Loyalty programs, one of the most popular marketing methods in the garden retail industry, are designed to attract customers back to a store for multiple visits.
VIP programs are much less common, however. While VIP programs can live along side of loyalty programs, they have a more narrow focus than the wide-net approach of loyalty programs. VIP programs identify the most valuable customers for a business, the ones that return multiple times a year, spend a cumulatively impressive amount and who are also the types of people who influence others.
Roger’s Garden, located in Corona Del Mar, CA, has a high-end clientele who are not easily impressed with store-based programs. So in order to make an impression on this elite group, the team at Roger’s decided they must offer a type of service rarely found elsewhere.
Roger’s Gardens General Manager, Ron Vanderhoff, Describes The Program:
To the public the program is called “Elite Access VIP.” Internally, we usually refer to it as simply The VIP Program. Membership is for one year, April through March, but we often renew participants from one year to another. It is a private program; we do not market it or promote it in any way to the general customer base. Unless you are a VIP, you won’t even know the program exists.
We select participants not solely from sales volume, but from a combination of three criteria:
Sales. Are they among our top spenders? Also, are they fairly regular spenders? In other words, a customer who visits 20 times in a year and spends $5,000 during the year is more significant than a customer who came in once and spent $5,000.
Profile in the community. Is the person socially well connected and likely to “market” Roger’s Gardens to their friends and social network? Since these are well-known, regular customers with us we usually have a pretty good insight to this.
Likeliness to value and use the benefits. Is the person likely to actually use the benefits? Some people don’t really care about these things.
We maintain about 50 people in the program and want it to be a very exclusive group.
In brief, the benefits of being an Elite Access VIP are:
- Priority Checkout – see more below
- Door-to-Door service
- An Elite Access Card – they do not need this, but we think it is a bit of a status symbol
- Private VIP phone line and email address with priority service
- Use of a “credit card on file”
- Personal Shopper
- Free Deliveries – within our normal service area
- Complimentary Gift Wrap – not just a gift box or ribbon, but a full paper wrap, ribbon and gift tag
- Advance notice and invitation to events – for instance, they are invited a day early to visit our big Christmas and Halloween areas.
In addition to the list of benefits above, we also surprise them twice a year with a free gift that is hand delivered to their home. With the gift comes a personalized note from one of us. Generally this is a spring gift such as a nicely planted orchid arrangement, and a Merry Christmas gift. The Christmas gift is a beautiful gift basket which includes gourmet foods and related items. Each of these gifts is valued at about $80. The Elite VIP’s are really appreciative of these unexpected gifts.
Regarding priority checkout, this means that an Elite VIP does not need to pass through the cash register when purchasing. Any staff member can record their products and they can walk right past the cash registers and right to their car. Of course, we do need to record the item numbers and quantities of their purchase. Most of these customers also have their credit card encrypted in our POS system (yes, it meets PCI compliance requirements) and this allows us to ring their items and charge them without the customer being present. We then email their receipt directly from our POS system to their inbox. Bypassing checkout can be a big deal to VIP types of customers, and it values their time.
Of the 50 or so Elite VIP’s, probably about 10-15 are “retired” each year and replaced by new selections. Each year we review their visit frequency, their sales volume and their use of the benefits when we make these decisions. For the new Elite Access VIP members, we query our entire service staff for nominees. The sales staff know the customers better than anyone. They also suggest those to “retire” from the program.
When a customer is first enrolled into the Elite Access VIP program they receive a gift basket at their door and a personal note from Gavin, welcoming them. During the first or second visit after becoming a new Elite Access VIP, I make a point of meeting them briefly and welcoming them. I thank them for their loyalty to Roger’s Gardens, encourage them to not be shy and to take full advantage of these additional services and benefits. Mostly I make them feel special and appreciated.
We have been operating this program for about three years now. We have approximately 70,000 unique customers in our shoppers database. It is interesting that these 50 Elite Access VIP’s account for about 2.5% of our company volume. We also average almost four transaction per day by these special customers. We think that is significant and believe this red-carpet treatment is well earned.