Shopper engagement solution is a game-changer in Woodlands

Woodlands Local Reward Club membership card

The world-first launch of a new shopper engagement solution in SLR’s Woodlands Local store in Falkirk has the potential to become a template for a new era in customer communications and relationship management in local retailing.

by Antony Begley

SLR’s Woodlands Local convenience store in Falkirk has made another small piece of retailing history by becoming the first local retailing outlet on earth to launch its own ‘shopper engagement’ solution in-store. It’s taken a lot of planning and a lot of co-operation between the store, the Epos provider and the company that has written the software that powers it, but the system is finally live, and the customers are signing up.

The system is a next-generation digital solution that allows the store to capture a wealth of individual-level customer data – and send segmented or even individually personalised communications to customers.

Known as the Woodlands Local Rewards Club, it looks to the customer in many senses like a traditional loyalty club, but in reality adds a whole new level of tailored, personalised communications that has never been done in a supermarket before, let alone a c-store. Think of it as a sort of Tesco Clubcard or Nectar card on steroids.

The spirit and the heart of local retailing can be encapsulated in just a couple of very simple words: customer relationships. Convenient locations, great pricing, strong promotions and the litany of other weapons we have in our armoury are all critical in the battle for the increasingly valuable customer spend, but the single biggest advantage that convenience stores have over their supermarket and discounter cousins is that unique relationship we enjoy with our customers.

The trust and friendship and loyalty that is built up between a convenience store and its customers remains unique, and hugely enviable. This system takes that relationship to another level.

Continuous engagement

Engaging with customers is, as we all know, a continuous process. That’s why the Darius software that powers the Woodlands Local Rewards Club breaks all activity into three phases:

  1. Pre-store: all the things you do before the customer even gets to your store, often geared towards physically bringing them into the store
  2. In-store: how you engage with customers when they are in the store
  3. Post-store: what you do once the customer has left the store to complete the loop

To achieve all of this, the solution incorporates a number of dedicated software solutions all the way through the process:

  • Discovery a detailed audit of the existing approach to customer engagement and any data held
  • Engage solution to manage shopper engagement and segmentation and customised communications
  • Proximity shopper detection and tracking during a store visit
  • React real-time reaction solution based upon triggers such as proximity or purchase
  • Checkout closing the loop on a store visit by matching purchases and redeemed offers to an individual shopper
  • Profiler a solution to review shopper behaviour and basket data to identify insights that will help plan future communications
  • Insights Measurement and analysis solution for continuous assessment of all activity

Digital opportunity

But the world is changing, and the challenges that are coming to the wider retailing industry are coming from a very predictable source – online – but the reason why online sales continue to grow year on year is only partly down to the convenience of having products delivered to your door. The other driver is the glut of data available to online retailers which makes it a piece of cake for them to gain the depth of understanding about their customers that supermarkets and even c-stores can only dream of. Until now…

The Woodlands Local Rewards Club will merge the online and offline worlds to deliver what SLR hopes will be a massively improved experience for the store’s customers, driven by the hugely improved insight gathered from interacting with them more closely.

The solution takes a methodical pre-store/in-store/post-store approach to achieving continuous engagement with customers, continually working to understand their needs and desires more and more deeply – then satisfying those needs wherever and whenever possible.

Working hand in hand with the existing EPoS system in the store, the Rewards Club provides a seamless tool for gaining a much better understanding of every Member at a more in-depth level than has ever been achieved before.

How does it work?

At its simplest, the solution allows all customer data that can be gathered – including in-store transactional data gathered using a small key fob – to be attached to an individual customer’s profile. This insight is then used by the store to drive an action or series of actions. That could be to send them a personalised email or text, for instance, or it could be to order some stock of a new product. Some examples of how this would work are as follows:

