Web sites can do a great job of identifying customers and delivering individualized or even personalized offers in real time. But in the real world, Marsh Supermarkets, Inc. is giving its customers a reason to pay attention to computer monitors at the checkout counter. The grocer is banking on messages such as, "For the month of May, please enjoy 15% off on your purchase of paper towels," to fuel both loyalty and increased sales.
The point-of-sale (POS) system, known as MyMarsh, works in conjunction with the Marsh Fresh IDEA loyalty-card program. Essentially, says director of marketing and sales Kevin Bridgewater, "a customer scans his or her loyalty card and then the system delivers offers designed just for them." For example if a particular customer's shopping cart indicates he's buying detergent from the competition, the POS screen might flash: "On your next visit, enjoy a 20% discount on the detergent of your choice." The win-win situation: Marsh grows its share of customer revenue while the customers, "see that Marsh wants to reward them for being loyal shoppers by delivering offers that meet their individual family needs," says Bridgewater.
Let's talk tech
The POS program was developed and is being tested in partnership with Indiana-based Copient Technologies. According to president and CEO Bret Besecker, "The problem everyone is trying to solve: 'I have these great CRM applications and I can mine all this data, but in the end, the best execution tool I have is direct mail.'" His solution: "Give retailers a medium to communicate an up-to-the-minute offer, in real time, at the point of sale." MyMarsh is built on his company's proprietary hardware, software and communications solutions. As a result, the program is updated in real time via a wireless connection, regardless of store location.
The goal behind the platform, says Besecker, isn't to increase a customer's current basket size. At the POS, "it's already too late to do that effectively." Rather, a retailer employing this technology should be trying to encourage what Besecker refers to as "continuity," or future share of customer. "Marsh probably does not have your shopping budget in its entirety," he explains; but by data mining, "They can note what you do and don't buy from them." Now, at the POS, "when it becomes obvious you're not buying paper or whatever, we're going to serve you a one-to-one offer."
So when she checks out, "The customer sees a screen that flashes relevant offers," says Bridgewater. Tests have shown that customers tend to have excellent recall, but "just in case, the offers are also printed out on a separate store receipt." The screens also enable interaction via "touch" technology. For example, "press HERE to enter a drawing or to see a relevant offer in a given area." Explains Besecker, "Interaction improves recall, plus it gives the store another chance to learn about that customer."
The proof is in the pudding
Piloted in March 2002, the early results are "very promising," reports Bridgewater. "We're still testing both the technology and the concept, but the early promotions are proving very successful." Besecker is confident the system will prove itself and eventually find widespread implementation. "Unlike direct mail, there's no incremental cost in building, producing or distributing a promotion," he says. "This is true one-to-one marketing in real time in the real world," and is thus an ideal component of any retail loyalty program."
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All materials copyright 2002 Peppers and Rogers Group - 1:1 Marketing.