Vitality’s Innovation – Sharing Value

Paula Thomas, Chief Content Officer, Liquid Barcodes


There are few loyalty or wellness programmes that Harvard Business Review chooses to present as a case study, however as the “largest wellness programme in the world”, Vitality – the South African loyalty programme launched in the 1990’s by a company called “Discovery“, was chosen to join these illustrious ranks. With over two million members in South Africa, and 17 million worldwide, Vitality is a true masterclass in marketing, creating a fee-based programme with three pillars that incentivise, recognise and reward members for living more active healthier lives, driving safely and banking responsibly. Its success is attributed to a delightful combination of products, services and compelling propositions all centred around incentivising customers to live their best lives.

Their CEO Adrian Gore explained that “[Before we started the Vitality programme], health insurers were only paying for sickness… we turned that around by paying for wellness at a time where no such product existed anywhere in the world.” And with wellness becoming such an increasingly important approach for consumers globally, there’s no doubt that the idea of rewarding customers who change their lifestyle in order to benefit themselves, their families and their health insurance providers is a winning idea that has been admired and copied the world over.

Discovery was the first insurance firm in the world to develop and deliver what it calls a “shared-value model” so this article discusses some of the key success factors that continue to drive its enormous success to this day.

How It Works:

Firstly, Vitality is one of the first and most successful loyalty programmes to charge its members to join. Fees are nominal – $20 for one, $24 for two, or $27 for three people, yet these subsidies, combined with the reduced cost of fewer health claims, allow Discovery to offer a truly extra-ordinary portfolio of benefits for members, so the joining fee is easily justified. Vitality Rewards in South Africa range from free fuel, to discount flights, savings of up to 100% on monthly gym fees as well as savings of up to 75% on international flights with premium airlines But it’s not just the rewards that members love – the programme includes access to the latest health information, creating personalised health plans for members that are both valuable and actionable.

The Discovery Vitality App – one of the world’s leading loyalty programmes.

The Mechanics

New members to Vitality begin their incentivised health programme by completing the company’s online health assessment, completing their personal profile which includes an online fitness assessment, a mental wellbeing review and their smoking history in order to measure their “Vitality age” at the time of joining. With this information, Vitality creates their personalised health programme, and tracks individual adherence to it over time. The programme even encourages members to visit partner GPs, and dentists, as well as medical partners in the “Vitality Wellness Network” for fully validated fitness assessment and increased service benefits.

This video explains the simple yet compelling value proposition for members.

Earning Vitality Health Points:

With almost thirty years of expertise, Vitality Health works with the entire health and fitness eco-system, including integrating with the latest technology and fitness trackers such as the Apple Watch. In a “landmark” health study of over 400,000 people in the United Kingdom, United States and South Africa by an independent research firm, Vitality and Apple together issued research that proved the approach ensures “dramatic” behaviour changes and a 34% sustained increase in physical activity levels which they estimated add an average of two years of life for members, and “represent enormous relevance for both health policy and society at large”.

A key success factor for the programme is the combination of both long term and short term behavioural incentives, and it’s the weekly rewards partnerships that are directly relevant to restaurants, coffee shops and grocery and convenience stores who provide Vitality and other loyalty programmes with accessible and affordable rewards. For example, members earn Vitality Points for eating healthy meals in restaurant partners and even buying healthy food ingredients in partner supermarkets. Healthy food purchases are rewarded with up to 25% cash back ensuring members are actively incentivised to buy the best possible products that will benefit their health.

Even more relevant rewards are offered in partnership with Starbucks – a Vitality partner in multiple markets including the UK and South Africa. In the UK for example, members simply have to earn 12 Vitality points in a week (that’s 12,500 steps a day twice a week or equivalent activity) in order to get a free Starbucks drink. Members simply join, get active, and connect their Starbucks Rewards account to their online Vitality profile. Staying active each week ensures they earn this free treat, potentially saving each member up to £135 a year just on coffee! This graphic illustrates other powerful partnerships and rewards that help build the overall proposition as a lifestyle focused on wellness rather than sickness.

Vitality Drive

Another interesting idea for fuel retailers around the world is Vitality’s commitment to recognising and rewarding people who drive safely. Beyond the industry-standard of reducing premiums for drivers who remain claim-free from year to year, Vitality’s Driving programme in South Arica also offers rich fuel discounts for car insurance clients who complete various driving assessments and training and who are happy for their everyday driving behaviour to be tracked.

Vitality car insurance clients in South Africa can get up to 50% of their monthly fuel spend back each month when they fill up at BP or Shell fuel stations and the process for this programme is similar to how the health programme works.

To earn Vitality fuel rewards members need to:

i) Install an approved GPS car tracking device.

ii) Link their Vitality Drive card

iii) Swipe their linked Vitality Drive card when they fill up at BP or Shell.

Vitality Drive is therefore another incredibly powerful proposition that uses the power of retail partnerships combined with a commitment to the “shared-value” model that Discovery offers and that customers clearly love. And while it’s not relevant for readers of this article, it’s worth noting also that Discovery do have an equally compelling programme within its new Bank that is described as “the world’s first behavioural bank” that incentivises customers to manage their finances in a responsible way.

Sharing Value

In closing, Discovery is truly a world leading loyalty brand. With a genuine commitment to encouraging its customers to live their best lives, the idea that first began as a simple loyalty proposition for cheaper health insurance has now become a compelling business strategy that truly differentiates it from its competition.

About Us:

Liquid Barcodes is a leading global loyalty and digital marketing technology company specialised for the convenience store and foodservice industries. Our proprietary cloud-based technology platform allow retailers to create and manage their digital marketing campaigns with a proprietary process we call the “customer connection cycle’ to engage, promote and reward customers activities in real-time across digital and media channels.

How we do it:

We have developed the most advanced loyalty and digital marketing technology platform specifically for convenience store and foodservice retailers globally.

Retailers use our self-service dashboard to create and manage loyalty driven marketing campaigns that increase purchases with their existing customers, as well as effectively target and acquire new customers through partners or paid media channels.

One core component of live loyalty is gamification. We have gamified branding, loyalty and promotions. We believe this approach is essential in order to get customers’ attention and ultimately truly engage them with repeatable actions thereby winning their loyalty.

Check out some of our exciting/proven results here:

About Me:

Paula Thomas

Chief Content Officer, Liquid Barcodes and Independent Loyalty Consultant

With over twenty-five years marketing experience, I specialise in loyalty marketing consulting, managing consumer loyalty propositions, strategy and operations. In addition to working with Liquid Barcodes, my clients have included Telefonica O2, Three Mobile, Electric Ireland, Allied Irish Bank and The Entertainer Group, as well as Avios – the global points currency for some of the world’s top airlines. I am also a judge for the Loyalty Magazine Awards. 



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