Tag Archives: Coles

THE FRIDAY RANT (2)

Hello! Today I’m going to talk about loyalty programs, within the context of a good old rant… FullSizeRender

Firstly, just wanna put the thought out there on what is probably my biggest bug bear with the whole notion of loyalty programs: how can loyalty expire? If I’ve been loyal, I’ve made a conscious, positive choice to stick with one brand (and God knows there are plenty to choose from out there) and I’ve bought a number of their products and/or services over a period of time. My eyes may have been turned by a number of other, attractive specimens – I’m only human, after all – but I’ve remained strong, focused and committed, with my eye on the prize. But what is that prize? – A plastic card that glimmers in a slightly more metallic way than the one I had last time. – A transitory sense of reward that’s veiled in a threat of these miles/points/bonuses expiring in a year’s time, or even less. – A promotion that inevitably seems to have ended, by the time I’ve finally had the chance to claim it. – An ever mounting pile of points that I hoard with glee, but I’m never quite sure what exactly I can spend them on.

Collecting points is somewhat addictive – consider how you feel when you’re in a particular retail store and realise your loyalty card is in your other wallet/bag/car (you’re a bit posh!). You’re briefly reassured by the fact that you can ring customer services and reclaim those points at a later date, but do you ever get round to it?? I don’t. It’s on my ever–increasing ‘personal admin’ to-do list but, sadly, that doesn’t mean it gets done. If you look at the origins of the word ‘loyal’, it was borne way back, out of such significant developments as the legal system, with the definition of law abiding citizens, and ye olde feudal system. And I think right here is where we get to the heart of the problem. Loyalty was about being loyal to your sovereign/government/master – I’d love to say mistress as well, but we all know no one is loyal to a mistress. And if you were repeatedly subservient to your master then you were considered loyal, trustworthy and presumably therefore tipped for the top. Well, not the top, but some form of reward, or privilege, versus those wastrels who were not quite as loyal.

So, in our case, does that make the brands we’re loyal to our masters?! Erm, I think not. We’re the ones with the cash; the ones that keep them in business; the people who help deliver them profits (along with their slaves, sorry, employees); and we’re the ones who can make or break their destiny. Hmmm. So, remind me then why they can dash our dreams in an instant by informing us in a bog standard email template that we’ve slipped from the heady heights of Silver to Scum, and make us feel really quite unworthy of their attention, as we dared to not need their services this year, quite as much as we did last year. I can’t possibly fit all my loyalty cards in one wallet, not even an electronic wallet, as the brands in question don’t necessarily all subscribe to the digital age just yet.

I’ve got cards for: supermarkets; department stores; chemists/toiletry providers; hotels; airlines; cafés; homeware/design stores (swoon) and no doubt more besides. But I can count on one hand the tangible, impressive rewards I’ve received for my loyalty. These rewards have all come smack bang out of nowhere and that’s when I think brands get it absolutely right – when they make us feel really special and knock us for six (in a good way, obv). In essence, when they actually deliver on that well versed marketing concept of ‘surprise and delight’.

So, here we go… I’m going to call out the top three brands that have made me feel very special indeed, in order of impressiveness:

1. Emirates Emirates is an absolutely legendary brand. In less than 2 years, I’ve gone from intrigued trialist, to hard core loyalist, and I’m already a Silver member, to boot. (Having family and friends in a wonderful homeland on the other side of the world might just have given me an advantage there.) I was flying back to Sydney from London, via Dubai, with my sister, my ‘sister in law’ (the ‘bling fund’ hasn’t stretched to a proposal just yet) and her boyfriend. And Emirates gave my entire crew a free upgrade to Business, based on my Silver status eligibility for a spontaneous upgrade. The remaining three peeps in my party were all flying Emirates for the very first time, albeit on my recommendation, and only one of them checked in at the same time as me, benefitting from the same surname, and the same Traylor eyelashes to flutter on cue. Half an hour later, we were all reclined, with a champers in hand and absolutely stoked! (In fact, my sister nearly got trapped in the flat bed position, prior to take off, because she was playing with the settings so much. How the usual Business class flyers loved us…) I’ve just booked another long haul flight with Emirates for this year’s holiday and got the man of the house into the club too. And my sister is travelling with them next month for her visit back to our homeland, having switched from her usual Qantas flight partner. So, while the flight was probably empty enough on that London to Dubai leg in question, and it didn’t cost them all that much to reward us, it has paid more than a few dividends for them already. And I haven’t looked back. I’d already been impressed with the quality of the service and product I received, but now I’m totally committed and won’t look elsewhere. A faithful and loyal subject, if you will.

