BOSTON -- Asian specialty market Super 88 here reports increases in customer frequency and the average basket size following adoption of a cell phone-based loyalty and payment system.
"We tried a couple of different loyalty programs, but this one has provided the most [dramatic] results," said Jeff Jones, executive vice president for Winvest, Super 88's parent company. "Our customers love technology, so this works for them." He declined to provide specifics on the results.
Super 88 uses the cell phone system as its loyalty platform in lieu of a traditional card-based approach. In fact, the retailer can send promotional text messages to the cell phones of loyalty customers.
Five-unit Super 88 makes the service available in three of its stores, and will offer it in a new store under construction.
In addition to the loyalty program, the service, provided by Watertown, Mass.-based Mobile Lime, allows shoppers to link the last four digits of their cell phone numbers to a financial account for easier payment at the point of sale. At Super 88, which doesn't accept checks, customers can link their debit and credit accounts to the system.
Payment transactions are secured through a preauthorization process that must take place less than one to two hours prior to checkout. During that time, Mobile Lime shoppers call an 800 number, and provide their personal identification numbers and the code of the store in which the transaction will take place. At the POS, they simply tell the cashier the last four digits of their cell phone numbers.
To be eligible for certain rewards, Super 88 customers must initiate transactions via the cell phone payment method. "If a customer spends $50 within a certain period of time, then they'll receive a discount of X," Jones said.
Mobile Lime gives retailers a view of what individual Mobile Lime customers are spending as well as their shopping frequency, according to Peter Wolf, vice president of sales, Mobile Lime. For the service as a whole, retailers pay a subscription fee per location plus marketing costs.
Super 88 is one of many Boston-area retailers -- though the only supermarket chain -- that uses the Mobile Lime system, including a variety of restaurants, a movie theater, taxi service and florist.
While some Super 88 customers were Mobile Lime users prior to its adoption of the program, the retailer has recruited 1,000 new users, according to Jones. "We don't have a constant campaign to recruit new users, but we do have some Mobile Lime ads at the POS," he said.
Super 88 started using the platform about two years ago in its Allston, Mass., store, Jones said. "It's near Boston University and the area is comprised of a lot of young, high-tech-minded people."
Super 88 has yet to tap into all of the system's features. For example, shoppers seeking authorization via the 800 number can listen to a pre-recorded message provided by the retailer, but Super 88 has never taken advantage of this feature, Jones said.
Super 88 has, however, found the service's text-messaging capability to be a useful tool. "During last year's Democratic National Convention, business was dying in Boston," Jones said. "We sent a text message on a Wednesday telling customers that if they shopped on that Thursday and Friday, they'll receive extra discounts. We had customers coming back several weeks in a row and we changed their shopping patterns as a result."
Typically, Super 88 sends a text message every six to eight weeks via Mobile Lime. A retailer can only send text messages to Mobile Lime customers who have shopped in its store. "I think the feature is a good one but we don't send messages out every week or every day because we don't want to get annoying," he said.
So far, Jones hasn't received any negative feedback from customers about text messages, which customers can opt out of receiving. Although it has slowed the frequency of the messages in recent weeks, the new pattern has not changed shopping habits.
He acknowledged that Super 88 has run into a few problems with the system. For instance, sometimes Super 88 customers preauthorize their transaction too soon in advance of their payment transaction or they forget the preauthorization.
"We know that it's going to happen at times," Jones said. "But our users are pretty savvy about the process. It's not difficult at all."