New Starbucks card vetted by NerdWallet: great for sampling the menu

Starbucks is doing a good job making the customer experience sparkle with their new Visa card. Nerdwallet also has the best explanation of the 'star system' I've seen. Our only problem is staying on the healthy side of the menu. 

Nerdwallet: Starbucks Rewards Visa Card Review, 2018-Feb-13 by Claire Tsosie

The sign-up bonus is super-sweet. The sign-up bonus on the Starbucks Rewards™ Visa® Card is worth 2,500 Stars. That’s worth 20 food and drink items. That could add up to:

  • 10 Frappuccinos and 10 turkey pesto paninis, or
  • 15 Caramel Macchiatos and five apple fritters, or
  • Seven pumpkin spice lattes and 13 Cranberry Bliss Bars at holiday time

For Starbucks devotees, this bonus makes the card far more attractive.

Stars can potentially be quite valuable. If you redeem Stars for some of the most expensive food and drink items — namely, the items that cost $5 or more — you’ll get at least 4 cents out of each Star. That’s an excellent value, if you can manage it.

To be sure, if your favorite Starbucks item is drip coffee with room for cream, this card won’t be as valuable. But for those who want to venture into the more expensive parts of the Starbucks menu, it’s a big money-saver.... 

The Starbucks Rewards™ Visa® Card isn’t about dollars and cents — it’s about coffee, pastries and emotional value. It’s not the most lucrative credit card available for everyday spending, but it’s a relatively affordable way to treat yourself on a regular basis, save some cash on your coffee runs and taste-test all the priciest items on the Starbucks menu. For enthusiastic Starbucks customers, its frequent freebies and surprises make it a steal, even with the $49 annual fee.


Loyal customers get variety and choice at Hertz

Car rental firms are facing up to customer demand for choice and variety more and more. The Hertz Gold Plus Rewards program has been a simple and effective membership mechanism for a long time. Now Hertz is improving the customer experience.

AutoSlash: Hertz's Ultimate Choice: A One-Year Review, 2018-Feb-12 by Chris

But for the real Ultimate Choice magic, sign up for Hertz's free Gold Plus Rewards program. It costs nothing and takes only a couple minutes to fill out the form on Hertz's website.

Then, when you book a midsize car at an Ultimate Choice location, not only do you get to skip the long line at the rental counter, you also get to pick from a special selection of vehicles just for Gold members. Hertz tries to reserve nicer trims and lower-mileage vehicles for the Gold section—instead of Corollas and Sentras with 50,000 miles on them, in the Gold aisle, you might find a Hyundai Elantra (a fun car to drive!) with 15,000 miles and maybe even leather seats. You might occasionally find a couple of fullsize cars sprinkled throughout the row.

It gets even better if you have a few rentals under your belt. Just five rentals in a calendar year gets you Hertz Five Star status. A midsize reservation at an Ultimate Choice location as a Five Star customer will give you access to an even more special Five Star vehicle selection


Crayola supports user-generated content with Instagram and Vivoom

For customers, having a brand to republish your post is such a thrill. To move from an organic Instagram activity into shared videos, Crayola worked with Vivoom to develop a Crayola app that helped its customers create and share video holiday cards. 

Getting enthusiastic customer testimonials has never been easier for brands like Crayola. 

Adexchanger: Crayola Gets Crafty With User-Generated Content, 2018-Feb-8 by Allison Schiff

Crayola consumers create a lot of organic content using Crayola products. A search for the #crayola hashtag on Instagram surfaces everything from intricate fan-made “Crayoligraphy” handwriting art to crayon doodles from kids.

The brand’s social team makes good use of those assets by engaging with creators in the comments and republishing their posts. 

But the paid media team also wanted to take advantage of the content’s authenticity, which led it to Vivoom, a platform that allows people to use their phone or computer to create and share videos with branded templates and augmented reality filters.

Crayola tested the technology over two weeks in December as part of a larger holiday campaign, encouraging consumers to make holiday video cards and post them across social channels. The purpose was to see if consumers would generate quality video content that Crayola could later repurpose for other campaigns, including paid efforts.

