Share SMQF loyalty program success with current and potential clients—specifically our Spokane Grocery Store prospect.
Provide enough background about Sea Mart’s need/challenge, explain how EI helped turn challenges into opportunities, and paint a picture of success.
Sea Mart Quality Foods is a fourth generation, locally owned grocery store in Sitka, Alaska, a small, isolated island located in the southeastern part of the state. The grocery store is owned by the Hames Corporation, a family-owned business that owns a total of seven stores throughout Alaska, and has been a client of Every Idea for several years. Hames Corporation is the largest, family-owned employer on the island of Sitka and is a strong supporter of local events and charities. Through this, they have gained a strong support system among the community.
Sea Mart offers a popular rewards program where shoppers can earn miles on Alaska Airlines™ while shopping at the store. Earning miles means having the opportunity to “get off the rock” making this a highly valued program. The program was launched with a manual process of paper punch cards at the checkout stands to keep it simple for shoppers, but this format came with several challenges. For instance, quality control was difficult as cashiers were known to over-punch, as well as commit fraud by allowing shoppers to steal miles at checkout stands. It took at least six months to turn punch cards into miles. Plus, obtaining the correct data (name associated with Mileage Plan Account, Mileage Number, etc.) was very difficult.
Finally, although Sitka is a small community, locals have different needs when it comes to communication methods. Some community members are constantly connected via digital media and devices, yet many natives are not even connected to the Internet. Therefore, Sea Mart needs to take a holistic and varied approach to how the store communicates with customers and locals and not rely on single method to messaging.
• Relaunch the Sea Mart loyalty program to be easier to manage, be better structured, and have better quality control to successfully process Alaska Airlines miles.
• Reach the community with online and offline media, and create a digital rewards system that will strengthen the connection between customers and Sea Mart, and ultimately Hames Corporation.
AC Lakeside, a competitor of Sea Mart, is a Canadian-owned grocery chain that is also located in Sitka. Locals are much more prone to support Sea Mart over AC Lakeside because it is part of the Hames Corporation that supports many local events and charities (they donate to over 40 charities each year). However, Safeway has mentioned the prospect of purchasing the store for years and is interested in AC Lakeside’s property. Safeway has a popular loyalty program with Alaska Airlines and Every Idea wanted to ensure customers were strongly tied into Sea Mart’s loyalty program and its offering overall before Safeway made any official plans to come to Sitka.
• Spread the word about the new “SMART” cards and digital system
• Create interest and excitement across the island
• Collect all current paper cards by the end of the year
• Process all punch card miles (6 months behind) by the end of the year
• Launch the Alaska Airlines loyalty program at other Hames’ locations in Sitka by the end of October
Reach the digitally connected audience through a strong online marketing campaign. Utilize Facebook posts, ad placement, and blogs to direct Sitkans to a new page on the Seamart.com website that explains the program and benefits in detail.
Reach the remainder of the audience through a direct mail piece, heavy in-store signage and local event listings with Raven Radio, the local radio station.
To stay consistent with the Alaska Airlines theme, Every Idea developed a campaign that revolved around travel with the theme, “Take off with us.” Instead of a traditional brochure, we developed a vintage airline ticket holder that contained all the details about the program. The “ticket” was a boarding pass and invitation to a special launch event that was held over Labor Day Weekend (a popular time of celebration on the island) that doubled as the program sign-up form.
We utilized aisle banners overhead throughout the store to promote the SMART Card and launch party so customers got accustomed to seeing the new branding and images of the card three weeks prior to launch.
We updated the website with all pertinent information, and directed customers to the site in all collateral. We created social media posts and boosted them to increase awareness to non-Sea Mart shoppers, and to bring excitement and transparency to those that were a little hesitant about the new program.
The launch weekend far exceeded expectations. Sea Mart had a line of excited customers out the door from 8a-5p all weekend, and a staff of five manning computers and assisting customers with sign ups. Shoppers came in well informed of the program and prepared to sign up with their “boarding pass” and proof of Alaska Airlines™ number. In three days, Every Idea and Sea Mart signed up 999 customers. And within five weeks of the event, 4,500 people signed up for Sea Mart’s new loyalty program. Given that the island holds a year-round population of 9,000 (including babies), we are certain that nearly every adult (roughly 90%) signed up for the program.