2. Westin It was a pretty awesome milestone for the MamaTray business when I officially hired my new Brand Strategist, Heather, at the start of 2015. And on 15th Feb, we made our first big business trip, to a big client meeting, in the big city of Melbourne, as a dream team duo. I’d booked us into the Westin, a brand I’ve grown rather fond of in recent years, for both work and play. And, as we checked in, we were informed that we’d each had an upgrade to a ‘Deluxe’ room. They had me at the word ‘Deluxe’! And deluxe, they certainly were. Really lovely rooms with sensational views across the city. I’m a member of the Starwood Preferred Guest Program (SPG) but there’s no specific level I have to achieve to keep me on my toes and presumably, my recent tendency to prefer the Westin in my hotel repertoire had paid dividends. Do I remember the other big brand hotels I like to stay at? Yep. The Shangri–La is in there, for a touch of decadence on a holiday/stopover, but the rest of the selection has paled somewhat in my recognition, for now.

3. Mini I bought my first Mini back in 2009. It was ‘pre loved’. (What a great example of how verbal identity can transform a somewhat ordinary concept into something you really want.) It was a convertible and I bought it in late October, back in England, and I distinctly remember driving home, top down, just because I could, with my friend Rachel freezing to death in the front passenger seat. I jumped into the car with my new set of keys and started reversing out of the parking space on the forecourt, when I noticed a huge bouquet of flowers on the back seat, just casually chilling out, with a lovely, handwritten ‘thank you’ card from the team involved. Now that’s what we like. FYI, my Mini dream was robbed from me somewhat early, when I got the offer to move to Sydney with Interbrand, so I went on to buy another pre loved model out here in Aus, at twice the price of the nearest equivalent in Europe. And there are those out there who say that branding doesn’t work… Those who nearly made it into the top three, but not quite, include: – The Ritz, London. For those of you who don’t know, The Ritz is an infamous, timeless, London establishment where you simply must go for afternoon tea, sweetie. They treated my Mum like the friggin’ Queen at her birthday tea and she was thrilled skinny (her phrase). Think: special ‘Happy Birthday’ solo by the resident harpist; personalised birthday cake (as if we needed any more food); and (tin foil) origami doggie bag in the shape of a swan (the neck doubled up as a carry handle). – Ocado (online shopping operated by Waitrose in the UK) and Coles (Australian supermarket) – both of whom slipped a bottle of crisp, chilled, white wine into one of my first online shopping deliveries, just because they knew I’d appreciate it. I most certainly did. – British Airways. Who upgraded me into a (much needed) Business flat bed on the red eye to London, one Monday morning, after a Hen Week Extravaganza in NYC. The guy called me up to the desk in the lounge, asked for my ticket, and ripped it up in my face – this was in the days before free Wifi and I thought he’d seem me ‘borrowing’ the phone line for my laptop, as I had an award paper to get out – but it was all just for dramatic effect, before he gave me my new Business class ticket. (They’ve now lost my favour though, after I slipped from Gold, right down to Blue, and they humiliated me for this fall from glory, ever since.)

