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Home » Industry & Business » Lessons From Canada’s Biggest Loyalty Program

Jim Noteboom

Senior Vice President – Loyalty & Analytics, Loblaws

Jessy Zita

Senior Director – Loyalty & Subscription Services, Loblaws

In February of 2018, two of Canada’s most popular consumer loyalty programs, Shoppers Optimum and PC Plus, merged to create a new market-spanning offering: PC Optimum. Under this new program, roughly half of all Canadians are earning and redeeming points at thousands of retail outlets across the country.

“It was a massive undertaking to combine two of Canada’s largest loyalty programs,” says Jim Noteboom, Senior Vice President of Loyalty & Analytics at parent company Loblaws. “With the conversion, we wanted the onboarding process to be as easy as possible for the consumer. So, if you were, for example, a Shoppers Optimum plastic card holder, it would be as easy as tap-tap in any Shoppers Drug Mart or Pharmaprix to walk out with your new PC Optimum card enabled and all your points transferred. And now you’re part of a larger program with so many more locations where you can earn and redeem.”

Customer-based and customer-driven

Noteboom emphasizes that customer demand drove every part of the process, with customers themselves originally indicating how valuable merging the two programs would be. One significant customer-driven initiative was a partnership expanding the PC Optimum program to all 2,000 Esso and Mobil stations coast-to-coast. “consumers told us that food, health, and beauty were a big part of their day-to-day spending, and that fuel was another large category they would be excited to see included,” Noteboom says. “Since August, we’ve seen over 6 million PC Optimum members fill up and earn points at Esso and Mobil.”

As the program has evolved in the year since the merger, there has been a particular focus on choice and personalization when it comes to rewards. “We’re rolling out many new things, from member pricing to personalized pricing to continuity offers,” says Noteboom. “We’re focusing on how we bring value to the consumer and trying to stay as close as possible to what excites them, all while bringing more fun into the experience.”

We’re focusing on how we bring value to the consumer and trying to stay as close as possible to what excites them, all while bringing more fun into the experience.

Jim Noteboom, Loblaws

The inside track: taking your points to the next level

In late 2018, Loblaws wanted to see if Canadians were interested in taking their points even further, and the PC Insiders program was rolled out nationwide. Noteboom characterizes it as “a loyalty program on steroids.”

PC Insiders is a subscription-based service targeted at the most savvy consumers. “For either $9.99 a month or $99 a year, members get a multitude of benefits, starting with 20% back in points on the products that are important to families, and they skip the fees when shopping online and at PC Express,” explains Jessy Zita, Senior Director of Loyalty and Subscription Services at Loblaws and head of the PC Insiders program. “Members also get special offers throughout the year through the PC Optimum app, and annual members get a $99 travel credit as well as a curated box sent to their home once a year.”

As a first-of-its-kind program, there were some questions as to which demographics would be most interested. It turns out that the answer was all of them. “We knew that this would be a hit for families with young children, as diapers, formula, and organic food can be really expensive,” says Zita. “But the program is for everyone, and we’re seeing that people at all life stages are recognizing the value and becoming PC Insiders. For example, we’re seeing single urban dwellers signing up just for the free shipping and PC Express.”

As a paid service, Loblaws has gone out of their way to make the value proposition for Canadians as transparent as possible. “We have a calculator tool on our website so that customers can do the math themselves and see how much value they would get out of the program,” says Zita. “For some people, that math is very easy. If you have a child in diapers, PC Insiders will more than pay for itself within a few months. Or, if you travel and book even one trip per year, the $99 travel voucher just about covers your whole cost and everything else is gravy.”

It’s no secret that Canadians love loyalty programs — Loblaws research has shown a staggering 85% satisfaction rate among PC Optimum members. It therefore shouldn’t come as a surprise that so many are joining the PC Insiders program to maximize their points and optimize the rewards they receive from the daily shopping that they already do.

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