Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Q&A With George Jones CEO, Borders Group, Inc.

After losing market share to both online and offline competitors, Borders seems to be turning the page to a more positive chapter. Driving the turnaround of the book and music chain is George Jones, the former CEO of Saks Department Stores and an executive at Target. Jones recently discussed Borders strategic plans at a presentation at the Leadership In Retail Forum in NYC and shared insights into the chain’s rapidly growing loyalty program as well as the pending re-launch of its own proprietary e-commerce site.

Retail TouchPoints chatted with Jones following his presentation to learn more about the chain’s plans for cross-channel retailing, new store formats and how the Rewards program will factor into its overall destination strategy.

Retail TouchPoints: The growth of the Borders Rewards program has been very impressive, now topping 21.5 million members. Can you describe some of the innovative steps you have taken to drive membership in the loyalty program. Also, can you touch on some of the long-term strategic initiatives the growth of the Rewards program will enable and support?

Jones: Our Borders Rewards program is one of the largest and fastest-growing customer loyalty programs in the specialty retail industry. Today, there are more than 21.5 million Borders Rewards members, and the program is growing at an impressive rate of about 150,000 new members per week. The program is free to join and members earn $5 in “Borders Bucks” for every $150 of qualifying purchases. In addition, they receive great coupons and exclusive in-store offers through a weekly e-mail called the “Shortlist.” The Shortlist is a very effective marketing tool because it not only allows Borders to deliver weekly coupons and savings opportunities, but also enables us to introduce and recommend compelling book, music and movie titles for sale in our stores.

Leveraging this program has enabled Borders to support nearly all of the company’s strategic initiatives including our proprietary and exclusive publishing program. We used Borders Rewards and the Shortlist with great impact when promoting our first proprietary novel—Nick Santora’s “Slip & Fall”—which was sold exclusively in Borders and Waldenbooks stores. This book reached national bestseller lists largely due to our ability to promote it to Borders Rewards members. In addition to proprietary and exclusive publishing, the Borders Rewards program also enables us to deliver on our broad cross-channel retail strategy. For example, through the Shortlist, we are able to introduce customers to the exclusive and original video programming Borders is creating and making available online.

“Many retailers are multi-channel—meaning they operate in more than one channel—but we are seeking to differentiate Borders by blending the best of the online shopping experience with the best of the bricks-and-mortar experience to create a greater overall customer experience.”—George Jones

Retail TouchPoints: You talked about taking back the Borders e-commerce site, can you expand on some of the intangible business benefits that will provide you. Also can you elaborate on how that will help you strengthen your relationships with customers across channels?

Jones: Our upcoming proprietary Borders e-commerce site, scheduled to launch in early 2008, is a key chttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifomponent of our strategic plan and one I feel will help to truly differentiate Borders in the marketplace. Many retailers are multi-channel—meaning they operate in more than one channel—but we are seeking to differentiate Borders by blending the best of the online shopping experience with the best of the bricks-and-mortar experience to create a greater overall customer experience. We are previewing some of the features of the upcoming Borders.com site on a beta site and have invited our customers to test drive those features including the Magic Shelf —a virtual representation of a Borders store book shelf with the browse-ability of a store visit. Customer feedback on this feature is very positive so far and we are anxious to launch the new site because it’s essential to our cross-channel strategy and to facilitating the Borders Rewards program online.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Stop & Shop Selects Software
to Improve Shopper Loyalty

Stop & Shop recognizes the importance of the products featured on their shelves in addition to the importance of their customers. To gain a better understanding of their customer’s needs, Stop & Shop has selected predictive analytics software from SPSS, Chicago, to increase customer loyalty and develop new products and services.

The software is designed specifically to deliver timely and effective promotions to customers, which helps to personalize offers more effectively. In addition, the software is intended to identify specific product attributes most important to shoppers while also helping to drive revenues.

According to Ed Garabedian, manager of BI analysis and support at Stop & Shop, the SPSS predictive analytics “will help our organization better understand our diverse group of customers and their unique needs with relation to products and promotions.”

SPSS' predictive software offers Stop & Shop an improved understanding of their customers needs so they can deliver on them, as well as better manage production and distribution.

"Stop & Shop is one of the many advanced retailers that recognize the importance of understanding and predicting consumer behavior in order to create customer loyalty and drive revenue. SPSS predictive analytics is clearly a cutting-edge competitive advantage in all customer-driven industries," Jack Noonan, SPSS president and CEO commented in a statement.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Coldwater Creek Launches New
Loyalty Program for Big Spenders

Coldwater Creek recently announced the launch of “onecreek,” a loyalty program that will feature discounts and other special promotions designed to enhance service while rewarding its most valued customers.

The loyalty program, which is currently being tested in select markets, targeting the top 5% of the company’s active customers with high-end rewards and shopping experiences, provides benefits such as sneak peeks at new merchandise, a onecreek customer service specialist, a personal shopper, exclusive onecreek savings and promotions, free shipping on returns, and a special gift on the valued customer’s birthday.

Customers will automatically be enrolled in Coldwater Creek’s onecreek loyalty program upon meeting eligibility. Eligible people include those who visit the store three times more frequently and spend four times more than an average customer, the company said.

“While many retailers have used their loyalty programs to capture the customer name and address, we are optimizing the use of our existing customer database to identify and initially enroll over 250,000 of our very best customers in onecreek,” said Dennis Pence, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. “The program is designed to improve retention and overall spend within this very important and profitable segment of our customer base.”

Onecreek is scheduled for a full roll out in September.