Smartphone owners are almost never without their device, which is why it’s a perfect place to store digital versions of brand loyalty cards.

Research has shown that almost a third of Australian loyalty scheme members (31%) want an app alongside a standard plastic card, while a further 37% of respondents also said that they would consider paying for a loyalty app, depending on the benefits.

With this in mind I set out to find a few Australian brands that were a cut above the competition when it came to designing mobile loyalty apps.

And guess what? I couldn’t find many good examples…

This may partly be due to the act that some potentially decent apps didn’t work due to the fact that I’m London-based (e.g. Coles), but I was also quite surprised by the low quality of some of the apps I downloaded (e.g. Drakes Supermarkets).

I did manage to find three worthy apps however: one that operates as a standard loyalty scheme and two that I felt would help drive loyalty as they offer useful tools that improve the customer experience.

And for more on this topic, read our post on five of the best mobile loyalty apps

Fly Buys

Fly Buys is a loyalty app that enables shoppers to collect points at more than 3,000 stores across New Zealand (not Australia, I know, but it’s the best example I could find).

Loyalty points can be redeemed for a massive range of items including books, gadgets, luggage, wine, white goods, flights or hotel stays.

The app looks great, with attractive animated buttons that are big and therefore easy to click.

                  

Fly Buys allocates each user a unique barcode so retailers can simply scan the phone screen to give customers their loyalty points.

This does away with the need for a loyalty card, though not all of the retailers currently offer the scanning capability.

Another neat feature is the ‘Vouchers’ tab, which lists various offers such as double points on petrol.

When a user has clicked on the voucher they have 24 hours to redeem it, the idea obviously being that they only select the offer when they are approaching the till.

Even so, the countdown clock is a nice touch. 

                  

There is a handy ‘Specials’ tab that allows users to browse through the products currently on offer at participating retailers.

Products that users select are then saved in the ‘Watchlist’ so they will be notified whenever that item is available on offer.

This is a really useful feature and a great way for retailers to attract additional sales. 

One noticeable flaw with the app is that users are required to open a browser to search through the rewards and redeem their points.

This results in a disjointed user experience in what is otherwise an excellent app.

Qantas

Qantas has created an excellent app that fulfils a number of useful functions for its passengers.

From the homepage users can set a local or preferred airport then view all of the best airfares to global destinations. You can also tailor this to a specific route.

               

Bargain hunters can even setup personalised notifications for when flights go on sale.

This can be tailored to specific routes or just include all flights from a particular airport. Users can also choose to be notified of all discount offers, or only if the price falls below a certain threshold.

Push notifications are a great way of encouraging repeat use of apps, but anecdotally I’ve found that very few brands take advantage of them.

Should you wish to take advantage of one of these deals then both flights and hotels can be booked through the app.

The booking process is actually handled in a web browser but it’s hosted within the app, so the user experience doesn’t suffer.

There are perhaps a few too many stages to get through, but overall booking a flight is a simple process.

                

While the alerts are my favourite feature, Qantas hasn’t ignored its frequent flyers.

The app allows passengers to manage their bookings, check-in for domestic journeys, and check their flight status.

And if you’re worried about checking your emails at the airport, the app also lists the amenities on offer in all of Qantas’ business lounges.

Overall I’m a big fan of the Qantas app as it offers a user-friendly design alongside features that genuinely improve the customer experience.

Virgin Australia

Virgin’s app offers similar functionality to Qantas’, albeit with a slightly different and, in my opinion, superior user interface.

Having chosen a departure airport, users are able to view all deals on flights leaving that airport or narrow it down to a particular route.

Clicking on a destination reveals more dates and prices, as well as a bright red ‘Book’ call-to-action.

Your selected flight can then be booked within the app using forms that are all well designed and simple to complete.

                 

As with Qantas, Virgin’s app enables passengers to setup alerts for when a flight is on sale below a specific price. 

Many passengers are price sensitive and on the look out for deals, so this is a really excellent feature.

Finally, the Virgin app allows passengers to check-in for domestic Australian journeys, manage their bookings and check the status of flights.

                 

Although the functionality is very similar to the Qantas app, I feel that Virgin offers a superior user experience.

The UI looks and feels a bit slicker, and I prefer swiping in between the various tabs rather than clicking a burger menu. 

This may just be personal preference though, as well as my familiarity with the Virgin brand.