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Century 21 prioritizes mobile in significant loyalty program push

NEW YORK – A Century 21 executive at the NRF 103rd Annual Convention & Expo revealed plans to roll out a pilot program this month that leverages a mobile application and augmented reality as part of a plan to increase loyalty program sign-ups 25 percent to 34 percent this year.

The Century 21 executive detailed the department store’s plans to break into mobile this year during the “The Power Couple: Loyalty and Mobile” session, which also included executives from Sephora and Sears. The session was moderated by Leslie Hand, research director at IDC Retail Insights, Framingham, MA.

“We have had a loyalty program for over four years, and we are now just going into the mobile space,” said Sandi Riffle, director of process improvement and communications at Century 21 Department Stores, New York.

“We are looking at this as if she’s not loyal to us, but that she’s rewarding herself with different perks and benefits across all of our eight stores,” she said.

Building up loyalty efforts
Century 21 will roll out a pilot mobile app program this month as part of the New York department store’s efforts to ramp up its loyalty program.

The app caters to both New Yorkers and international consumers. The international focus is meant to target the high number of tourists that shop at Century 21.

In-store signage and calls-to-action will be used across multiple areas of stores that encourage consumers to download the app.

The pilot app will bridge in-store and digital shopping experiences through augmented reality.

What is interesting about Century 21’s upcoming app is that it ties an offer to an augmented reality experience.

Consumers will be able to scan the Century 21 logo on a shopping bag to launch a virtual wheel that serves up an offer.

By using these types of gamified experiences, Century 21 hopes to build up its CRM efforts by better understanding which types of offers consumers are most responsive towards.

“That is where we’re beginning to — through our CRM platform — start to pilot, ‘Is she responding more to dollars off or percent off?” Ms. Riffle said. “This is a loyalty acquisition tool as well understanding frequency of loyalty buy.”

Century 21 is also bolstering in-store loyalty sign-ups by arming employees with tablets.

This holiday season, the department store transitioned from using a combination of kiosks and tablets to acquire loyalty members to purely relying on tablets.

The brand currently has a loyalty database of more than one million members, and the tablet is one of the ways that Century 21 can educate consumers about the program’s benefits.

The NRF panel

Mobile companion
Johnna Marcus, director of mobile and digital store marketing at Sephora, San Francisco, also spoke on the panel about mobile’s role in the retailer’s cross-channel Beauty Insider loyalty program.

According to Ms. Marcus, 60 percent of Sephora’s shoppers do pre-shopping research before shopping. This includes looking up reviews, price information and past purchases.

This holiday season, 30 percent of Sephora’s in-store shoppers used their mobile devices in-store.

“We’ve now for a couple of years really tried to encourage the idea of ‘you should use your phone in stores,’” Ms. Marcus said.

“I’m really glad that we’ve moved past the conversation two years ago around showrooming and how bad it is — our point has always been that we want you to think about Sephora when you’re thinking about beauty,” she said. “We want you to use our app, our information or use anybody else’s, [but] it’s a better experience, we know people research, so we want you to do that before you come in and when you come in-store.”

In addition to rewarding consumers for spending money, Sephora’s Beauty Insider program also serves as a hub for storing all of a member’s past purchases and liked products across multiple mediums.

Mobile appeared to pay off for Sephora early on in the holiday shopping season.

Black Friday mobile sales increased 300 percent year-over-year and represented one-third of all digital sales during Thanksgiving weekend (see story).

Sephora is one of the few retailers that caught on with mobile from the beginning. However, the medium is only one part of the retailer’s cross-channel shopping strategy.

The approach to a cross-channel loyalty program is similar to the marketing effort that Sears is putting into place to turn the company into a member-driven retailer.

According to Andy Chu, divisional vice president and general manager at Sears Holding Co., Hoffman Estates, IL, roughly 70 percent of Sears’ sales now come from Shop Your Way – the retailer’s loyalty program – members.

With more than one hundred million items in its marketplace, cutting down on the amount of content that consumers have to filter through to find what they are looking for is a priority.

Personalization also plays a key role in Sears’ mobile strategy with mobile coupons, custom emails and a homepage that displays offers based on a shopper’s preferences.

Additionally, product recommendations are played up across online and mobile on several different pages.

The key in using cross-screen marketing for Sears is understanding which devices consumers are transacting on. From there, the retailer is challenged to mine the data and segment marketing messages to the appropriate group of shoppers.

Per Mr. Chu, iOS still takes priority over Android when it comes to deciding which operating systems to develop for first.

However, retailers such as Sears are moving away from the mobile-first approach to embrace a multichannel strategy that lets the consumer shop in the way that they want to.

“I don’t even think about mobile-first anymore because at the end of the day, it is about omnichannel,” Mr. Chu said.

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York