C&K Market, Inc. introduces All Access Rewards customer loyalty program, powered by Accelitec, Inc.
BROOKINGS, OR (May 16, 2012) C&K Market, Inc., operating 62 stores in Oregon and California under the brands, Ray’s Food Place, Shop Smart and C&K Market, has signed with Accelitec, Inc., to launch a Customer Relationship Management platform.
The launch of this new platform is an exciting step forward for the family owned and privately held company. Customer benefits will include, customer interest clubs, load to card coupons, personalized offers and a point system that rewards customers with in-store credits that can be used to purchase anything in the store.
Terry Spencer, Vice President of Merchandising and Marketing for C&K Market, Inc. states “our goal is to provide our customers with the best possible shopping experience every time they visit one of our stores,” he goes on to say; “we see this program as a way to give customers more of what they want, gaining their feedback and insights quicker so that we can provide service in our stores that no other retailer can touch”.
The platform will be part of a larger marketing and advertising push that the company is embarking on, centered around customer service, community involvement and creating customer value. This is the first customer loyalty card venture for the company since its founding in 1956.
About Accelitec, Inc.
Accelitec, Inc., is a Customer Relationship Management software supplier located in Bellingham, WA. They believe that customer engagement is the new battleground in grocery retail. Accelitec delivers increases in key financial metrics through improved customer engagement. Whether your goal is to understand shopper behavior, drive gains in store visits, use trade dollars more efficiently, or all of the above, the Accelitec proprietary software platform provides the tools to get there.To learn more visit www.accelitec.com
About C&K Market, Inc.
C&K Market, Inc. is a family owned company based in Brookings, Oregon. The company operates 62 grocery stores and 13 pharmacies under the banners of Ray’s Food Place, Shop Smart, C&K Market and Pharmacy Express. C&K was recently ranked No. 4 by the Portland Business Journal on the 2011 list of Healthiest Employers in Oregon among companies with over 1,500 employees. More information can be found at www.ckmarket.com.
This weeks sign of the times has to be the news that eBay saw their sales via mobile devices rise from $600mm to over $2b in 2010. The apps, which are available for the iPhone, Android, Blackberry and Windows Phone 7 operating systems, have been downloaded by over 30 million people in more than 190 countries. Interestingly, the UK has been the fastest Eurpoean adopter of eBay’s mobile app, and combined with Germany they “generated nearly one third of all eBay’s mobile sales in 2010“. According to eBay, every minute there are 94 bids made for various products and 13 items of clothing/shoes/accessories are purchased. This really highlights the growing trend for consumers to do their shopping online and should resonate loud and clear with traditional, brick and mortar retailers.
The message being sent by the market is very clear – develop an online/mobile presence so that our shopping experiences are as fast and painless as possible, or we’ll buy from someone else who can. We’re already seeing the response to this trend from macro retailers like Target, Safeway and BestBuy with their expanding presences on Facebook, mobile applications, and location based services like Shopkick and Foursquare. For the mid-size and smaller retailers who are losing the tech-race, the time is now to start implementing solutions like the Accelitec software suite if they hope to close this growing gap and ultimately start winning back a percentage of these sales lost to online retailers.
CKE Restaurants, which owns Carl’s Jr and Hardee’s, has an iPhone/Android app that allows people to check-in at their local fast food locations to be rewarded with a chance to win free stuff. The interface is very clean and at first glance the prizes appear to be pretty substantial, including anything from a dollar off your next soda to free burgers. The Wheel of Awesome, which is also available on both companies’ Facebook pages, is able to ramp up the rewards that an individual is eligible to win based on their frequency of application usage. Once a coupon has been awarded, the winner has 7 days to redeem it by showing their “winning ticket” at the point of sale. This is a great example of a way for restaurants/retailers/grocers to reward their customers through location based services, leverage the functionality of social media, and ultimately increase brand awareness and customer loyalty by applying a simple and fun ‘game-layer’ to what would otherwise be ordinary, everyday coupons.
Safeway launched a pilot customer loyalty program this week at 300 of its Vons grocery stores in Southern California, combining location based services from Foursquare and special offers from PepsiCo. The results of this trial will have very important implications for the customer loyalty programs of retailers everywhere; if these three companies can prove out this “check-in” loyalty model, then we should expect to see many others like it across all types of retail.
