Five years ago, officials at The North Face -- one of the world’s premier suppliers of authentic, innovative, and technically advanced outdoor apparel, equipment and footwear – wondered what a CRM program would look like. Now, six months removed from the launch of VIPeak – its new customer rewards loyalty program – The North Face officials are highly satisfied.

“We’ve looked at loyalty for a long time,” Aaron Carpenter, VP of Global Marketing for The Face, told Loyalty 360. “Five years ago we wondered what a CRM program look like? Now we launched a loyalty program six months ago that combines the right parts of our brand with consumer experience.”

VIPeak is a points program where members receive points when they buy online and in branded The North Face stores. Additionally, there are numerous opportunities to earn additional points for participating in activities that are aligned to The North Face brand (e.g. running races, participating in in-store events).

Once a year, members are invited to redeem their accumulated points in an experience-filled reward catalog that is totally aligned to The North Face's aspirational brand elements (e.g. trips, personal experiences with their sponsored athletes, tickets to events, lift tickets, etc.) If the member chooses not to pick from the catalog or does not have enough points, he or she will automatically be issued a reward certificate that can be used in-store or online.

Carpenter said when developing VIPeak Rewards, company officials wanted to embody the brand and its commitment to helping people explore and push their personal limits.

VIPeak targets The North Face's retail and direct-to-customer channels -- not its wholesale partners. Some of the program’s goals include: customer capture at POS and online; strong enrollment, increases in repeat purchase rates, responsiveness to communications and promotions; and strengthening of brand elements.

VIPeak launched online in December 2012 and rolled out to retail in April 2013.

The North Face is based around several key areas: outdoor (hiking and climbing); action sports (skiing and snowboarding); and performance (running and training).

“We know that getting people into sports and interacting with the brand, we can build on digitally and build loyalty,” Carpenter said. “We see people connect to the brand. We always sort of dreamed if we could do that type of connection digitally. We wanted to get them involved and reward them for getting outside and being active and redeem points for activity. We know people don’t just want more stuff. They want more experiences. We think it will go a long way in building loyalty.”

Carpenter said the program has about 200,000 members and should have 400,000 by year’s end.

VIPeak is an exclusive membership program designed for loyal members to earn redeemable "PeakPoints" for every dollar spent and for participating in local activities such as the San Francisco Endurance Challenge, or on social media channels like Facebook.

Carpenter is very encouraged by how VIPeak members are responding to the program.

“Our VIPeak member are shopping twice as much as our average shopper, and spending 20% more,” he said. “Members want to engage in the program. It’s really the key to the future.”

The VIPeak program is free without any fees.

Carpenter said The North Face is gathering customer insights and testing various projects through Big Data right now.

“You can choose the activities you want to do,” he said. “We look at purchase behavior and tailor our event messaging to that. We have seen really great improvements in open rates. We also have male and female triggers. We also do a lot with weather because our events are very weather-related. There is so much more to do and we’re testing and diving into this idea of Big Data.”

The North Face uses social media quite often, but wants a way to quantify it.

“Everyone is grappling with that same issue,” Carpenter said. “We’re across the bay from YouTube and Facebook. We use social media a lot to track sentiment so we can understand what comments are out there with our brands. We get a really good read from that sentiment and then we dive down into product feedback.”

In the next three years, Carpenter said The North Face plans to ramp up its social media efforts.

“What we’re finding is social is really about listening and the conversation,” he said. “There is a whole set of content that flows in and out and you need to be ready to create and distribute in a curated way.”

Customer engagement at The North Face is “huge,” Carpenter said.

“Our digital director says we have to make sure we’re not broadcasting about ourselves, but we want to ask people to contribute,” he said. “This is why we think this CRM opportunity is so great.”

When people accumulate points, they don’t just redeem for products, they can redeem them for trips.

“I think VIPeak will take us a lot of places,” Carpenter said. “We’re trying to understand who our best customers are and acquisition is pretty important at this point also. We’re trying to do both. There’s so much more in front of us. We want to make sure we’re testing things all the time. We’re definitely connected. Our company culture is customer-centricity and excellence in customer service. We talk about it across all points of our business, and we make sure we have great consistency by giving customers access how and when they want.”

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