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Glen Bradley, Vice President Marketing Analytics, Price Chopper Supermarkets participated in an engaging interview with Loyalty360 to discuss the company’s views on the importance of customer relationships, customer feedback, and customer loyalty.
The Golub Corporation is the parent company of Price Chopper Supermarkets, which celebrated its 80th anniversary in 2012.
The chain operates more than 130 stores in New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire and is fueled by an extended family of more than 22,000 teammates who collectively own more than 47% of the company’s privately held stock, making it one of the nation’s largest privately held corporations that is predominantly employee-owned.
Define Customer Loyalty and Measurement
Bradley: The simple definition of loyalty is how likely current customers are to shop with us in the future. There are some metrics involved certainly, with the most quantifiable measurement being our actual financial interactions. However, perceived or mislabeled loyalty based strictly on transactional or functional interactions is fleeting at best. We need the deeper connection that is represented by true loyalty. We’re looking for folks who are not just making transactions with us, but those who are becoming brand ambassadors.
Everyone Wants a Loyalty Play
Bradley: Everyone wants to have some kind of loyalty play in our industry. It’s a constant battle. But to differentiate, your loyalty program can’t be a ‘me-too’ program with loyalty card discounts at the register and minor benefits like check cashing, which seem rather mundane and of little value at this point.
On the second-tier loyalty program, you’re getting some extra benefits. In our case, it’s a discount on fuel. In other cases, it could be a consistent discount percentage or a regular stream of offers.
The third tier of loyalty is a personalized relationship, developed over time, which engages and rewards the customer at a deeper level. This is where we strive to be.
Use of Customer Data
Bradley: Certainly, every company is making a different choice on the collection and use of loyalty card data. We know a lot about what customers are doing in our stores. We use our consumer insights research to learn about what customers are doing in other stores and online, but that does not involve sharing customer specific data.
We place a very high value on the customer’s privacy. What’s happened in the last couple of years with data breaches makes us more sensitive than ever to how much the customer is entrusting to us. We have to earn and respect that trust.
How Are You Collecting Customer Feedback?
Bradley: We’re not short on customer feedback. We’re fortunate to be a moderately sized company not so far removed from getting that feedback directly from customers and our field personnel. We get hundreds of comments a day through our communications center, consumer surveys and social media. We’re also large enough to put sufficient resources into a very good consumer insights area which uses a number of methods including focus groups and ongoing surveys to keep us in touch with the customer.
Technology In-house or Outsourced?
Bradley: We realize that keeping pace with technological advancements in every area is a challenge for a company our size. To deal with this, we have aligned ourselves with appropriate third-parties to help us stay close to the leading edge in several key areas within marketing.
Measuring Social Media
Bradley: It’s very difficult at times to embrace some of the new digital trends and social media properties when you can’t get a good measurement on exactly what you’re getting back. However, a portion of your budget has to be allocated to trying new things while relying on soft benefits and customer feedback for your measurement rather than a strict ROI calculation.
Benchmarking Studies on Loyalty Programs?
Bradley: Everything changes constantly and loyalty is no exception, in terms of how customers think of loyalty, their expectations, and the number of competitors entering our industry.
We monitor industry studies on loyalty and we include this topic in our own consumer research. The grocery/drug/mass/ convenience space is so competitive that we need to know how our program compares.
Are you using new technology to communicate with customers in store?
We’ve been reviewing the costs and benefits of a number of in-store technologies before we implement anything. We’re concerned about any perceived invasion of privacy if we push messages or if it feels like they’re being tracked too closely … a little too much Big Brother.
One Tough Industry Question?
Bradley: We’d like to know how quickly paper circulars are going to become extinct, replaced entirely by digital, because it’s a bigger issue in our industry than many others.
Adopting Other New Technologies?
Bradley: We’re always trying to listen to what customers want. We ask direct questions around these new technologies or services, asking them very specifically which of these they use, which they’d like to use, and which they’d like us to offer.
About the Author: Mark Johnson
Mark is CEO & CMO of Loyalty360. He has significant experience in selling, designing and administering prepaid, loyalty/CRM programs, as well as data-driven marketing communication programs.
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