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Economy

Japanese digital reward program crossing borders in Southeast Asia

Consumers will be able to pocket points in Japan, Indonesia and Malaysia

Ponta has around 80 million users in Japan.

TOKYO -- A loyalty program backed by Japan Airlines and others will continue its expansion in Asia by enabling consumers in Japan, Indonesia and Malaysia to accrue and spend points in all of these countries starting next spring, a move that could help Japanese retailers capture more spending by inbound tourists.

Ponta rewards, operated by Mitsubishi Corp. subsidiary Loyalty Marketing, will connect its Japanese and Indonesian programs with Malaysian rewards club BonusLink, which has 8 million members. Ponta expanded into Indonesia at the end of 2014 and now has around 17 million users there, with some 14,000 participating retailers. Its Japanese membership totals around 80 million.

Ponta points can be used while shopping at such partner businesses as Lawson convenience stores. Members simply need to display a bar code on their Ponta app for stores to scan during checkout.

Tokyo-based Loyalty Marketing recently bought a small stake in the Japanese arm of SK Planet, the operator of OK Cashbag, South Korea's largest rewards system. The Japanese company eventually hopes to add South Korean businesses to the Ponta network, taking a similar approach to its alliance building in Taiwan. All these moves would expand the network to around 150 million members.

In October, Taiwanese and South Korean travelers will be able to collect Ponta-linked points at five Takashimaya department stores in such tourist hot spots as Tokyo's Nihonbashi district and Kyoto.

Credit cards remain out of reach for all but affluent emerging-market consumers. But since reward points can be earned and used even when paying cash, such programs could catch on broadly in such countries.

Competition is heating up among Japanese loyalty programs, especially as companies rush to attract the surge of tourists arriving from other parts of Asia. TPoint Japan, the operator of the T-Point card and a subsidiary of Culture Convenience Club, recently entered into a partnership with one of Taiwan's largest loyalty programs.

(Nikkei)

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