  • The store may end up with an excess of stock from a specific category after having over-ordered for a promotion or for a seasonal opportunity. Instead of simply running an untargeted promo in-store, the solution can be interrogated to find out which customers already buy into that category regularly, for instance. An email, text or Facebook message could then be sent to only those customers offering them a tailored promotion. “We know that you love X, Y or Z product – so next time you’re in we’ll give you 50% off, just because we appreciate your custom!”, for example.
  • When a manufacturer launches some major NPD, the system can tell the store which customers are most likely to be interested in it. If it’s a new chocolate bar, a message could be sent to the store’s top 50 purchasers of chocolate bars to offer them a free sample of the new product next time they are in-store, making them feel loved. What’s more the system can then track how many of these 50 customers subsequently go on to buy the new product with their own cash.
  • The system is able to capture and add pretty much any structured data to a customer’s profile, such a birth date or name of spouse. It would be possible for instance to use in-store beacons to identify when a customer has entered the store on their birthday, triggering a message to the tillpoint to prompt the staff in the store to wish the customer a happy birthday when they get to the till. It would even be possible to pre-load the customer’s profile with a designated ‘birthday gift’, something appropriate to the customer according to their buying history. Imagine how pleased a customer would be to arrive at the till to be greeted with “Good morning Mrs Johnson, and a very happy birthday to you. We know you love Milk Tray, so have this from us as a birthday gift!”

Individual-level data adds a hugely rich level of insight on top of that available from the EPoS system. Using the system it is possible, for example, to know how often ‘Mrs Johnson’ comes into the store, how much she spends every time, which products she buys, whether she buys into promotions, which categories she buys into – and a whole lot more.

The scope of the system is limited only by the imagination of those using it. By discovering this information about ‘Mrs Johnson’ it is possible to personalise her experience every time she is in the store, making it more worth her while to visit Woodlands Local rather than another – and that includes the likes of Tesco and Aldi.

One of the main reasons people use local retailers so frequently is because of the relationships they develop with the team in the store.

A Rewards Club like this allows any store to nurture those relationships, to make the offer to each individual customer more compelling. That leads to more frequent visits and bigger baskets.

The recruitment challengeJoin the Woodlands Local Rewards Club poster

One of the most difficult challenges that Woodlands Local faces is recruiting customers into the system. Previous negative experiences with traditional loyalty schemes and general scepticism means that customers are wary of joining loyalty clubs. The fact that customers don’t expect a c-store to run what they initially see as a loyalty club also makes it more difficult to get them to join.

But a comprehensive strategy has been put in place to explain the benefits of membership, communicate them widely and offer an incentive for joining up: the choice of a 4-pack of Coke, a 6 pack of Walkers crisps or a 4-pack of Double Deckers, just for joining up.

  • Facebook: the store issued a post on Facebook and then paid a total of £33 to promote the post to a wider audience in Falkirk, achieving over 400 engagements through this method. The post includes a shortened URL link to a dedicated landing page where customers could sign up in under 30 seconds.
  • Woodlands Local website: the dedicated Woodlands Local website includes a different shortened URL directing customers to the landing page, allowing the store to track which channels are most effective in generating sign up.
  • Internal posters: a series of internal posters were placed around the store complete with dedicated QR codes and text numbers to allow customers to reach the landing page via their smartphones or by text.
  • External posters: a permanent external poster with a dedicated QR code and text number does the same thing.
  • Dedicated flyers: 1,000 dedicated flyers were designed and printed and distributed in the area around the store. Again, these flyers had dedicated QR codes and text numbers to allow customers to reach the landing page via their smartphones or by text.
  • Regular 3-weekly leaflets: A large section of the front page of our regular 3-weekly promotional leaflets was given over to promoting membership of the Woodlands Local Rewards Club.
  • EPoS sign up: working with the store EPoS provider, Retail Solutions, a facility has been introduced to allow customers to provide their names, mobile numbers and email addresses directly into the EPoS system in-store.

New levels of insight

All retailers have confidence that they know their customers inside out without having to rely on EPoS, but as Woodlands Local store manager Gerry Begley points out, having had the Woodlands Local Rewards Club for only a couple of weeks, the insight already being gained is enlightening.

“The experience of the last few weeks and being able to see hard, individual level data tells me that we don’t actually know our customers nearly as well as we think we do,” he says.

What’s more, the solution will clearly get better and better as it gathers more data and insight but the potential of it, and what it means for the relationship a retailer has with their customers, is simply phenomenal.

This is the first time such a system has been rolled out in a c-store and it will be worth watching in future.

Landing the message

Sign up to the scheme can be done in many ways, including in-store, but the most effective and comprehensive way is via the Woodlands Local Rewards Club’s specially-built online landing page.

Customers can arrive at the page via the Woodlands Local website, Facebook page, Twitter, QR code from a variety of POS or via text. When they complete their details they are sent a unique barcode which they exchange in store for one of the three special sign-up rewards available.