Sams Club Brand Loyalty The Sam’s Club MasterCard 5-3-1 Cash Back program, which is managed by Synchrony Financial, has created keen customer engagement and memorable customer experiences since it launched less than a year ago.

As a result, Sam’s Club has been named a finalist for the 2015 Loyalty360 Awards in both the Customer Experience & Engagement and Creative Campaign categories.

The 8th annual Loyalty Expo presented by Loyalty360 – The Loyalty Marketers’ Association will be held April 27-29, 2015, at the Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando in Orlando, Florida.

Toni White, EVP and Chief Marketing Officer, Synchrony Financial participated in a Q&A with Loyalty360 to discuss Sam’s Club exciting program.

Can you talk about your creative campaign, as far as what was involved, what prompted it, and why you think it resonates so well with Sam’s Club customers?

We developed a brand identity and card member experience for the new Sam’s Club MasterCard that captures the essence of the Sam’s Club brand and the value of membership. The new program drives top of wallet behavior, increases sales in and out of the Club, encourages new membership sign-ups and credit applications for the Sam’s Club MasterCard, and promotes loyalty within our Member base.

The creative campaign was developed with comprehensive touch points to promote member engagement through timely, frequent and relevant messaging. The campaign began with a pre-notification note and ended with personalized one-to-one marketing campaign describing the card member's accrued rewards for 2014. We developed a multi-channel and measureable solution to deliver these messages through emails, direct mail, and cardholder billing statements.

To drive new acquisitions and membership engagement, we used the same compelling, consistent, and straightforward messaging. To help increase the overall awareness of the Sam’s Club Credit Program in the Clubs and with associates, we used a variety of in Club marketing channels which included in Club TV and point-of-sale collateral. Additionally, we created and used marketing tools and computer based learning modules to educate our club and call center associates.

We also executed a multi-media advertising campaign in targeted markets that yielded a double digit increase in total sales, triple digit increase in world sales, and strong growth in new applications. Channels deployed included:  Television, radio, outside billboards, newspaper and social media.

What were your goals for the campaign and how did the results match your expectations?

Member satisfaction was our No. 1 goal. We believe that with Member satisfaction, we will achieve volume growth. We wanted to create a value proposition where card members would be rewarded for their everyday purchases. With the Sam’s Club MasterCard 5-3-1 Cash Back Rewards Program, Sam’s Club members are eligible to earn cash back on purchases made with their Sam's Club MasterCard account. Reward percentages depend on the type of purchases made - 5% cash back on gas at almost any U.S. and Puerto Rico gas stations (exclusions apply) and on gas at Sam’s Club and Walmart, 3% on dining and travel (exclusions apply), and 1% cash back on all other eligible purchases and can earn a maximum of $5,000 in Cash Back rewards in a calendar year.

In the first six months of the new value proposition, we have seen a double-digit growth in active accounts, double-digit growth in transaction frequency, double-digit growth in sales, and double-digit new account growth. These metrics clearly demonstrate member satisfaction. In fact, in 2014, we sent out 2X the number of cash back checks to cardholders vs 2013. These results exceeded our already aggressive sales goals.

How do you define Customer Experience at Sam’s Club and how did this campaign impact that theme?

We captured the customer experience by combining member needs with transparency and simplicity. We increased member satisfaction by developing the Sam’s Club MasterCard 5-3-1 Cash Back rewards program after conducting both qualitative and quantitative research utilizing methods that included:  15+ member focus groups throughout the U.S., Sam’s Club associate focus groups, volumetric methodology, concept testing methodology and voice of the customer surveys.sams club brand loyalty

The previous “up to 2%” Sam’s Club Cash Back program was a tiered rewards structure and had been in place since 2005. Research results expressed that members were becoming disengaged and the competitive landscape was changing. With the new Sam’s Club MasterCard 5-3-1 Cash Back rewards program, the card is appealing to both existing cardholders, as well as new cardholder accounts and we saw first year sales doubling.

Along with the launch of the new value proposition, a reissue campaign was also executed. The strategy included reissuing the Sam’s Club dual card credit cards, changing the network association, adding an EMV chip and introducing the new 5-3-1 rewards program–with all of this change we still had high activation rates and significantly reduced the voluntary closure rates.

These changes to the program and card member journey, along with our double-digit growth rates, clearly indicate cardholders see value in the program.

With an abundance of technology solutions available in the marketplace, how do you know which ones best fit your customers and their expectations?

We simply asked our card members about their expectations. We conducted both qualitative and quantitative research utilizing methods that included: 15+ member focus groups throughout the U.S., Sam’s Club associate focus groups, volumetric methodology, concept testing methodology, and voice of the customer surveys. We also brought chip-enabled cards to all of our Sam’s Club MasterCardholders, thereby delivering a more secure solution for purchases made at chip-enabled terminals.

In all our e-marketing activities, we pay attention to email open rates and direct mail response rates, and we test different creative approaches, messages, and channels. To drive awareness and promote the program, we sent millions of emails on a weekly basis and thousands of direct mail pieces, and our opt-out rates remained consistently low−coming in well below the industry average of 0.15%* (*2014 Silverpop Email Marketing Metrics Benchmark).

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