SAN DIEGO -- Big Y Foods, Springfield, Mass., and Associated Wholesale Grocers, Kansas City, Kan., were among the winners of electronic marketing awards presented at this year's Global Electronic Marketing Conference here.
Big Y won in the category of best U.S. grocery retail chain for its Express Savings Club Program.
AWG won an award for the second time in three years in the grocery wholesaler category.
"It's always nice to be recognized," Harry Kimball, category manager, database marketing at Big Y, told SN after the presentation.
"We put a lot of value into our card," he added.
For example, Kimball pointed to the Education Express component of the loyalty program that enables customers to earn points for local schools that can be redeemed for equipment, he said.
The result has been millions of dollars given to the schools, he said.
Big Y also integrated its customer management with its category management initiatives, noted Carlene Thissen, president of Retail Systems Consulting, Naples, Fla.
Thissen presented the awards with Michael Gorshe, executive director, consumer goods and services, Accenture, Chicago.
When they do a category review, it is done from the perspective of Big Y's customer purchase habits, in particular what heavy shoppers are purchasing," Thissen said.
"It's a very extensive program," Kimball said. "There are a lot of dimensions to the program and we couple it with in-store customer service."
For example, the chain recently completed a rollout of a sophisticated point-of-sale system that uses loyalty program information to interact with the customers.
"There is a real synergy to everything we do," he said.
Meanwhile, he noted the success of the program results from all levels of the company buying into it.
"It's a real team effort and there is a commitment by the whole company to the card, which makes our program unique," Kimball said.
Serving 75 participating retail stores, under five different banners, with 34 different owners and eight different point-of-sale systems, the success of AWG's loyalty program did not come easily.
Jean Melech, manager of database marketing, also emphasized the importance of companywide cooperation and the effort of her team members, including sales managers Charles Lynn, Pat McCarthy and Jeff Pedersen, and database marketing staffers Casie Broker and Ryan O'Boyle.
"Our retailers are wonderfully supportive and they bring ideas to us. Our marketing team puts those ideas together," Melech told SN.
"They are able to take the stores, the groups and the banners and do things that make a difference, such as targeting programs that combat Wal-Mart and other competitive forces that we now have in our market."
AWG also has an education program in which schools sign up parents, grandparents and other family members to register their card number with the specific school.
The school receives a rebate based on a percentage of purchases.
"In the year ahead, I think we will get into more Internet-based target marketing rather than direct mail. We may also get into communicating with our customers on their register receipts," she said.
It's not unheard for companies to repeat as GEM award winners, but it is no less of an honor, Melech said.
AWG last won in 1999. "Every year, every day, my job is to make a difference, and instead of getting complacent, we just keep driving to get better, to do more and to make more of a difference. To get the award for the second time means that we've succeeded in doing this," she said.
Other GEM award winners included Sobey's, Stellarton, Nova Scotia, which was honored as best international retailer for its relaunch of its Club Sobey's Program. Meanwhile, in the supplier community, Nestle USA, Glendale, Calif., Nuvisio Corp., New York, and Catalina Marketing & Alliance Research, St. Petersburg, Fla., won GEM awards.