If Jeff Martin could answer the question of how each one of 49 million people in Ahold USA’s marketing areas defines “value” as it relates to food shopping, he would find a way to deliver it to them.
The executive vice president of merchandising and marketing for Ahold USA Retail leverages all the tools at his disposal to get as close to that answer as he possibly can, and seeks to provide solutions that make Ahold’s 750 Stop & Shop, Giant-Landover and Giant-Carlisle stores the “favorite place to shop” for its customers.
If that means offering an extensive array of opening-price-point private labels, so be it. If it means offering discounts on gasoline for purchasing certain products, customers are able to do that, and if it means offering the ability to scan items with a mobile app while shopping to speed checkout, more and more customers have the ability do that as well.
Because of his efforts to provide value and enhance the shopping experience at Ahold USA’s stores, his close work with suppliers and his success in helping drive sales growth and profitability at Ahold USA, Martin has been selected as the winner of SN’s 2012 Marketer of the Year Award.
ABOUT THE AWARD
SN’s Marketer of the Year Award is presented annually to a supermarket marketing executive who has demonstrated innovation and success. Jeff Martin of Ahold USA is the 2012 recipient, based on his work to enhance the value proposition across the company’s divisions.
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“We need to create a lot of different kinds of value for our customers,” Martin told SN in an interview this month. “We all see value in a different way. For some, value may be our Guaranteed Value private-label platform, which is dollar-store-like in its price point, or for another consumer it could be a combination of national-brand purchases and private-brand purchases.”
At the heart of Martin’s quest to find out how consumers define value and how to best deliver it to them is the company’s robust loyalty program, which helps it gather the data it needs to deliver more personalized shopping solutions to its customers. The company tallies 85% of its sales and 74% of its transaction on its loyalty cards.
“We know what you buy and we know how you like to buy, and hopefully we can give you offers that affect your behavior in our stores,” he said. “We can give you discounts on items that you buy frequently, and maybe attract you back to items that you don’t buy often enough, or maybe we can incent you to buy new items that we think fit your shopping behavior.
“This whole idea of linking our communication strategy — whether it be digital or email or regular old personalized mail — gives us a really unique way to build loyalty with our consumers in all of our Ahold banners.”
The company has leveraged partnerships with several outside vendors to help it maximize the value of its data, most recently with London-based EYC, which stands for Engage Your Customers. Ahold is leveraging its relationship with EYC to conduct more promotional testing and measure response to various offers.
Late last year, Ahold conducted a mailing that included 2.5 million unique offers, customized for each individual household based on past shopping behavior.
The way the company has enhanced its value proposition illustrates its propensity for sharing best practices not only among its individual divisions in the U.S., but across the Atlantic between its European and U.S. operations.
From Europe, Ahold USA has learned a lot about how to market and merchandise private label, and it has also learned how to make its supply chain and purchasing more efficient and leverage its scale to take costs out the system, allowing it to provide more value at the shelf, Martin explained.
In the U.S., the company’s Giant of Carlisle, Pa., banner has become a model not just for the other U.S. banners, but also for the European businesses in terms of its loyalty offering. The recent relaunch of the Stop & Shop and Giant-Landover loyalty programs was based on the history of success at the sister U.S. banner.
“Giant-Carlisle was the leader in the U.S. in terms of the amount of transactions being done on the loyalty card, and we believed if we could get to that high level in transactions across the U.S., we thought we could get much more robust information on shopping behavior,” Martin said.
He said that through the programs developed in conjunction with the card, such as the gas-rewards program, Ahold has been able to get “close to and in come cases slightly exceed” Giant-Carlisle’s performance in all of its divisions.
“We’ve been extremely pleased with the way we’ve been able to push value through the card,” Martin told SN.
The loyalty card also provides a vehicle for working with vendors — consumers can earn bonus points for purchasing certain products, and vendors have been eager to participate, Martin explained. The company typically offers three such products each week on the backs of its circulars.
The card is also closely linked to the company’s electronic communications vehicles, so that customers can check their rewards points via the web, and receive special offers that they can download to their cards to redeem at checkout.