Customer loyalty schemes: maximising the opportunities

With garden centres enjoying high levels of customer loyalty, Keith Bateman?says getting the most out of loyalty schemes makes good business sense.

In today?s competitive world, satisfying customers? needs is as fundamental as ever. Through understanding their individual buying habits and interests you can build a relationship and tailor your offering accordingly.

Customers are rewarded for their loyalty resulting in repeat visits and further spending with you. With the sector typically enjoying high levels of customer loyalty, it makes business sense to maximise the opportunities available.

Loyalty schemes are proven to be effective whether for a large or small single site, across multiple stores or for a large destination centre. Electronic point-of-sale (EPoS) and retail management solutions with integral customer loyalty can help you effectively manage this activity.

How do customer loyalty schemes work?

Customers join your loyalty scheme and their personal details are captured, typically including name, address, date of birth and other useful information such as anniversaries or areas of particular interest. All of this data is invaluable in helping you better understand your customers.

Many garden centres issue loyalty cards that are scanned at the tills each time the customer shops. The customer?s transactions are recorded not only for the total spend but importantly, for the items purchased. Customers can accrue points every time they shop with you. There is also the possibility of having multiple cards per households, so collective spend can be pooled really easily.

Flexibility and relationship building

You have total flexibility in deciding the value of your loyalty points. For example, one full pound spent could equate to one loyalty point. You can also award points for a particular product, range, time period, date or season. You also decide how and when customers can redeem the points they have accrued. Instant redemption at the tills is one option, money off vouchers to use on a given day, week or month or at a specified event. Building the relationship with the customer is much easier and you can tailor activities and communications with far greater precision than with the mass mailings of the past, which were costly, timely and untargeted.

Personalised mailings and emails are far more relevant and allow you to easily track their effectiveness. Advanced loyalty features can harness further opportunities, for example a free gift and incentive to visit

on the customer?s birthday, anniversary or in line with seasonal buying patterns for bedding plants, Christmas or Easter. In-store promotions can be linked with loyalty membership too. Bounce back couponing is an extremely effective tool for encouraging repeat visits in the short term, with coupons typically having a date range for redemption. At the point-of sale, coupons for the individual customer can be triggered and printed based on their basket value or linked to particular items purchased. For example, a customer buying plants could receive a coupon discounting compost on their next visit or everyone could receive a coupon for a free cup of coffee between specified dates.

What this means for garden centres

Phil Gass, finance and marketing director of Creative Gardens in Northern Ireland said: ?Loyalty has become crucially important to us, with approximately 50% of our shoppers in the loyalty club and those customers spending on average twice as much as non-members. It?s vital to ensure offers are tailored, represent great value and are too good to resist! We can easily monitor the success of each coupon, so if it didn?t work well we can try something else. It?s important to keep evolving and keep the offer fresh?.

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