How The Container Store used data to build its loyalty program

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Launching its POP! program two years ago, The Container Store was determined not to go the generic rewards points route. Instead, the retailer focused on data.

When Nicole Coburn, director of customer engagement and loyalty marketing at The Container Store, decided she wanted to grow a garden, she realized it’d be more complicated than buying seeds, some soil and a sprinkler. She needed to know what kind of seeds and soil go best with Texas’ dirt and hot climate. She had to figure out how to create a greenhouse effect for germination.

In other words, she needed data. And now her garden is growing.

“That’s how we approached it with The Container Store when we designed the loyalty program,” said Coburn, delivering a presentation called “Redefining Loyalty” at Adobe Summit in Las Vegas last week.

The brand was adamant that its loyalty program – POP, which stands for Perfectly Organized Perks and launched in the summer of 2014 – not be based on points or dollars back. That’s a fairly generic move for retailers, but mostly, it’d create yet another siloed database.

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“We wanted to create something where it was easy for the consumer to enroll. We wanted it to be simple and the benefits easy to explain: you’re going to receive some prize perks that are relevant to you,” says Coburn.

Learning who the customers are…

“Relevant” is the operative word. In order for that strategy to work, The Container Store needed to know who these women – the brand’s audience skews so heavily female that Coburn refers to customers as “she” – are. Having already been around for more than 30 years, The Container Store already had quite a following; to learn more about its customers, all the brand had to do was ask.

Today, POP! has 3 million members and required more of a shifting in existing resources – IT partnerships, for example – than investing in new ones. The data-driven program started off with some data. When enrolling in the program, POP! Stars provided some basic information: name, address, phone number, email address, birthday, preferred location, areas of organization. That membership is also able to serve as a unique identifier.

“Now we understand whether she shops in-store or online and whether she’s in our CRM database, and we can make this connection to understanding who she is,” says Coburn. “Once we had that unique identifier, we could start to add other demographic information and social engagement information, and understand how she’s connecting with us pre-, during- and post-purchase.”

…and who the highest-value customers are

However, it’s not just about knowing the customer. As Sachin Shroff, senior director of customer performance optimization at The Container Store, says, data is meaningless if it’s not creating sales. One bit of useful information the brand gleans from POP! is who does the most shopping. That gives The Container Store the opportunity to reward its most valued customers, as well as find potential new ones based on lookalike modeling.

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The Container Store generally stays away from sales; like Lululemon, the brand doesn’t want to condition its customers to expect discounts. Instead, the best POP! Stars get special privileges, such as early access to new products, in-store concierge and valet services, and birthday gifts.

“We look at how much she’s spent with us in the past year or two. When did she shop with us last?” says Shroff. “It’s not to say you’re ignoring the other customers, but at the same time, you have limited marketing dollars and resources, so you have to have maximum impact with the business.

“When she has a unique experience, it sticks with her more from a brand perspective and she appreciates it a lot more,” he adds.

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