HOUSTON -- At Gerland's Food Fair, a customer card is about far more than everyday discounts.
Gerland's Customer Advantage program is multi-faceted loyalty, making use of frequent shopper points, in-store promotions, direct mail, cash register receipts, a Web site, interactive kiosks and fuel stations, said Kevin Doris, president and chief executive officer. "We try to constantly reinforce to the consumer that there is a tremendous benefit in using the card, and the end result is that the value we give them is substantial. We do that by in-store materials. We do that by direct mail. And we do that with our weekly advertising circular. We believe that value will keep them as loyal shoppers to our company," Doris said.
Two recent additions to the program have been the company's Web site (www.gerlands.com) and its fueling stations, called Gerland's Fuel Advantage. "We are tying in our Customer Advantage loyalty program with our Fuel Advantage gas station. We are working hard to build Customer Advantage into a franchise of its own," Doris said. When customers scan the Customer Advantage card at the pump, they receive a discount, he noted.
The Web site is "in its infancy," he said, but the Customer Advantage program is well displayed. Listed under "Advantage Cash" is a tie-in with the ValuPage on-line coupon program from the SuperMarkets Online operation of Catalina Marketing Corp., St. Petersburg, Fla.
Gerland's also uses the in-store Catalina program to reward customers. "And we have a points program where customers receive points on different items that they buy in the store. Based on their status, when they hit certain points thresholds they receive a reward," Doris said.
Among other ways the retailer communicates with consumers, Gerland's makes good use of cash register receipts. "We try to make the cash register receipt almost like a statement of all the savings and benefits of our card. We also have electronic kiosks in our stores, and we use those very effectively to give special rewards," Doris said.
"We have different groups of customers at different spending levels, so consequently we give them unique treatment when they are checking out. They receive extra benefits based on their status within our database. So where we want to take that is to continue to improve. The more you buy, the more you visit the store, the higher status level you receive, and we are trying to give more and more benefits to those particular customers. In the long run, we feel that the consumer will be loyal to the store," he said.