Loblaw Masters Customer Centric Culture in the Great White North

Customer Expo 2018 featured a presentation from Jim Noteboom, Senior Vice President of Loyalty & Consumer Insights for Loblaw, Canada’s largest grocery chain. He spoke about how his company was able to rise to the challenge of creating a customer centric culture in a changing world.

To show the American audience what his brand was all about, Notebloom played a promotional and informative video that stated, “The dynamics of the customer relationship have altered directly. The power of online community groups, with their influence on brand choices and their delivery, is real. The merging of bricks-and-mortar retail with the speed of the online shopping experience is coming into view.” The video also mentioned that “where we once surprised the customer by innovating for her, today we’re being called into innovating with her.” These themes proved key to Loblaw’s effort to put customers at the center of its operations.

Notebloom told the audience that Loblaw’s history of loyalty programming began in 2000 with the launch of Shoppers Optimum, “famous internationally for being one of the largest established loyalty programs, which Canadians love and use every day.” Then in 2013, the company launched PC Plus, a digital-first loyalty program, which “gained quick traction with the Canadian consumer, as well.”

That same year, Loblaw acquired Shoppers Drug Mart, a large pharmacy chain that came with a popular loyalty program of its own. Said Notebloom, “We had a fantastic opportunity and at the same time a challenge with that, because we had two large loyalty programs. Shoppers Drug Mart had 11 million active card holders in a total [Canadian] population of 36 [million].” Meanwhile, PC Plus had 8 million active card holders. The challenge was in the fact that the two programs used entirely different reward systems. Merging them was no simple task.

“The biggest anxiety and the biggest news in Canada was not so much about the transaction. It was the consumer feedback around the deal and highlighting the passion around the two loyalty programs,” he said. Customers didn’t want to lose the programs that had been good to them.  To keep customers happy, said Notebloom, “we embarked on a journey that was entirely customer led.” The company ensured that every move it made was based on what its customers wanted.

What they desired, it turned out, was for the two programs to come together, making for an easier consumer experience. Loblaw responded by putting everything together in one place. All points came together in one app or card. “It also now enables us to get all the feedback from the consumer, in terms of what’s next.”

This program, launched in February 2017, is called PC Optimum. It now has over 16 million members (which is nearly half of the Canadian population). It’s so popular, Notebloom stated, that “every 30 seconds in Canada, a product is being redeemed for free in one of our stores.”

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