Frequent flyer programs are great for travelers, but for those that rarely set foot on a plane, they don’t make much sense. Luckily, a new Silicon Valley startup called Miles has created a rewards program for ground transportation, the kind most of us use on a daily basis.
Miles has launched a free iOS app that allows people to accumulate miles based on the ground transportation they use each day. One fun gimmick is that the cleaner the form of transportation, the more miles you can rack up. A mile in a car equals one reward mile, a mile in a rideshare, like Uber, equals two, a mile of biking equals five, and one mile of walking or running equals 10. Meanwhile, one mile of flying equals just 0.1 miles.
Miles can be used for brand discounts. With enough miles, users can get rewards like $5 gift cards at Starbucks, Amazon, or Target, $42 off your first order from Hello Fresh, or even a free rental on Audi’s Silvercar service. Other rewards partners include Whole Foods, Canon, Bath & Body Works, and Cole Haan.
Those worried about data breaches and identity theft may be wary of Miles since it requires that you give access to your location to accumulate miles. Miles CEO Jigar Shah, however, says that none of the company’s partners have access to private user data. They only offer insights. “Because people move from a to b, b to c, c to d, we can really understand the insights of how you’re interacting with the physical world. Once we understand that interaction, we can start making some insightful decisions, and then start making some predictions,” he says.
Miles knows where and when people travel, how they reached their destination, and even why they traveled in the first place. That information creates a “predictive marketing AI platform” that matches users with deals, which can benefit the company’s partners since it targets demand rather than users.
“Once you earn miles, and we understand some of this data, then we start predicting some of the near-future demand. Once we understand that, we share some of this aggregated information anonymously. Nothing of users’ data leaves the system,” Shah says. “Demand simply means ‘There are 14 people in Palo Alto who are going to drink coffee in the next four hours.’ And that’s the information that acts as a triggering point for Starbucks to make a reward.”
The idea is that if you have 10,000 Miles users within 0.3 miles of a Starbucks, the app can figure out which ones are most likely to purchase coffee based on consumer history, therefore, they can create a target audience for Starbucks.
“We allow [businesses] to understand their own customers’ near future. What do they need in the next four hours, next four days, and the next four weeks? We’re literally making predictions about what their customers need and when they need it,” Shah says.
Also, since Miles rewards users who use greener transportation, cities may benefit from promoting public transportation in areas where there are few riders. The app, which has been well-received because of its design, is similar to a fitness app, a shopping app, or a banking or airline rewards app. A continuous feed enables users to see how others are earning and redeeming miles, which is a form of marketing in and of itself.