How GNC Uses Transactional Communications to Drive Sales, Loyalty
Tomas Diaz has a message for anyone who thinks personal attention is dead in the era of e-commerce: It’s more vital now than ever. “We're all social creatures,” he says. “People want to feel acknowledged and want to be recognized.” That recognition happens more effectively face-to-face in a retail store than through an online shopping experience, says Diaz. “Digital shopping is less of an experience. It's much more individual and lonely.” Therein, Diaz sees an opportunity for brick-and-mortar stores to make a significant difference in people’s lives.
Diaz is the chief executive officer of flexEngage, the Y Combinator-backed provider of personalized transactional communications for retailers. The company enables leading retailers such as Aldo, and Oakley, and Under Armour to transform receipts, packing slips, and otherwise mundane transactional touchpoints into dynamic communications channels that drive loyalty and revenue, not to mention better and more personal experiences for customers.
Case in point is health and wellness retailer GNC, which uses flexEngage’s transactional receipts to make connections with customers that hadn’t been possible before. Jennifer Biefel,
Director of Customer Marketing & Loyalty at GNC said in an April 2019 webinar for Retail TouchPoints that her company has been on a “personalization journey,” working to drive increased engagement with customers who will want to come back for more. Transactional communications driven by flexEngage, she said, have helped her and her team do that by enticing them to interact through what amounts to a new a communications channel. The result, she said, is more loyal customers and increased sales.
Meeting Customers Where They Are
Driving personalization and engagement, says Diaz, is all about serving customers on their terms. “Meet the customer where they are,” advises Diaz, “and then just give the best experience, regardless of the channel.”
Customers, says Diaz, perceive no difference in a brand whether it’s in a store or online. Not only should brands respect that, but it also can level the playing field for retailers going up against the big online merchants. “We advise retailers to make it convenient for a consumer to buy wherever it is they want. If they want to buy online, let them buy online. If they want to buy in the store, buy in the store. Make both of those channels as good an experience as possible.”
GNC gives customers the best of both worlds with the help of transactional receipts. When a customer leaves a store, it’s with a digital receipt that not only tallies their purchases, but also suggests related online purchases, provides links to subscribe to nutritional supplements and other products to automatically receive them when the customer runs low, and to join GNC’s paid loyalty program. “We know that customers access their receipt multiple times for various reasons,” said Biefel in the webinar. That’s why transactional communications in the form of digital receipts turned out to be the best solution for GNC to foster better engagement and boost sales.
Diaz founded flexEngage with the idea that every receipt, shipping notification, packing slip, and all the other communication touchpoints with a customer represent opportunities to drive additional value. “Because retail is so competitive at the moment,” says Diaz, “retailers need to take advantage of every at-bat they get. Every customer interaction is gold, and any customer interaction that they don't take advantage of is a squandered opportunity.”
In particular, customers receive transactional communications such as receipts at a time when they are most engaged with a brand, maximizing the opportunity to develop a rapport. However, retailers don’t always take full advantage of this opportunity because doing so—for example providing links to purchase suggestions on a receipt—has traditionally required coordinating disparate systems and the involvement of often-over-extended IT departments. Which is one reason GNC selected flexEngage as its transactional communications provider.
“flexEngage are really experts at what they do,” said Biefel. “We chose to work with them because they create a seamless experience for us.” In other words, flexEngage handles all the connections between internal systems such as point of sale and marketing automation systems, letting Biefel and her team focus on running their campaigns rather than struggling with technology. The results, said Biefel, have been extraordinary.
Building Customer Loyalty
Thanks to receipts powered by flexEngage, GNC has increased traffic to its paid loyalty program campaigns by ten times. The receipts have also driven increased traffic to GNC’s automatic delivery, or subscription options, for current purchases. The receipts see a 10% click-through rate for auto-delivery links, and it’s in that area that GNC has seen the most engagement. Finally, products recommended on GNC's digital receipts have jumped by 7% in sales.
Biefel looks forward to even better results going forward with help from flexEngage. “We continue to change and update the way that we’re doing things, and that’s largely a result of flexEngage reaching out to help us maximize the value of our program,” she said in the webinar.
As for the future of transactional communications, Diaz looks forward to the day when paper slips go the way of the mimeograph machine. “I believe that at some point, paper-based communications will go away.” Not that he wants to take away consumer choice. “There is still a good chunk of consumers that prefer paper-based communication, for whatever the reason." For now, anyway.
To learn more about how flexEngage can transform transactional communications into personalized marketing channels for retailers and to receive a personalized sample, visit www.flexengage.com or email: [email protected].