For most of her career, Stacy Kjelland worked in ad agencies that talked a lot about emotions, but didn’t always make deep, long-lasting connections with customers. “Emotional connections just scratched the surface: make ’em laugh or make ’em cry,” she says.
But when she discovered the impact of consumer insights, loyalty, and customer relationship management (CRM), Kjelland saw an opportunity to change that. And when she joined Olson 1to1 in 2011, she put that all into action—including a recent successful project evolving and revitalizing The Vitamin Shoppe’s loyalty program, Healthy Awards.
While loyalty programs are common place, many organizations are lagging behind—both in offering programs that actually appeal to customers and utilizing them for potential business benefit. But according to Kjelland, vice president of client services for Olson 1to1, more meaningful and impactful programs have become fundamental. By leveraging key data insights from these programs, organizations can boost sales in chosen customer segments through consistent, relevant, and personalized communications.
“When done right, loyalty is the foundation of any brand’s relationship with their customers,” she says. “It’s an incremental and long-term relationship that needs constant nourishing. Brand campaigns can ebb and flow, but loyalty is the constant current supporting it all.”
Debuted in July 2018, Vitamin Shoppe’s redesigned Healthy Awards program introduced features aimed to better reward the loyalty of its six million members and inspire and nourish them on their wellness journeys. The program rewards members not only for interacting with and purchasing from the brand, but also for their health and wellness victories, big and small, as well as encouraging them to reach new goals.
“The real key here is emphasizing that your best self, goal, or lifestyle is constantly changing. Healthy Awards is more of a journey than a program,” Kjelland says. For that reason, the program is designed to celebrate customer achievements and empower them for whatever comes next.
To truly connect on those emotional appeals, Olson 1to1 focused its work on a seemingly simple mentality. “We always start with one simple belief: Think like people,” Kjelland explains. “For this project, we achieved this by employing empathy as a key tool, understanding and connecting on an emotional level with The Vitamin Shoppe’s customers.”
In addition to that customer focus, The Vitamin Shoppe chose to work with Olson 1to1 because of the agency’s long history of experience with top big box and specialty retail, grocery, and consumer packaged goods. “We’ve managed, designed, created, and executed loyalty and CRM programs for brands such as American Eagle, Best Buy, Sunglass Hut, Tesco, The Home Depot, Advance Auto Parts, Express, and ALDO,” Kjelland says. “Retail is in our agency DNA.”
More importantly, perhaps, is the cultural fit between the two organizations. The ability to empathize with customers is a strong indicator of that connection, as The Vitamin Shoppe has placed customer wellness as its mission.
“We had a strong rapport with Vitamin Shoppe chief brand and customer experience officer Susan Sanderson’s team from the very first meeting,” Kjelland recalls. “We had a shared vision, which is paramount, but the laughter was important, too.” In fact, a 2017 Forrester Wave report showcased Olson 1to1’s strength of serving as an extension of—and its commitment to—its clients’ team.
But saying that Olson 1to1 empathizes with customers is one thing; actually placing that emotional appeal in a context that employs a vast array of tools to measure, achieve, and take actionable steps from that emotion, however, is a more difficult task. The framework that Kjelland and her team developed utilized three essential points of reference: immersion, motivation, and experience.
To truly immerse themselves in the customer experience, the Olson 1to1 team conducted numerous stakeholder interviews and partnered on rigorous customer research and competitive analysis. Next, they determined the true motivation of The Vitamin Shoppe’s customers. “Motivation is about uncovering moments of truth and analyzing database insights to begin creating a blueprint for the customer journey and getting into their mind-set,” Kjelland explains.
The Olson 1to1 team then began to bring their analysis to life throughout every step of that journey, aligned on key performance indicators and strategically segmented. “The system allows us flexibility while ensuring that this process always keeps the lens of the customer in mind,” Kjelland says.
And this lens is not just impacting the customer experience but also marketers themselves—most notably in the ways brands can collect, leverage, and share customer data. Increased demand of transparency and the recent rollout of the General Data Protection Regulation in the EU, for example, have signified a major change in the way brands have traditionally communicated to customers and what they can and cannot do with their data.
“There is a significant shift in thinking going on, with more and more control in the hands of the customer, forcing brands to rethink their approach to loyalty and retention,” Kjelland says. “Frankly, in many ways loyalty and loyalty marketing have never been more relevant—for customers or brands.”