[INTERVIEW] AIR MILES – The evolution of the in-store shopping experience

Today, we are featuring Jason Beales Chief Strategy & Commercial Officer at Air Miles. Today, he is sharing his thoughts on in-store versus online shopping. Thank you Jason for taking the time to answer our questions. 

1) Please tell us about yourself and your role with AIR MILES.

As the Chief Strategy & Commercial Officer at AIR MILES, I help out with our Strategic Partnerships team, as we implement our new strategic vision, onboard new brands to our program, and ensure that we meet our partners’ goals effectively. My role is driven by a constant pursuit of program optimization – working closely with clients to uncover bespoke value propositions and provide guidance for their growth-oriented initiatives. Previously, I’ve worked in Finance, Marketing, and Technology roles.

2) What are your thoughts on the online versus in person shopping experience?

Despite some people believing that online shopping will lead to the cannibalization of traditional in-store retail, it’s now clear in a post-pandemic world, that both still have their place to thrive. It is, however, increasingly essential for businesses to create seamless loyalty experiences so a consumer can be agnostic to whichever channel they choose to shop.

Recent studies conducted around in-store shopping experiences have reported consumers noting decreased satisfaction, as now, by contrast, many have become accustomed to improved digital experiences and increased ease of delivery. Additionally, Canadian consumers have reported using in-store technology (often as a way to simplify the shopping experience), but say these devices detract from the overall experience.

We believe it’s integral to appreciate that it can often take an omnichannel approach to build sustainable relationships with consumers; making the experience a positive one at every touchpoint in the ecosystem – not an easy undertaking but certainly an aspirational one which deserves attention.

At AIR MILES, we offer both digital and in-person engagement, allowing the program to continuously interact with customers and work to meet their individual needs. Whether online shopping via airmilesshops.ca, through receipt scanning on our app for grocery and alcohol, or via in-store transactions at point of sale, it’s critical to meet the customer where they want to transact.

3) More specifically, is there a shift in grocery shopping online? What are your thoughts on that?

The grocery industry is undergoing what seems like a dramatic change in shopper behaviours due to economic downturn and what feels like perpetually increasing prices. We’ve been witnessing that Canadian shoppers are now prioritizing cost-saving options over long-term brand loyalty, in response to inflationary pressures impacting budgets. This shift is altering how individuals shop, as well as the frequency, location, and outright purchasing decisions thereof. The more traditional model of shopping loyally at one grocery store per week seems to be a dwindling phenomenon, with consumers now opting for smaller, more frequent, and varying-location trips to aggregate their weekly grocery basket.

In addition, the proliferation of delivery entities has enjoyed somewhat of a renaissance; a significant rise in popularity and a trend which we believe will be pervasive Nationally. With the return to in-office workdays correlating to long commutes (parlayed with the usual juggling of family extracurricular activities), Canadians are turning to the convenience of delivery and even meal prep alternatives, amidst this aforementioned pursuit of value.

Given these shifts, at AIR MILES, we are continuously looking for ways to offer additional value and pivot to where the collector can benefit most. Whether one prefers to earn in-store (be it conventional grocery or even warehouse stores), or to rely upon the various delivery options, we want there always to be an earn option for Canadians. One of our more exciting innovations, in response to this enduring shift towards variability in Canadian shopping habits, is our new Receipt scan program. It’s simple – collectors can explore available offers within the app, shop for eligible products at virtually all grocery stores across Canada, and snap a photo of their receipt to enjoy earning Bonus Miles from their purchases (irrespective of whether there is another loyalty program at that retailer). Therein lies the exciting evolution of the option value of AIR MILES – one can stack the value of promotions with receipt scan, or earn at locations and “double dip” with other programs.

4) How is AIR MILES adapting to these new changes in shopping habits?

Unsurprisingly, and encouragingly, our research has found that consumers overwhelmingly favour retailers that offer loyalty programs, over those that don’t. That said, we are also cognizant that there is “program fatigue” in the Canadian marketplace, and many find managing all grocery loyalty options in Canada rather daunting.

As a result, AIR MILES Receipts is the conduit to helping to remedy this angst. Irrespective of where one chooses to shop, we are embracing the mass migration towards cost savings, and offering additional value for collectors above and beyond. The notion of loyalty program walled gardens is no longer applicable to the open and flexible structure of our new reinvigorated program.

5) What else can we look forward to with Air Miles?

Our promise to Canadians, especially in this challenging economy, is to provide the most flexible and expansive path to earn on everyday purchases. The addition of warehouse stores and alcohol retailers as a path to earning miles via the AIR MILES credit card, married with the receipt scan innovation, is the first of many program evolutions poised for release in the coming months.

In aggregate, these are expected to refresh the AIR MILES Reward Program and empower Canadians to optimize stretching their dollars. The back half of 2024 is going to be a remarkably loud and exciting time for the AIR MILES program – look for some impeccable earning opportunities on the horizon.

6) Any closing thoughts?

As Canada’s oldest loyalty program, we know and understand the needs of Canadian consumers and are constantly evolving with them. With the loyalty landscape continuing to evolve, we look forward to continuing to adapt our program to meet the shifting needs of the consumer. We encourage all Canadians to keep an eye out for the spiking richness and value opportunities throughout the remainder of this year – things are about to get fun for collectors.


  1. Very insightful to the direction that Air Miles is going. I as a user and Onyx member before and after changes for sure feel that Air Miles is going toward that double dip mentality. It’s as if they realize there are a bunch of competing loyalty programs on the market now and instead of fighting against them they are choosing to allow members to earn regardless of which retailer they shop at which I think is a smart move.

    For example, I can shop for a few things at Super C or Metro and get Moi points for a few items, pick up some products during a 20x day at Pharmaprix / Shoppers and then buy some products on sale at Voila or IGA with bonus scene points and then for all of these purchases from the various competing loyalty programs I can still be able to get a couple of Air Miles on top of that via card-linked offers and scanning the receipts.

    Then on the redemption side, I could redeem my Air Miles for a flight on Air Canada, Porter, WestJet, Copa, AeroMexico or Delta and still get those loyalty points from their respective airline alliances. The once-a-year discount from the BMO card helps out there too. Overall there is still a lot of value with the Air Miles maybe not as much as before but for sure more redemption options. There are a lot of fun offers with Shell & those occasional flash offers. Now with the ability to gain some extra miles for purchases from SAQ and Costco I think that was a super smart move allowing BMO to differentiate from other card issuers.

    1. Thanks for such a detailed feedback David. I really appreciate it. Even though it’s program has its shortfalls, I’ve been getting a fair amount of value from Air Miles too. I’m just glad that they are still kicking around, better they stay in business than out.

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