The Container Store redefines loyalty

LAS VEGAS – Many retailers spend a lot of time, energy and budget trying to acquire new customers instead of focusing on keeping the ones they already have. This in spite of the fact that spending a marketing dollar to retain a customer can often yield a healthier return than trying to go out and find new ones. The reality is that retailers need to balance both.

The Container Store is one retailer that understands that core principle. 

Speaking at the Adobe Summit held recently in Las Vegas, Nicole Coburn, director of customer engagement and loyalty marketing, discussed how The Container Store developed a unique customer loyalty program that is already driving results in its first year. 

After 35 years in business, The Container Store realized they were at a point in their organization's growth where they needed to create a loyalty program for their customers.

The team at The Container Store recognized that they could go out and purchase existing technology to quickly implement a traditional points-based loyalty program, but this approach would have resulted in the addition of "one more siloed database that does not help at all with creating a complete view of the customer," argued Coburn.

Instead, the team took a different approach. "We stepped back and asked ourselves, how could we create a data-driven program that could better serve both our business and our customer?"

Several challenges presented themselves during the development process. "We didn't really know who our customer was," said Coburn. "We didn't know how she was interacting with us on different devices or how to connect with her."

The focus of the program became finding a way to connect with the customer while creating incremental business for the company. It was also important to the team not to create a one-size-fits-all program that would quickly become outdated. They wanted something flexible that would evolve as the company progressed and changed. 

The result was a surprisingly simple program called Pop (Perfectly Organized Perks).

The Pop program launched in July 2014, and The Container Store already has over 3 million members.

Pop contained several key elements, including easy enrollment and a welcome series of qualifying questions. Pop is a data-driven program, and a simple enrollment form created a seamless process for capturing data.

The Container Store team can now begin to better understand their shoppers, but as new channels form, so do new databases. This brings back the issue of siloed databases. 

So the team took a step back to gain a holistic understanding of how the customer is interacting and moving from channel to channel. 

They asked themselves how they could create one unique identifier that spanned all of the disparate databases. The answer was to take the unique identifier from the POP program – email address – and match it across all databases. 

"Now we really understand who she (our customer) is. Whether she's shopping in store or online or whether she's in our CRM database, we can make a connection by understanding who she is," said Coburn. "We understand how she is connecting with us pre-purchase, during purchase and after purchase."

"We took a step back and invested in additional resources. We built out our internal analytics team to mine the data we were collecting to find out what that next best offer is. What is that relevant content for her?" she said. 

Part of this investment included the use of Adobe Campaign, which allows the team the flexibility to access their customer data and set up multiple test designs. The platform provides access to real-time information, allowing optimizations of campaigns midstream. Coburn noted, "Part of our key foundation for a loyalty program was giving each of our customers the right offer."

Coburn's advice to other retailers in this situation is clear: understand the challenges, focus on removing the barriers, be willing to make the investment and take the time to create a unified view of the customer. And she says, most importantly, "We left ourselves room to evolve."

It's also important to have all key stakeholders involved from the beginning, Coburn says. "Consensus along the way allowed us to be successful. Partnership with IT, technology and marketing was key."