Reading these branded examples back, it sounds like I have a pretty ritzy lifestyle. Only, on occasion, I assure you. 😉 So, onto my tips for improvement, as standard issue:

1. Dramatic and spontaneous – Don’t assume because you’re a more everyday retailer/brand like a supermarket, or toiletry store, that it isn’t as important for you to reward your customers as dramatically as it is for bigger ticket, more luxurious brands like airlines and hotels. We all have way too many better offers out there and we’re your bread and butter. – Employees need to be empowered to make spontaneous rewards on behalf of the brand they work for, to make the previous examples more common place for all of us. – A concept I talk to my clients about is ‘planned spontaneity’ – build in those pivotal surprise and delight moments into the customer journey, so that they become talked about hallmarks of your brand experience and spread oodles of free word of mouth endorsement.

2. Elephants never forget  – I’ve told everyone I know about the Emirates story above. But I’ve also bored people with the way that British Airways let me slip down into oblivion and feel pretty shit about it. I won’t travel with them again, or recommend them to my family and friends. Do you know how galling it is for someone who’s British, not to want to support our national airline?! Apparently, an unhappy customer will tell approx. 15 people about their bad experience. I’d say that’s an understatement these days. – Keep your database up to date and use it to keep tabs on how long your customers have been in your life, not just how much they spend and what they spend their cash on. So often, brands prioritise acquisition of shiny new customers, with ever more wonderful offers, and completely forget to recognise and reward their mid and old timers. – Notice when a customer defects, or simply slips off the radar, and ‘reach out’ to them, with anything from a phone call/survey that dishes the dirt, to a ‘we’ve missed you, please come back’ tail between your legs offer, that’s worth their while to consider.

3. Smooth and seamless – We now have the technology to recognise all of our customers, all of the time, regardless of which store/country/facet of our business they interact with. Put your hands in your pocket and implement this technology, to make our lives easier, so we spend more on you and feel good about doing so (without having to carry our loyalty card). Simples! – There’s no excuse for being passed around a call centre, or website, anymore, and having to re-identify yourself on each and every leg of that painful journey. Just. Sort. Your. Shit. Out. – Make rewards seamless versus putting the onus on the customer to opt in and/or activate their reward. We know you make more profit if we can’t all get around to claiming our prize by the timings you set, but, yup, that’s only going to make us think even less of you. Give us the voucher already and don’t set a stupid expiry date on it. Our loyalty can last forever if you play your cards right. Come to think of it, there are a few brands out there that I’ve given an awful lot of investment and loyalty to, during pretty significant milestones in my life, none of whom have given me a cent of recognition, or reward, by way of return. They don’t seem to know who they are, so here’s the naming and shaming: HSBC (House Purchase Number 1); CommBank (House Purchase Number 2); Apple (Business Number 1). You have been warned… 🙂 Until next time.

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BRANDS UNDER THE SPOTLIGHT: PART 1

From this week, the tone of the MamaTray blog becomes a tad more serious and the post, a good degree longer. So maybe grab a coffee before you embark on this one…

I’m taking at look at my experience of certain brands, as a normal customer on the street – not your average customer, given I work in branding, but a paying customer nevertheless.

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First up, is Coles. For my non–Aussie readers, Coles is a retail giant (supermarket, plus the usual extensions into areas like car insurance, credit cards and the such like) and Number 2 in this market, with 8.8 million customers. Its biggest rival, Woolworths (Woolies to the locals) boasts 9.5 million customers and has recently been heralded as the most valuable brand in Australia. Grocery prices are eye–wateringly high in this market, compared to Europe for example, so the main focus of the supermarket brands is to talk about value, with secondary messages about ‘freshness’ and ‘quality’.

I’m a regular Coles customer. It was the supermarket located near my first residence in Sydney, ‘fresh off the boat’ from the U.K. and I’ve stayed with it, by and large, for my main weekly splurge. I tend to opt for online shopping, to help improve my overall quality of life, but I also visit the stores from time to time. I have no complaints about the quality of the groceries, they’re always very fresh and well presented, and the delivery guys who come into my home with the shopping have good banter. (Yes, I always put them through their paces, to fully ‘road test’ the customer experience.)