The most glaring omission from this pilot program is the lack of a digital wallet tied to individual customer loyalty accounts, which would allow for the check-in reward to be processed and realized without requiring the shopper to do anything beyond simply checking in via Foursquare. Ultimately it seems that LBS and customer loyalty programs are a natural fit, but this most recent model is still a few steps away from realizing its full potential.
iPhone owners with $.99 can now consolidate all of their loyalty, membership and insurance cards in one place – their smartphones. Scanaroo is available in the iTunes Store and lets users shed the majority of the plastic cards in their wallets and on their keychains with the goal of making life easier and simpler. The next step is aggregating purchasing history data and then allowing complimentary companies to reward customers simultaneously via social media; a member of Gold’s Gym buys a double cheeseburger at McDonalds and gets a Facebook message addressed from their personal trainer offering them a month of free membership if they sign up for a new pilates class; a family rents a movie on Netflix and are instantly offered a special on 2 large pizzas and a 2 liter soda from their local Little Caesars.
According to a recent study by Deloitte, consumers across the country have changed their buying habits and are now more focused on “cutting spending and saving money” than on shopping as a hobby or loyalty to their favorite brands. This trend has led several major corporations like AT&T and ING Direct to acknowledge the paradigm shift and implement new campaigns based around Customer Experience Management (CEM). One example of a CEM initiative at AT&T is customer service reps now answering calls with the phrase “How can I make you feel like a valued customer today?”, while ING Direct has “opened seven cafes around the country” where their financial brokers will whip up double-shot mochas and cappuccinos while servicing your portfolio; all of this is an attempt by companies to connect with their customers at a more meaningful, personal level. As these CEM programs evolve, it will be very interesting to see how consumer purchase histories and individual profiles are integrated into the process of personalized connections between shopper and brand.
Dunkin Donuts has run marketing campaigns on Facebook in the past by asking their “fans” to design the perfect donut for a chance to win $12,000. This time the Quincy, Massachusetts-based company is seeking the “Ultimate DD Coffee Fan” by offering prizes to Facebook users who put together the best videos explaining why they love Dunkin Donuts coffee more than anyone else. The Grand Prize includes a trip for two to Costa Rica and 60 months of free donuts, with 10 First Prizes of 12 months of free donuts also on the table. The categories they’ve chosen to evaluate the submitted videos by are “Passion for the Dunkin Donuts Brand”, “Overall Video Appeal” and “Originality/Creativity”. This contest is just one piece of the overall efforts that Dunkin Donuts has put into their Facebook marketing campaign as they attempt to catch up to their “Ultimate Coffee-Grinding Rival” in social media; there are currently just over 2 million people who have “liked” Dunkin Donuts, compared to over 14 million for Starbucks. The fact that these promotions are becoming more widespread and a larger part of marketing for major companies is further confirmation that social media has evolved into one of the most powerful tools in a customer relationship management strategy.
Two pieces of news the other day caught our eye.
First, Kroger reported strong quarterly earnings by “focusing on service to keep its current customers instead of slashing prices to attract new ones” – a core business philosophy we heartily endorse. Kroger has spent the last several years growing its loyalty program using customer purchase history and interests to deliver personalized marketing messages and promotions; this really underscores the legitimacy of customized messaging for grocers of all sizes.
Second, Capitol Hill has now produced a bill on recall legislation has that would require food retailers to notify shoppers about recalled products. A number of retailers have recently beaten their chests seeking recognition for sending emails to all of their customers during a recall.
Narrowing the scope of these messages to only those customers who are known to have purchased a recalled product and have opted into email notifications is a fundamental starting point, but what is the customer supposed to do with the recalled product? In our experience, this is a tricky question that often leaves customers thankful to know they have a recalled product, but unclear about what to do with the information.
An effective solution that drives customer affinity for the retailers and benefits existing loyalty customers is one that not only notifies consumers that they have purchased a recalled product, but also informs them that they have store credit loaded on to their loyalty card to purchase a replacement. No receipt required, since the underlying technology knows which guests are within the window of entitlement, and no confusion about what to do with the recalled product thanks to the instant credit.
Accelitec has a proprietary solution tying store credits to customer loyalty cards for recalls in just such circumstances. Retailers can begin delivering this important customer service benefit without being required by federal legislation, and potentially turn an unfortunate recall into a positive experience for their loyal customers – doing so may actually help them win new customers, as well.
With the economy continuing to cast a cloud on consumers, the number of shoppers basing store and brand selection decisions on price is increasing.
