Blockchain to enable universal reward system for loyalty programs: Interview with Aria Oh

    23 Jun 2024

    Loyalty programs had come a long way from the copper tokens of the late 18th century. Modern programs don’t even require customers to carry stamp cards around — most processes operate through mobile apps and digitized systems.

    However, the convenience of establishing a loyalty program through a simple app also brought unwanted complexity and fragmentation for customers. Program points can even differ by trip components.

    Imagine a whole vacation where you get points from the flight, car rental, hotel and dining. Each of those experiences belongs to different programs and is not interchangeable. This leads to fragmented point collections, where customers end up with many different loyalty points that they would probably never redeem.

    What if there were a universal ecosystem that enables customers to exchange and use loyalty points generated from travel, shopping, entertainment and leisure activities? That’s the idea behind Milk Alliance Inc., a blockchain-based loyalty integration platform that connects various services in the lifestyle, travel and leisure industries. With over 1.5 million users, MiL.k —the user-friendly mobile app of the ecosystem— is connecting Web3 with Web2 service companies.

    Loyalty programs united through tokenization

    Blockchain ensures the security and integrity of loyalty program transactions by creating an immutable and transparent ledger of customer interactions, Milk Alliance Inc. CEO Aria-Jinwook Oh told Cointelegraph in an interview. Businesses that offer loyalty programs can utilize blockchain to prevent fraud, counterfeit rewards, and unauthorized access to loyalty program data, fostering customer trust.

    Aria presented three ways blockchain can disrupt the loyalty space: Tokenizing loyalty points through a secure and reliable technology would make them easy to transfer between different services or users without any need for post settlements among service companies.

    “This is one of the main reason MiL.k is on blockchain, and by transferring MLK to the top crypto exchanges, users can benefit from cashing it out.”

    Blockchain operating as a global infrastructure for companies to expand in new markets is the second point of disruption. Third is data credibility, Aria continued: “By using blockchain and utilizing its reliability and credibility, sharing its mileage point information — an important financial aspect — can be handled with security.”

    Milk Alliance Inc. stands as a proven real-world application using the three points Aria listed to onboard more brands into Web3. The company has partnered with top conglomerates and major players in each industry, including AirAsia — a global airline with 600 million customers, loyalty integration platforms like OK Cashbag and L.Point, major South Korean convenience store chain CU and Korea-based online travel agency Yanolja.

    Blockchain-based loyalty: how it works

    MiL.k holds a patent for its unique algorithm that controls the discounts based on the supply and demand of the points. The rate is decided by the platform’s algorithm based on each point’s current inventory.

    When more users are exchanging AirAsia points to earn MLK in a given time, Aria exemplified, AirAsia inventory goes up, and the discount rate of AirAsia increases, which translates to more demand for AirAsia points. This model helps MiL.k to maintain a stable inventory of reward points.

    “This circulating point exchange system removes the need for service companies to deal with the cash settlement, which is quite a typical process for point exchange programs between the service companies,” Aria added.

    With MiL.k’s business model, the inventory of the reward points keeps circulating, which means there are no newly credited reward points. “As a result, there is absolutely no cash settlement necessary between MiL.k and the service company,” she highlighted, adding: “The point exchange structure mechanism is that, on MiL.k app, users can exchange reward points to Milk Coin.”

    Global expansion

    After a transition from the fashion runways of New York City to the forefront of blockchain technology, Aria Oh now leads the global expansion of Milk Alliance Inc. After establishing a presence in South Korea, MiL.k is now in the process of expanding to the global market. Aria has spent her 2023 attending major blockchain events as a keynote speaker, including the European Blockchain Convention in Barcelona and Gitex Global in Dubai. Aria’s activities have initiated a global partnership with The Sandbox.

    Growing ecosystem

    Seeing the potential of gamification of loyalty programs in the metaverse, MiL.k has partnered with The Sandbox, a popular metaverse platform valued at over $1 billion. Through this partnership, Milk Alliance Inc. helped onboard a major convenience store chain with over 17,500 stores to The Sandbox metaverse.

    “Having a brick-and-mortar chain of retail stores in the metaverse is significant, and The Sandbox is keen to use it as a showcase,” Aria said, adding that the onboarding of CU demonstrates how The Sandbox can onboard Web2 and traditional businesses, allowing them to reach new global audiences and reward their community or customers through the use of Web3 technology.

    As the world retains loyalty point schemes to improve customers’ loyalty and drive business growth, Milk Alliance Inc. seeks to establish active partnerships with global companies such as hotels, airlines, and online travel agencies worldwide. Aria believes that MiL.k will prove itself as a real use case of blockchain, maximizing the utility and service marketing for the growing Web3 market. “Look forward to more exciting partnerships that will design an ‘earn-and-burn’ loyalty program in a much more fun and engaging way.”


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