Retailers typically say that loyalty programs are designed to benefit their customers and create goodwill relationships that will drive repeat business. Given that, it is somewhat surprising that a retailer whose customers have, at most, a six- to nine-month shopping life cycle and then may never have cause to return to its stores again, would dedicate resources to create one of the most highly customized co-branded loyalty programs in the retail industry. But that is exactly what Philadelphia-based Mothers Work has done.
About five years ago, Mothers Work surveyed its customers and learned a primary concern of expectant mothers was paying for their child’s education.
In December 2003, Mothers Work responded by giving birth to FutureTrust, a payment card issued by Barclaycard and co-branded with MasterCard that automatically defers a percentage of purchases to the cardholder’s designated 529 college-savings account.
Consumer response has been a veritable population explosion. Adam Bashe, managing director of the Mothers Work FutureTrust division, told Chain Store Age that some 200,000 consumers have enrolled in the program to date.
Merchants have signed up for the program as eagerly as consumers. At the futuretrust.com site, Web links connect you to the more than 500 merchants that participate in the program. Cardholders merely have to pay for a purchase with the FutureTrust MasterCard and at least 1% of the total is diverted to the intended college-savings account.
Many retailers contribute an even higher percentage. For instance, Linens ’n Things donates 5% of purchases and a long list of retailers, including Office Depot, Sears and Zappos.com, each donate 3% of purchases.
Mothers Work is so committed to the program that it donates 1% of all purchases made with the FutureTrust MasterCard during the first nine months that a cardholder has the account to the individual’s college-savings plan. This applies to any purchases made with the card, not only those at a Mothers Work store.
The offer is capped at 1% of a $5,000 total spend, translating to a $50 donation to each account. However, as Bashe noted, rarely do expectant mothers spend $5,000 on maternity clothes, so without this generous offer Mothers Work would probably not be contributing as much to each of its shopper’s college-savings accounts.
Mothers Work has also benefited, as witnessed in the tangible results reported by Matt Massaua, senior director of strategic alliances and partnerships at Wilmington, Del.-based Barclaycard U.S.
“From 2006 to 2008, there has been a three-fold increase in the use of Future-Trust MasterCard for purchases at Mothers Work. Also, spending is four times the retail-industry average when purchases are paid for with a card that is linked to a 529 college-savings account.”
FutureTrust MasterCard is fully integrated with the Mothers Work point-of-sale system so cards can be issued in the stores.