Accordingly, for those retailers who cannot compete on price it is increasingly important to identify new ways to engage with their customer base. It’s unrealistic to expect that operating the business the same way and using the same tools will impact the growing number of price-sensitive shoppers. Personalized marketing is certainly one way to connect with customers, but delivering personalized messaging along with targeted value is a more powerful combination.
Meijer has now joined the ranks of Android Application developers with its release of “Find It”. Functionality includes a map of the store layout, locations of various sale items, promotion details and even the ability to locate your car in the parking lot once you’ve finished shopping. The technology in and of itself is really not pushing the envelope in the mobile space, but this type of functionality is fairly cutting edge for the grocery industry. What remains to be seen is whether they can not only draw their customers to use the app, but more importantly keep them using it on subsequent visits to the store with the right blend of relevant, timely rewards and useful information.
Starbucks has tried a variety of media plays in the past (magazines, music) as brand extensions, with varying success. This digital program is a horse of a different stripe, however, and appears to be a platform that will keep the brand in a position to leverage new technology to drive loyalty benefits. It makes their stored value card initiative look positively, well, old-school.
“Imagine a Starbucks patron is reading a review in the free version of the New York Times about a Chardonnay and suddenly their iPhone buzzes. A text coupon arrives in your mobile inbox and you are offered $5 off a wine purchase of $20 or more from a local wine purveyor. The coupon has a timed code and expires in 3 days, nudging you to act. The era of the hyper-relevant advertisement is upon us. And that example is just scratching the surface.”
This is part of a larger, quickly emerging trend of location-based, personalized, opt-in promotions and marketing. A key development appears to that this does not stitch together commodity services like Foursquare, but is retailer-branded and unique to the experience at Starbucks. That has enormous differentiation benefits.
Although it is retailer-specific, the hypothetical contemplates an affiliate program that may – or may not – dilute the underlying purpose of getting people to and keeping them in a Starbucks, but in any case adds a level of operational complexity we won’t likely see in the near future.
We look forward to checking it out – at one of the dozens of Starbucks within shouting distance.
As location-based services like Foursquare and Gowalla gain more and more users, and the coverage of retailers using these services grows apace (the PR guys and tech media are really showing nice symbiosis here), the long-term challenge for retailers remains sustained differentiation. These services may be creating buzz and driving short-term results, but when everyone has the same access to the same tools, it’s unclear how meaningful the technology really is in producing results.
If the goal of the marketer is to achieve short-term objectives, all is well and good. A friend of the company once reminded us that discounting can drive behavior, but doesn’t produce long-term brand relationships; that’s where the hard work is, and it’s work that can’t be compressed into a weekend promotion. While it’s fun and interesting to have short-term projects around some of these new technologies, whether the important long-term results can be achieved is an open question.
It’s surely worth pursuing the experiments and running the campaigns to see how LBS (location based services) can work, and we’re all watching them with great interest. But if they’re offering the same thing to everyone, and unable to fit coherently into a broader strategy aimed at sustainable brand engagement, they risk being marginalized over time as an interesting but ultimately unproductive distraction.
The seemingly endless growth in third party online services available to retailers to help them drive brand awareness, launch promotions and generate store traffic is a wonderful thing to see. The availability of LBS services, group buying, aggregated electronic coupon sites, mobile shopping lists, social media, etc. has launched some incredibly creative campaigns.
Independent of the issue of how these third party services – many of which are free to use – are monetizing their business, one question raised by this ecosystem is how retailers and brands can really differentiate their business by using these off-the-shelf services. In some cases, like the Old Spice blitz on YouTube last month, a swing for the fence can actually knock the ball out of the park. However, it’s not clear whether that promotion had any impact on sales at all, though it was surely the most entertaining campaign in recent memory – with the traffic to prove it – to many industry observers.
When the creative use of these services can be matched in hours if not minutes by a competitor (witness the Amazon vs. Wal Mart pricing battle of late spring where they engaged in a sort of negative auction to see which could lose more money on the sale of a book), we enter a world of advertising where engineering resources are needed to provide meaningful separation from what the competition can offer.
That state of affairs is not here yet, as marketers test the waters with a growing number – but still small – of early technology adopters from the consumer side. But brands and retailers will be well-served by identifying proprietary technology solutions which give them a leg up on the competition as they use these interesting services more and more.