reward Program is Canada's most recognized loyalty program, with nearly 11 million active Collector Accounts, representing approximately two-thirds of all Canadian households