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Churning Up Sales

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Just a few months into a pilot loyalty program, Clayton Arrington has learned a lot about the customers who frequent his three MaggieMoo’s ice cream stores. But one fact has stunned him: “I don’t have what I would consider ‘regular customers,’” he says. “We’re in the premium ice cream business and only 20-25 percent of my customers have come in more than once since I started this program six months ago. I would have never thought that.”

Global Franchise Group, which owns MaggieMoo’s along with other quick-serve brands like Marble Slab Creamery, Pretzelmaker and Great American Cookie Company, is testing the loyalty program from Mercury Payment Systems at about 20 stores, including Arrington’s locations in Hendersonville and Jackson, Tenn., and Huntsville, Ala. The program is designed to seamlessly integrate with Mercury’s POS system and gift card programs; all three work independently as well.

The seamless integration makes it easy for Arrington to track return on investment as well as gain knowledge about his customers. He’s used the program to survey customers — receiving about 2,000 responses — and has gained valuable insight: “The thing we get hit hardest about is how much it costs,” he says.

That insight has created corporate-level discussions which, in turn, have led to pilot programs about becoming more price competitive or changing customers’ perceptions about the value, Arrington says.

‘A strong response’
The program is driving profits, too. Just before the start of his busy season, Arrington sent a text message to his best customers at each location — about 3,000 in all, which cost him around $110. Over the Memorial Day holiday weekend, he generated $1,000 from those who had received the promotion. “The ROI is very easy to see,” Arrington says. “I can see how a text message campaign puts dollars in my pocket.”

Both the insight and the direct business boost are a long way from the standard punch-card loyalty program that Arrington’s stores used before. He’s seen the most increases at his lowest-performing location.

“I’ve had days in a couple of the stores that I’ve done more on a Saturday than I had done in two years,” Arrington says. “There’s a strong response to the text marketing component. I’m seeing interesting results if nothing else. The only thing that I’m doing different is using Mercury.”

Service, support, customization
Though admittedly “not the most tech-savvy person,” Arrington is mostly managing the marketing campaign by himself. That’s by design: “We make it easy for the merchant to capture the phone number during the normal transaction process and then kick off a chain that’s easy for the customer to put in a little more information and connect if they so desire to Facebook,” says Randy Clark, Mercury’s senior vice president of marketing.

All this happens “while the rewards and payment processing happens behind the scenes. Our overall strategy is to make it easy for merchants at the point of sale.”

For small systems like Arrington’s, Mercury offers a support team that can help with technical issues as well as offer best practice tips. Larger companies that may know how they want to use loyalty programs can customize the system to achieve those goals.

Excited by what he’s seeing, Arrington is trying to be “patient and see this through summer — that’s our season,” he says. “I’m vigorously evaluating the data and I think we’ll be able to come up with ways to be more competitive in our vertical.”