Levels of Loyalty

Build-A-Bear and Brooks Bros. couldn’t be further apart on the retail spectrum. The latter puts a spin on classic clothes while the former puts its spin on a classic toy. The common denominator that both chains share is the need for clean, accurate customer data to support their superior loyalty programs and in-store experiences.

New York City-based Brooks Bros.’ classic styles have kept the company a favorite for two decades. Owned and operated by the $1.4 billion holding company Retail Brand Alliance, Enfield, Conn., Brooks Bros. operates 180 retail locations in the United States as well as 100 stores across Asia.

The upscale retailer, which specializes in men and women’s apparel, is also dedicated to delivering a topnotch customer experience. The only way Brooks Bros. can consistently achieve this level is to understand its customer needs.

“Brooks Bros. has a loyal customer base. We have been able to retain this group through our clientele program and the use of business intelligence [BI],” Stefano Gaggion, VP of IT, Retail Brand Alliance, said during the BetterManagementLive! Business Conference last fall.

The user conference was sponsored by SAS, Cary, N.C. Gaggion was a panelist during the discussion, “Competing on Enterprisewide Business Intelligence in the Everyday World of Retail.”

Brooks Bros. builds these customer relationships through its credit card-based loyalty program. Each time a shopper uses either The Brooks Card private-label credit card or the Brooks Bros. Platinum MasterCard at checkout, they earn four points for every $1 spent at the chain. Brooks Bros. Platinum MasterCard holders also receive one point for every $1 they spend wherever MasterCard is accepted.

And each time these cards are swiped, the chain collects the cardholder’s name, address and purchase history. By adding the SAS Enterprise BI Server to the mix, Brooks Bros. uses analytics and a suite of user interfaces to query this shopper data and measure store performance, regional performance, category performance, promotional effectiveness and marketing response rates.

“BI is critical for enabling us to deliver the correct experience in-store for our shoppers, as well as to interact with them,” Gaggion explained.

However, this task doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, Brooks Bros. consistently educates its organization about the importance of using BI to support its loyalty strategies.

“We are often challenged by how to educate our organization to get behind BI,” Gaggion said. “It is more than a buzzword for our organization. If we really want to have intimate relationships with our shoppers, we need to continue taking advantage of our customer data. BI is the vehicle that will reveal the best ways to connect with them.”

Realizing that all of its BI efforts are useless if data integrity is compromised, Brooks Bros. is mindful of keeping data warehouses and stored information as clean as possible. “If you don’t have quality data, then you cannot believe results of reports,” he explained.

Building relationships: Like Brooks Bros., St. Louis-based Build-A-Bear analyzes its internal data to understand its shoppers and provide a unique shopping experience.

Since its debut 10 years ago, Build-A-Bear has sold 45 million personalized teddy bears and plush toys. That momentum shows no sign of slowing as purchases across approximately 270 Build-A-Bear workshops in the United States and United Kingdom, and 34 stores located internationally, helped the chain ring up $437.07 million in revenue last year.

Build-A-Bear has built its reputation on a unique customer experience that enables shoppers to create, personalize and customize stuffed animals. The data it collects from every visitor helps the chain to enhance and improve this experience.

“The experience starts with the [stuffed animal’s] barcode,” Dave Finnegan, the company’s CIO (or chief information “bear”) shared during the A.G. Edwards Retailing 2007 conference, held in January in Coral Gables, Fla.

As shoppers register their creation at a dedicated kiosk, they are asked to swipe their furry friend’s barcode, as well as add their own name, address and e-mail address. All of this data is stored in a corporate database.

The next data stream stems from information collected at the point of sale, including the merchandise’s SKU (stock-keeping unit) number that is scanned during checkout.

Finnegan revealed that the most telling data comes from the company’s revamped loyalty program, the Stuff Fur Stuff Club.

Previously, shoppers carried paper cards. For every $10 spent during a visit, “Master Bear Builders” (also known as cashiers) added a stamp to the card. Once the card had 10 stamps, the shopper could redeem the paper card for $10 toward his or her next purchase. By partnering with NSB Group, Montreal, Build-A-Bear revamped the program and launched a traditional plastic card-based loyalty program late last year. As shoppers present their Stuff Fur Stuff loyalty card during checkout, they are electronically awarded one point for every $1 they spend. After hitting a 100-point threshold, shoppers are mailed a $10 reward.

“With the swipe of each card, we collect information on purchased animals and related merchandise, and their owners,” he added. “By analyzing this data, we can view purchase patterns and history trends, and learn who is redeeming their points and what they are using them for. This increases our ability to communicate via e-mail and direct mail.”

To date, almost 3 million customers have signed up for Build-A-Bear’s Stuff Fur Stuff loyalty program.

Keeping this data in check is the only way to keep the program successful, according to Finnegan.

“The only way we can accurately mine our data is to keep databases and information clean,” he said. “Then we can take our knowledge to drive more value through our in-store experience and promotions.”

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