Two years ago, officials at The Vitamin Shoppe wanted to revamp their loyalty program to make it more appealing and impactful to members.
They wanted to make it more than transactional and strengthen their member relationships by adding greater value and better benefits.
The revamped Healthy Awards loyalty program has performed quite well since then and officials are aligned on engagement methods at the holiday season and, more importantly, throughout the year.
We caught up with Karen Szarvas, Sr. Director, Customer Loyalty & Partnerships at The Vitamin Shoppe, and talked to her about the company’s loyalty program and strategy.
Jim Tierney: Since many businesses, offices, and all schools have reopened in the past year, can you talk about how The Vitamin Shoppe is approaching this holiday season, compared to last year, and what role your Healthy Awards loyalty program will play?
Karen Szarvas: The COVID-19 pandemic amplified a focus on health and wellness concerns among many consumers and the growing importance they are placing on physical, mental, and emotional well-being – which can include a range of foundational health, fitness, nutrition, immunity, and even skincare and beauty concerns.
In this environment we’ve found that more than ever, consumers are looking for trusted brands, effective products, and accurate information to enhance their health and wellness across all aspects of their lives. We see this trend continuing well into the future as many of the consumer behaviors that developed during the pandemic have become ingrained lifestyle behaviors.
We are focused on a digital-first mindset that is transforming the way we serve our customers, by reaching our customers where and when they want to shop this holiday season. Whether that’s in-store, curbside, online, on our mobile app, via same-day delivery with Instacart, on the phone with customer support, we make it easy and convenient.
Our Healthy Awards Loyalty program will enhance the customers shopping experience by providing greater value and exclusivity throughout the season. Customers can enjoy bonus points offers and discounts as well as exciting in store activations.
Jim: According to a recent survey we conducted, 80% of consumers join a loyalty program to get discounts for holiday shopping. Do you tweak your loyalty program benefits at all during the holiday season to attract new members?
Karen: We don’t necessarily change our program benefits, but we elevate our promotional mix to bring fresh and engaging offers to our members. Our in-store gifts with purchase, free samples, and special events give new and existing customers many reasons to come in our stores to shop. Plus, we are constantly introducing new brands and innovative products to meet customer’s needs and support lifelong wellness.
Jim: The Vitamin Shoppe launched a revamped Healthy Awards loyalty program in April 2019. Can you talk about the thought process behind that, how it has impacted member engagement, and how it will influence member shopping during the holiday season?
Karen: The Healthy Awards Loyalty Program was a flat monetary-based program with minimal rewards. We revamped it entirely in 2019 to shift from being a purely transactional program to one that offers greater value and exclusive perks to build a deeper and more personal relationship with our customers.
The new program has exceeded expectations with strong engagement and redemption rates. Our redeemers are 3x more valuable than our non-redeemers and our attached sales are up 12%. We are also seeing a 4.1% growth in customers and our tier migration growth is trending well above our plan. – Karen Szarvas, The Vitamin Shoppe
Jim: We found that 76% of consumers will complete most of their holiday shopping online this year. Given the massive shift to online shopping since the pandemic began, how will your holiday marketing be impacted?
Our most valuable customer is our OMNI customer, who spends 2x more than our only web or retail customers on an annual basis. Therefore, we focus on our cross-channel shoppers and have strengthened our BOPUS program to make it easy and convenient for our customers to shop however they want this holiday season.
But even with our important investments in digital and BOPUS, we continue to see a significant portion of our customers come into the store for the trusted expertise of our Health Enthusiasts. Many of our customers have longtime relationships with our Health Enthusiasts and look to them for expert guidance and advice.
Jim: Our survey shows that 77% of loyalty program members will shop more with those retailers during the holiday season. How does The Vitamin Shoppe encourage its customers to sign up and engage with its loyalty program throughout the year so that it’s top-of-mind when the holiday season comes around?
Karen: We utilize our CRM and various channels and touch points to keep our customers informed, educated, and engaged throughout the year. We send emails out regularly to introduce new products and brands and provide our members with special offers to shop.
Each of these emails include a personalized Loyalty “Shoebox” that is designed to keep the customer updated and active in the program. This dynamic banner provides a snapshot of a customer’s status within the program, including their tier status, points needed to obtain their next award and available awards. We also include other dynamic messages such as award expiring, or limited time offers.
Our app serves as another important channel to activate our digital shopper, with customized push notifications, offers, and program information. We are seeing more and more members using The Vitamin Shoppe app, so we will continue to lean in on this important channel to drive deeper engagement.
From a store experience, we provide this same personalized customer data through our point-of-sale system, allowing our store teams to share out with our customers and enhance the shopping experience.
Lastly, we build in unexpected surprises into Healthy Awards to continually add a personal, human element to our program. These surprises are delivered in-store and sent directly to our customers’ homes.
Jim: What do you think are the key attributes that must be present to have a successful loyalty program?
- Value for all members.
- Simple and easy to use.
- Relevant and engaging rewards that go beyond points.
Keep Your Members Informed and Your Loyalty Program Relevant
The Vitamin Shoppe is a wonderful example of a brand that wants to get its loyalty program right by listening to its customers, identifying pain points, and addressing them.
Company officials leverage their CRM and various channels and touch points to keep their customers informed, educated, and engaged throughout the year. Regular and relevant communications about the loyalty program is key.
It’s about developing and nurturing customer relationships and The Vitamin Shoppe has demonstrated its adeptness in this crucial area.