BEING HUMAN
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As a retailer obsessed with offering the very best value to its customers, Coles has gone down the path of creating ‘catchy’ (or desperately annoying, depending on your tastes) ad campaigns, complete with slogans galore and 80s jingles, sung by ageing U.K. rockers. (So proud.) The ‘Down Down’ campaign is the most notable of these – it claims that prices on pantry staples and essential items will stay ‘Down Down’ at a consistently low price. Presumably therefore helping you manage your household finances better. Bingo, bango.*

In recent weeks, the campaign has taken on a whole new level. The line is now: ‘Deeper Down Down’. Items which were already ‘Down Down’ are now being reduced even further, some up to 34% lower than the original! However, when I add in the accompanying visual device, for some context, as depicted below – a red, enlarged hand, with pointing forefinger, I’m convinced that at least a few of you will find your minds drifting to the same land of innuendo that I did. (Do any of you remember the lyrics to ‘Deep’ by East 17, btw?)

‘Deeper Down Down’. Really? Is this the kind of language you want/need to see from a leading brand? Or a retail brand which offers products that line your pantry (ahem) and comms that constantly pervade your consciousness? I wasn’t convinced this new direction was a goer, so I tweeted Coles about it. To their credit, they replied. That’s all I wanted. A brand that responds to my concerns and one that acts like a human being:

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BUMPS IN THE ROAD
As I mentioned, I’m most likely to do my Coles shopping online. What I’ve started to notice, is that it seems to be very hard to deliver a consistent, seamless customer experience through this channel, despite recent upgrades to the web portal and ‘back room’ technology.

My typical experience goes a little something like this…

1. I carefully plug in my (extensive) weekly shop, from the comfort of my sofa/bed, on the iPad, using the absolute God–send of a tool called the ‘Usuals’ list, that keeps a record of all of the products I have ever purchased.

2. When I checkout, I inevitably get told (by an annoying pop up) that some of the products I have chosen are not stocked at my local store. This is confusing.
• Firstly, why do I, as the online customer, need to know that Coles is getting my items from a particular store? Surely, it is one big store. Like one big pie for those who love David Brentisms.
• Secondly, the local store named isn’t actually so local. There are at least 4 nearer stores that I would personally have chosen to get my stuff from. It’s probably a bigger, more convenient store for Coles to use.
• Finally, I have to remove said items, versus take their suggested alternatives – hoisin sauce, for example, is not what I would describe as a viable alternative to French vinaigrette dressing…

3. I finally checkout. The site now has the nifty technology to store my card details, so there’s no more scrabbling around to find the card in question and run the risk of it all ‘timing out’.

4. On the day of delivery, I always receive an email – an email that I dread – informing me that at least 3 or 4 items are out of stock. (Out of stock? You’re a retail giant and things like yoghurts and loaves of sliced bread are not what I would consider to be specialist items…)

5. When the delivery actually comes, however, I often receive some of the items that it claimed were out of stock. And sometimes, I even get the items that it told me were not available at my ‘local store’ that needed removing from my online trolley. Wow, that’s a minefield of missed fine detail. Coles must lose money when its paperwork (and emails) claim items are missing and don’t charge me for them. And, what’s more, I potentially over–order items, as I think they’re not available. That doesn’t represent ‘value’ for either of us.
• Case in point: the man of our household likes a weekly chicken schnitzel. It’s not a big ask. But every time I order them online, they’re out of stock. So, this time, I ordered 2 different kinds of chicken schnitzel, in order to guarantee that at least one pack arrived. On my last delivery, both arrived, despite one being flagged up as ‘out of stock’. Except one pack didn’t contain chicken schnitzels: it was pieces of raw chicken breast that could be schnitzelled (I presume that is a real word?) if I had some eggs, flour and breadcrumbs to hand. The webpage depicted what can only be described as a chicken schnitzel – or a chicken schnitzelled, if I may – not raw chicken breasts. Either way, I only paid for 1 of the 2 packs, so technically no loss from my perspective. Perhaps, even a serendipity.

