How flybuys chief customer officer is using insight to drive member engagement

We profile the chief customer officer of flybuys and look at how a behavioural segmentation exercise is helping to direct the current and future direction of the business

Rosemary Martin
Rosemary Martin


A customer segmentation program gleaning the underlying motivations of flybuys members has not only been a strong tool during the crisis, it provides the key to responding in the new normal, says the group’s customer chief.

Flybuys chief customer officer, Rosemary Martin, told CMO the business recently undertook a large-scale project to build out program-level segmentation and distinct personas across its member base. While the group has always used data to inform marketing, product and engagement, this wasn’t enough to understand what members were thinking or feeling, or why they behaved the way they did.

With flybuys spinning out as a standalone business following the demerger of the Coles Group from Wesfarmers, an opportunity arose to build a fresh business strategy and in turn, invest in a behavioural-oriented understanding of customers, she said.  

“We have quite sophisticated segmentations in relation to a particular partner, so Coles will have sophisticated RFM segmentation based on their batch data, for example. But we didn’t really have a lot looking at our customer base at a holistic level or program perspective,” Martin explained.

“We’d previously looked at a transactional level and thought people were engaging to get points, whereas it can be a lot deeper than that. What they want from the program can be quite different.”

Starting with data sets it had around demographic and transactional information, flybuys designed initial segments. It then conducted an online survey to those segments to fill in more gaps and understand more attitudinal information. The project was rounded out with 19 focus groups across metro and regional areas.

The result was five distinct groups, all with disparate needs, loyalty drivers and reasons for wanting to engage with the flybuys program.

“Things like this can be really actionable as a business – we can use this in marketing but also partners can leverage it,” Martin said. “It’ll also be informing feature enhancements and new product propositions we take to market. It’s a big step forward around what kinds of research and insights we needed to complement the data we have.

“The other thing we validated was the fact it’s not demographics driving things – you can have a very broader age range in one segment because it’s more the attitudes and behaviours bringing them together.”

While segmentation may be applied differently through the eyes of a partner, the reason one member remembers to pull out their card and tap each time shows underlying motivators are common across the program, Martin said.

The resulting segmentation was fairly easy to adopt straight away for media buying and customising digital audiences. At a more member lifecycle level it’s even more critical, Martin said.

“Rather than approaching customer lifecycle from a program level, we’re now doing this at a segment level because each will want to engage with the programs in different ways and for different reasons,” she said. “For some, it’s functional, for others, it’s more educational. We have started to roll that out but it required a much bigger plan to address each of those.”

Coping in the COVID-19 crisis

The segments have also been a useful tool for flybuys to apply to COVID-related activities. Martin agreed the crisis has significantly impacted people’s behaviour and as a program, flybuys has been reviewing and responding to changes daily. Yet the behavioural understanding created through segments has held flybuys in good stead.

“We asked ourselves questions such as: Should we be sending offers if there’s no stock on supermarket shelves? Or should we be encouraging people to leave the house?” Martin said. “We also saw changes of behaviour around wanting to pull out a card. So the crisis has impacted us at a program level.

“What we found was we had to pivot our approach. For example, flybuys from home wasn’t just about offers from partners, but also content and key information. We also needed to think through how, in this environment, we give members the best experience when things like travel aren’t an option. While people weren’t able to travel, for instance, what we were in control of was getting point back or ensuring people got a refund when they needed to cancel travel plans.”

The crisis has also seen flybuys, like many, reviewing its strategy for the next year to ensure priorities are still relevant.

“We’ve asked if things in flybuys’ roadmap are in the right order, or should we be parking some things? Having the segmentation there again helps, because it’s the surface behaviour changing rather than underlying behaviours we’ve been addressing,” Martin said.   

Through all of this, flybuys’ guiding principle has been transparency. “A relationship with flybuys is predicated on trust and it’s so important we continued that through,” Martin continued.

“We saw members turning to us for information because they already had a level of trust. They entrust us with their data and trust us to do the right thing with that, so trust is something we hold paramount. We had to respond in a way that ensured we maintained that level of trust and reassurance.”

Another emphasis for flybuys was supporting core partner brands, getting key messaging from Coles out to members for example on store hours changing, policies on refunds or the amount of stock available.

“It was all about and remains transparency, community and information sharing,” Martin added.

Up next: What Martin sees behind our new normal, plus key attributes of customer leadership

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