During the test’s limited run, users only created a few hundred videos – but they garnered more than 300,000 views, with a 62% completion rate compared with the 52% average completion rate normally seen on Crayola’s video content. The $.04 cost-per-view rate was also far below the industry benchmark range of $.10 to $.30.

The results are proof that friend-to-friend and user-to-user engagement help performance, Scurato said. Crayola plans to tap its fans to power future content-driven initiatives, including online video campaigns.


Retailers, including Neiman Marcus, are building one-to-one relationships via mobile apps

Shoppers are less and less likely to frequent the e-commerce website of a store, and more and more likely to rely on its mobile app. Mobile apps have two big advantages over websites for retailers: 1) they are easy to use in-store and 2) they are more likely to used casually by the shopper. Smart retailers are pouring money into mobile app development and mobile-enabled commerce. Neiman Marcus Looks To Associates For Social Media Commerce, 2018-Jan-23

At the National Retail Federation (NRF) show last week, Neiman Marcus Chief Executive Karen Katz said that her 4,500 associates are generating sales for the company via their personal Instagram and Snapchat accounts. Katz said the company encourages the practice because “customers who are attached to a sales associate spend more.”

To help facilitate communications with customers, each associate receives a company-issued iPhone and the iSell mobile app. Associates post fashion advice — like how to dress up jeans — and text updates about new items that have arrived in-store. “We are trying to bring a more human touch to how [our associates] act online,” Katz said.


“A huge portion of discovery of new products is now happening on Instagram and Pinterest for women,” said Jennifer Hyman, co-founder of Rent the Runway, according to The Wall Street Journal. “Pinterest and Instagram serve as virtual malls or virtual cataloging for every woman across the globe.” And, through a mobile app called Spring, fashion shoppers can discover new brands, as well as manage the packaging and shipping of their items. 

RetailWire: Will in-store clienteling aid Neiman Marcus’ digital push? 2017-Oct-23 by Tom Ryan

On its fourth-quarter conference call earlier this month, CEO Karen Katz told analysts the luxury retailer continues to invest in software tools to “deepen engagement” and “help our associates drive sales outside the four walls of the store.”

A major focus is continued investments is Isell, a proprietary digital clientele management tool first rolled out five years ago that allows sales associates to use an app on a company-issued iPhone to retrieve customer data and “tap into customer preferences.” 

To further personalization, custom software is being developed that enables selling associates to send personalized outfit suggestions to customers via text message, which Ms. Katz described as “already a key driver of transactions.” The suggestions are based on past purchases, customer browsing history on the company’s websites, social feeds and/or inquiries.

The clienteling tool is guiding the company’s first platform under the digital first strategy that focuses on digital luxury services. Two other platforms involve upgrading Neiman’s e-commerce sites and increasing its selection of exclusive merchandise.

Building a loyalty program at DAVIDsTEA

Rewarding customers is important, but if we want to grow closer to them and strengthen our business, we have to use our loyalty data to try new things with them. 

diginomica: How DAVIDsTEA uses loyalty program data to change experiences – and results, 2018-Jan-16 by Jon Reed

...The rate of re-activated DAVIDsTEA customers is up 47 percent. (that means a customer that was active, say, in 2015, but not in 2016).

Figuring out the precise number for an action is huge. In the case of retention, the magic number is 140 days. Artun:

By looking at that metric, you can figure out there’s a break point around 140 days. So what the brand does is that, as the customer stops coming to the store or buying online, keep track of how long it’s been – and create a trigger message.
With any data project, the plumbing is important. AgilOne pulls relevant data from DAVIDsTEA’s operational systems, including its Microsoft Dynamics ERP. They also pull data into AgilOne from their marketing campaigns on Facebook and elsewhere. “The data is being pushed there every day,” says Laporte.


Hotel loyalty: straight Wyndham or frilly Marriott? Why can't we get rebates?