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So, you see my concern. Is the technology behind the online shopping platform not able to keep pace with the shopping lists we order, or is it an issue with back office/operations behind the selection of our items instore by the assigned ‘personal shopper’? Or, perhaps, a bit of both? Either way, the online shopping experience is currently not as seamless as it promises on the newly designed website, and it could potentially damage the overall customer experience of shopping at Coles.

BETTER THE DEVIL YOU KNOW
The above ‘bumps’ eventually made me branch out to the enemy and try Woolies online, to compare and contrast. For starters, it didn’t seem as popular, as I could get a delivery slot the very next day. (The Coles one gets booked up really quickly, especially on Wednesdays, the free delivery day. Those slots are like gold dust!) Perhaps Woolies simply have more ‘men on the ground’ but who knows, I’m trying to think like a customer here. Secondly, their delivery charges reduce the more you spend, which made me feel excellent. (The Coles charges go on time of day, so presumably around factors that make it cheaper for them to deliver.)

The process went like this:

1. Aside from the inevitable ‘having to start again’ and choosing all my items from scratch (from a printed–out list of my Coles ‘Usuals’) the Woolies online process was pretty standard. No local store shenanigans, but a different selection of brands to choose from which sent this brand freak into complete turmoil, as you can imagine.

2. There were items I removed from my trolley before checkout, which turned up on the day in the delivery, and I was charged for them, despite not wanting them.
• (In addition, I rashly ordered 7 packs of Roma tomatoes, thinking I was actually picking 7 Roma tomatoes, but luckily they were out of stock, so we didn’t have to eat tomatoes with everything for the next few months. Phew.)

3. The delivery arrived, half an hour early. Bonus. The delivery man said approximately 4 words to me, despite my attempts at a bit of social interaction, and he was gone.

4. I promise I’m not making this up, but guess what was totally missing from the order? The bloody chicken schnitzels!! No out of stock warning, no apology. I got straight onto the customer service line, to discuss, and the whole issue was dealt with in a very slick, professional manner (he rang the driver to check they weren’t still smuggled in the back of his van; they weren’t; he issued a refund which cleared the very next day; there was also a very well branded, email to confirm).
• On the call, I also mentioned the items I had removed from my online trolley, turning up in the delivery, and he agreed that was strange. The next day, I was refunded for them, despite him not telling me this would happen, which I guess would fall into the ‘surprise and delight’ brand behaviour box.

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How did I feel after the deed was done and dusted? Hmmm, essentially, a little underwhelmed by my foray into the adulterous waters of a rival service provider. At best, I think I’d potentially play them off against each other, especially when I can’t get a Coles delivery slot until about 5 days after I want one. But, I won’t fully commit to Woolies. I missed the banter, if I’m honest. Getting a bit of chat with my delivery – on the traffic, the weather, how popular raspberries are at the moment, the fancy new handheld devices that are ruining their lives, whatever. So, above and beyond an efficient and seamless experience, I’m after a bit of good, old fashioned, human interaction. I shop online for ease, but that doesn’t mean I want a soulless brand experience.

What I would say to Coles, is that I represent one (particularly demanding) customer segment and there are many others out there, evaluating their own choices of retailer based upon the more tangible, functional experience they receive. And, currently, Woolies just about has the edge on the online shopping front. A little bit like they just about have the edge in the market, per se. It’s not a big edge by any stretch, and it’s begging to be surpassed.

Until next time… ☺

* A phrase used within this post, purely designed for the satisfaction of Mr David Sutherland – the originator of said phrase – and others who are aware of his unique way of phrasing things.