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.
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.
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.