Unless we're staying at the Four Seasons, there's a rewards program attached to our hotel stay, and it may be coming from a few different sources, including the hotel brand, the booking agency, and the credit card we're using. Almost all of us will check the rewards and try to apply it to the cost of the room. The amount on the receipt minus the rewards earned plus the reward redeemed equals the cost of the room... but how do you value a warm cookie? (That's a reference to Up in the Air, and we have to watch 55 seconds into the clip to catch the reference, but it's priceless.) 

We've seen quite a bit of speculation about how the Starwood and Marriott loyalty programs will be merged, and it's likely that Starwood's simple, generous program is going to get more complicated. Even the Editor-in-Chief at the publication Hotel Management complained about the complexity of most points programs. 

What's clear is that customer volume is so important that hotel chains try to appeal to everyone. And there are only two things that appeal to everyone: cash and a free night. Wyndham has taken the straightforward approach of making it easy to earn and redeem a free room. Marriott has taken the opposite track of having an elaborate program with many different types of rewards that appeal to many different types of travelers. 

Cash (even in the form of rebates) has got to be better for some of us who can't travel very often. I wonder if one of the hotel chains will ever consider that. 


Market for coffee is fueling restaurants, including Stumptown, Peet's and more

Smartphones are not the only addiction. A new generation of coffee addicts are making morning coffee stops part of their routine. Here's our theory: in the evening, people are interested in trying something new. In the morning, they want something reliable.

Chicago Tribune: Your morning fix is fueling Chicago's coffee boom, 2018-Jan-15 by Samantha Bomkamp

...Coffee builds a habit. When customers find a coffee drink they enjoy, they’re far more likely to come back every day — or at least several times per week — than they are for, say, a great burger, NPD analyst Bonnie Riggs said. 


Coffee tends to produce higher profit margins than other food and drink businesses.

And coffee chains are expanding to capture the growth. Chain coffee shops increased their locations by 6 percent from 2016 to 2017, according to NPD. In all, the U.S. has almost 3,000 more coffee shops than it did five years ago. In Chicago, that includes smaller chains like Stumptown and Joe & the Juice. Stumptown opened its first Chicago location in December in the West Loop’s Ace Hotel, and Copenhagen-based Joe & the Juice opened its first Chicago location on the Near North Side on Wednesday.


“I’ve got to tell you, I don’t think it’s going to slow down,” Coonan said of the broader coffee market. “I was nervous a couple years ago.”

Coonan said part of his confidence is tied to the growing desire by landlords to bring coffee retailers into buildings as an amenity for tenants. 


Mallory Pilcher, Stumptown’s marketing director, said she feels there’s still a lot of room for coffee growth across the U.S. “So many parts of the country are just getting turned on to high quality, sustainably sourced, hand-crafted coffee,” she said. “Cafe concepts are evolving and menu options are expanding.”

Pilcher said the brand plans to roll out a loyalty program in the future to reward its regulars.

At larger sister brand Peet’s Coffee, which has a dozen Chicago locations, nearly a third of transactions earn loyalty points, and CEO Dave Burwick said the chain is working on “significant enhancements” to its app this year, including testing mobile ordering. 


The rise of mobile ordering also is helping drive quick, habitual coffee purchases, Riggs said, because it makes people less cognizant of what they’re paying than when they hand over cold hard cash. The use of mobile ordering raises the chances that customers will opt to make multiple visits and spend more when they do, she said.


Riggs said coffee sellers are finding ways to expand the market instead of fighting over the same group of java-loving customers.That’s helped by a focus on breakfast, which has seen growth while lunch and dinner slow, and afternoon snack time, when more people are justifying a cappuccino when they take a break from work, Riggs said.


Customer visits to quick-service burger and gourmet coffee chains spurred by deals rose by 7 percent in the third quarter of 2017 compared with a year earlier, according to NPD, which called it the “strongest (traffic) seen in quite some time.” Customer visits not driven by promotions rose 4 percent. The burger and coffee categories together account for less than one-tenth of the total food service industry, but their growth was so strong they pulled the whole industry into positive territory, NPD said. It was the first time the sector recorded overall growth in a year and a half.


