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Q&A with Jenn McMillen, GameStop

When it comes to empowering the customer, few companies do it with as much enthusiasm, and creativity, as GameStop. GameStop’s PowerUp Rewards program uses customer data to offer restaurant and movie rewards, invitations to exclusive events and one-of-a-kind trips, such as to the Comic-Con convention or NASCAR.

The person behind all of these thoughtful perks is Jenn McMillen, vice president for loyalty at GameStop. Jenn took time from her busy schedule to talk about epic rewards, dressing up in costume and taking the garbage out of messaging.

Q: How do you define customer loyalty?

At GameStop, we define customer loyalty by how engaged a customer is in our Circle of Life. We know that a customer who participates in all four Circle of Life activities – buying new products, trading in games, buying pre-owned games, and reserving upcoming titles – versus one or two of them is an engaged customer.

Q: In what ways does GameStop distinguish its “regular” customers from “loyal” customers?

Our PowerUp Rewards program gives us great insight into purchase behavior among members and non-members, since members self-identify through a card or their phone number at POS. We know enough about purchase cycle that we can see if someone is spending less and conversely we can also see when someone is consolidating purchases with GameStop.

Q: What have been the most significant changes you have seen in your customers in the past year?

Since PowerUp Rewards is still a relatively new program – about 18 months old –we’ve been more surprised by the overall insights coming out of the data. When you look at what your heavy spenders mean to your business, it makes you want to write each one of them a personal note to thank them for their business!

Q: GameStop offers great experiential rewards, such as tickets to sought-after events. To what extent do your members play a role in determining these? 

We’ve just started putting our potential rewards on Facebook and letting our members vote on what they want to see from us. But we get a lot of feedback just coming from our field organization and inside our own walls. The gaming community is usually pretty vocal, and we have a lot of them on the GameStop payroll!

Q: And what role do your employees play?

At our store manager conference each year, we have a contest where we ask our top field people to submit ideas for what they want to see for our monthly Epic Reward Giveaways and items in the PowerUp Rewards catalog. From this contest, we’ve been able to send some of our store managers and district managers to some truly exceptional experiences, such as a Zero Gravity Flight, behind-the-scenes NASCAR experiences with top-ranked drivers, and meet-and-greets with some of the world’s best known game developers.

Q: How do you inject fun into employee communications?

The GameStop brand is edgy, and we’ve taken that brand voice into PowerUp Rewards as well. We have special TV programming that runs before the stores open, hosted by one of our store managers who goes by the moniker Captain Redbeard. His peers voted him into the job, and he’s funny, but more importantly, credible to his audience. Several GameStop execs have their own shows, including me. My goal is to inform the field of what’s happening every month with PowerUp, and I choose to do it in an entertaining way. I have no problem dressing up in costume or getting a laugh at my own expense. If it didn’t work, I wouldn’t do it.

Q: What are most prevalent mistakes made in loyalty marketing today?

What’s that phrase about “one man’s trash is another’s treasure”? What may be a mistake for me could be the piece de resistance for another retailer, right? I think one of the most prevalent mistakes in loyalty marketing today is bowing to the pressure of short-term thinking. A loyalty program is a marathon, not a sprint, but when the financial pressure is on, it is sometimes hard to resist turning your loyalty program into that lever that drives the sales quickly.

I pay close attention to a lot of the retail loyalty programs out there, and there’s one in particular that seems to be caught in this trap. Before the holidays really kicked into gear this year, I noticed that I was getting a lot of “best customer” offers from this retailer through email, including some big discounts, such as 50% off one item. The first time I got this, I hustled in because I hadn’t seen anything this rich. Then the following week, I got the same offer. The following week, the offer was “the whole store is 50% off, so forward this to your friends.” If you do the retail math, you start to think, “Wow, their margins must be sky-high if they afford to do this week after week.” Then you start to feel like a chump because you’ve been paying full price all this time! Now I won’t buy anything in the store until I get a coupon. It only took 90 days, and now I’ve been trained to wait.

Q: What is your loyalty motto?

Make everything you put in front of a member worth their time and attention. If you put garbage in front of your audience, they will come to expect garbage. And then you wonder why your response rates are subpar. Instead, make sure every message, every offer, every piece of communication you take the time to craft for your members is going to be something that interests them. Make that promise to your members and stick to it!

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