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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What makes up the new normal

As brands start exploring how to approach recovery, Martin again referenced flybuys’ customer insights approach as a key tool for striking the right balance with members. While she didn’t see the COVID-19 crisis being a time of radical innovative for flybuys, it has accelerated the move to think beyond transactional communications with members and think more broadly and contextually about the information it’s sharing.

“That’s about marrying up content as well as offers,” Martin said. “The other acceleration was around customer focus groups. Previously, those were all conducted in-person. We were forced to move those to a virtual environment and we found they work really well. We now can get much better representation of our base through research as a result of that.

“We talk about a new normal. But what I do think is this time has accelerated what we were seeing as trends around consumer behaviour.”  

And in reviewing its strategy, Martin said flybuys’ leadership group has become even more united on it being the right one.

“The next financial year as we come out of this crisis is going to be all about how we start to deliver on some of those key initiatives,” she said. “Then it’s very much around ensuring a better digital experience for our customers, and do create a more rewarding program for our customers as well – what are some of the different ways to earn or use points that we can introduce for members.”  

Being a customer chief

Martin has had a keen eye on customer-led strategy and thinking for many years, working her way up from agency and client-side marketing roles for brands such as Publicis Mojo, London Business School and ANZ Bank, before joining Coles and helping relaunch the flybuys program in 2012.  

Since then, she’s undertaken partnership management, redemption and most recently a strategic role in the project team tasked with establishing flybuys as an independent business post the Wesfarmers-Coles demerger. Her current role covers responsibility for understanding the member upfront, and all insights and experience design work, through to developing the product roadmap and value proposition, brand and go-to-market strategy.

“That is what the chief customer office role is all about – it’s a holistic of understanding customers to developing the right products and propositions, through to communicating and engaging as a brand,” she said.  

For Martin, what makes a great customer experience starts with truly understanding your customers and “knowing what they want so you can deliver on it”. While that hasn’t necessarily changed since her early days as a marketer, what is different is the multitude of touchpoints and interactions available to organisations.

What’s more, to ensure a business is truly customer-led, it’s important to have shared KPIs across your leadership teams, Martin advised. At flybuys, these include things like program satisfaction and NPS, and engagement driven with digital channels as a measure of broader customer engagement.

“It’s not one person that can single-handedly drive customer success and focus through an organisation,” Martin pointed out. “And you do need the buy-in of the leadership team that a customer-led approach is the right approach. You have to prove out that it drives better results for your business.

“I’m fortunate to be in a situation where everyone buys into being customer-led. But it’s quite normal to have tension between commercial interest and customer interests. There has to be that belief a customer-led approach will pay commercial dividends.”  

Martin agreed it can be hard to justify direct ROI on customer innovations or investments you want to make. Which is why she sees resilience and diplomacy as among the top attributes chief customer officers need to be successful.

It’s also about a good understanding of the commercials. “To be effective, you need to be able to contextualise things in a way that will resonate with the CFO and chief commercial officer. So you need to have a solid understanding of the revenue drivers of your business and be able to link back to the return on investment,” Martin concluded.

“Sometimes saying it’s the right thing for the customer isn’t enough, you need to speak the language of those other functions.”  

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