Target adapting to the new retail environment

The ability of stores to adapt to the new retail environment will be realized in both small successful steps to change their behavior as well as new startegies and overhauls. Here's some evidence from Target. We assume that 70% of the footwear orders were NOT shipped from across the country but from a nearby store, leading to lower expenses and lower air pollution, too. 

Footwear News: Target Has Found the Secret to Getting the Most Out of Its Stores, 2018-Jan-9 by Sheena Butler-Young

“We’ve positioned our stores at the center of a continually expanding suite of convenient fulfillment options and made significant investments in our team, which enabled our stores to fulfill 70 percent of all digital orders in the November/December period,” said Target chairman and CEO Brian Cornell. “As we look ahead to 2018, we will build on the foundation we established this year by launching additional exclusive brands, enhancing our digital capabilities, opening approximately 30 small-format stores and tripling the size of our remodel program to more than 325 stores.”

He added, “We will also remain focused on rapidly scaling up new fulfillment options including Same Day Delivery, which will be enabled by our acquisition of Shipt and our recently launched Drive Up service.”


The store that understands you best will win: Kroger, Amazon or Walmart?

Under competitive pressure from Amazon, Kroger is deepening its investment in the collection and leverage of customer data. This represents more than loyalty and rewards. Like Amazon and Walmart, Kroger wants to build a revenue stream by selling advertising to its suppliers. If you're a product manufacturer with items for sale at Amazon, Kroger and Walmart, those three companies are competing for your advertising budget. The store which can offer you the best return on your advertising will flourish, and that return is based on the ability of the store to capture and correctly analyze data about its customers. 

We remember that not too long ago, Target got in trouble for sending diaper coupons to a household where the teenage daughter had not yet told her parents she was pregnant. What next?

Ad Exchanger: Why Kroger Wants to Be a Walled Garden--And Why It's an Uphill Battle, 2017-Dec-14 by James Hercher

The revelation that Kroger is developing a data-driven ad platform, Kroger Precision Marketing (KPM), to launch next year underscores how brick-and-mortars are trying to exert control over their data in the same manner as an ecommerce company. Yet the goal of a true brick-and-mortar walled garden is fraught with challenges.

For decades, retailers sold anonymized data to third-party aggregators, but most are beginning to pull back on that side revenue stream, said Sean Cheyney, VP of North American business development for the retail ad tech company Triad.

“Retailers are starting to see that open data model as them losing control of their most valuable assets,” he said.

Kroger has alerted agencies and tech vendors that campaigns with KPM must run through 84.51˚, a data and targeting business that the retailer purchased from Dunnhumby in 2015, according to three different retail ad tech companies that have been told of the update.


Nike bets on membership data

As competition in athletic apparel heats up, driving prices down, Nike has latched onto their successful membership drives for products like personalized sneakers and exercise tracking applications. Their goal is to capture the information they need to push aggressive innovation while improving both customer satisfaction and engagement. 

diginomica: Nike focuses on digital membership and “relentless flow of innovation”, 2018-Jan-3 by Derek du Preez

Nike CEO and chairman Mark Parker recently told investors that its this “strategic shift to digital” that is satisfying customers and will underpin the company’s future success. Meanwhile, CFO Andy Campion explained how digital engagement is creating a better “price-value relationship” with its customers.

CEO Parker said:

We’re focused on unleashing a relentless flow of innovation at a scale that our industry has never seen, bringing NIKE closer to the consumer in key cities and delivering with speed and using the power of digital to go deep and broad by rewarding our most active NIKE+ members, while expanding that community to hundreds of millions.

Parker explained how across EMEA Nike is “taking friction out of the delivery and return process”, where, in Berlin, it now offers same day delivery by leveraging inventory within the city. Similar initiatives will be adopted in Paris and London later this year. Whilst in Shanghai, it has built a digital studio that will focus on creative selling opportunities and leveraging “real-time data with platforms like WeChat and Tmall”.