Tuesday, June 11, 2013

It's Personal with Shoppers Drug Mart

I don't have time to read flyers - print or online. But I do love specials! So I frequently sign up for companies' email newsletters to keep an eye out for good promotions or new products. Most corporate emails, however, are often dull and irrelevant. So I rarely make the time to read them.

Ever since I moved to my prior residence, I relied on Shoppers Drug Mart as the only store available to buy our groceries, health and general supplies (you'd think we lived in the boonies - it was actually mid-town Toronto). I greatly benefited from their Optimum loyalty program (it's kept us happily stocked with electronic goodies: Wii and DS consoles and games, SLR digital camera, HD television, back massager, etc.) So I appreciated their email newsletters to help me save money and maximize my loyalty points.

But since we moved to a new place better serviced by stores, I haven't been closely monitoring my Shoppers' emails. Until recently.

A few weeks ago, I noticed that my Shoppers email newsletter was personalized to me.  It wasn't just my name included in the email (which does not make me feel the email is targetted to me). The email was based on my purchasing history and included promotions for items that I'm actually interested in. Granted, book sellers have for a long time been sending me product recommendations based on my purchase history and others who bought similar items.

Shoppers emails were different as: 1) it included items I had purchased in the past and 2) items were on sale!

I was so impressed by this effort, that I contacted Shoppers and asked if they could tell me more about their email marketing, as well as plans for using mobile media.

Tammy Smitham, Vice President, Communications & Corporate Affairs, answered my questions, as follows:

Glen: Recent email newsletters I received from Shoppers are personalized. Is this a new initiative?

Tammy: In late 2012, we began a pilot of personalizing emails with targetted offers to 150,000 customers in Ontario. These offers were based on their shopping behaviours and preferences. For example, if they were a frequent cosmetic buyer they would get an offer with respect to items within cosmetics as well as an offer on the total category and finally we highlight for them relevant offers from that week's flyer based on products they had purchased in the past.

It is a sophisticated process to pull the data and create the relevant offers. It is proprietary technology. We worked with a company called Sagarmatha who specialize in this. They matched the offers with the customer's purchase behaviour. We are starting the roll out in English Canada over 6 - 8 weeks beginning April 2013.

Glen: What has been the response to these emails?

Tammy: The response was excellent. In fact, we saw open rates increase by 1,000 basis points and 50% of those who opened the email bought something featured in the email offer. We also saw an increase in both basket size and trip frequency from those who received the personalized email.

Glen: What are your future plans for personalizing and other innovative uses of email communications?

Tammy: The customer feedback has been very positive and as a result we embarked on a national roll out of these personalized emails beginning in April 2013. Once we reach critical mass (about 1.2 million active email addresses) we will proactively promote this element of our loyalty program. We have over 10 million Shoppers Optimum members but only have about 2 million email addresses so there is tremendous opportunity to grow the program's reach.

Glen: Any plans to enable coupons received via email to be redeemed by mobile device?

Tammy: We are working on a pilot for mobile for our Optimum loyalty program, which should begin later this summer. This will allow members to have a mobile Optimum card. Alongside with that pilot, we are working on making specific offers targetted to them via their mobile device. We hope to roll that out nationally in 2014.

Glen: On the topic of mobiles, can you share any future aspirations for reaching customers via their mobile. (For example, are you considering using geo-fencing?)

Tammy: Our major focus at this time is on making the Optimum card and relevant offers available via the mobile device. We know it is something our customers are demanding.

Glen: I also receive postcards in the mail from Shoppers. Can you discuss your use of old and new media in your media mix?

Tammy: We recognize our customers want to interact with us in different ways - whether it be through our weekly flyer, through personalized emails, via Facebook or through direct mail or our website (we have between 250,000 and 500,000 views of our flyer online per month). Our direct mail programs are also very successful. Given the ability for us to target our customers based on the information we have in the Shoppers Optimum database. We also know that Shoppers Drug Mart customers have greater smartphone penetration at 66% vs the Canadian population at 54% so we recognize that is an important medium for us to be engaged with.

At the end of the day we are focusing on the omni-channel to ensure that our presence is consistent across all mediums to keep our customer engaged with our brand and our offering.

As a PhD student and father with a young family, both my time and finances are constrained. So I greatly appreciate efforts by companies to save me both time and money. Too many corporate, digital marketing efforts don't really get my constraints (which I'm sure many people share). As far as I'm aware, Shoppers recent personalization efforts are among the first in Canada, but I hope they prove a model for other Canadian businesses.

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