Mitre 10 does its best to improve brand preference in the highly competitive New Zealand home improvement industry, and noting that New Zealanders would happily visit either Mitre 10 or Bunnings on any given day, it knew it had to offer something extra. But what?
One area of opportunity that had not been extensively explored by either Mitre 10 or Bunnings were engagement programmes. Insights into behaviour in the home improvement industry showed that gardening was popular among Mitre 10’s customer base. And research showed that unlike traditional home improvement transactional behaviour, which was not always easy to predict, garden visitations were more frequent and consistent and gardening was more likely to be undertaken all through the year.
While the company was a leader in green garden care, selling a multitude of plants and gardening products, Mitre 10 wasn’t seen as an ‘expert’ in garden retailing. It took note of this and identified an opportunity to gain brand preference through driving engagement in the category and use it as a ‘gateway’ of sorts to other Mitre 10 categories by attempting to offer above and beyond what a normal home improvement retailer would.
As a result of these insights, Mitre 10 created the Garden Club, an ongoing initiative which was used to improve engagement and increase its credibility in the garden category.
The club offered members exclusive gardening benefits like inspiration, advice and exclusive offers.
Of course, to run the club Mitre 10 needed to develop technical infrastructure to support it. So in January last year it centralised all customer records, leading Mitre 10 to be one of the first New Zealand retailers to gain Data Warranty Registration (DWR).
It then undertook qualitative research to confirm the appeal of the Garden Club and the likelihood the benefits would motivate people to join. It also knew club members would need to be able to identify themselves. As Mitre 10 was a member of the Fly Buys programme, many Mitre 10 customers were already using a ‘unique’ identifier in store, so the decision was made to use the Fly Buys numbers to identify them, which meant members had to join the club and register their Fly Buys number to gain all the club benefits.
Mitre 10 knew it wasn’t seen as an expert in the gardening category, so it wanted to make sure the content it promoted to members was credible and demonstrated expertise. As such, it secured a third party to provide the content.
The club was launched in July 2014 to ensure it was up and running for spring, a key time for gardening sales. A launch video was produced that explained the intent of the club and how it would operate in-store. Emails were also sent to 6,000 existing local store garden club members introducing to the ‘national’ club.
In a previous interview with NZ Marketing, Mitre 10 general manager of marketing Dave Elliot said it’s important to inform and engage customers the whole way through the decision making and purchase process, which is the approach it’s taken with its Garden Club. “We engage with customers in a home improvement cycle. It starts off with customers getting inspired to do something. Then, they’re looking for some information in terms of what they’ll need and how they should go about doing it … Next, they move onto the stage where they do the shopping of the items, materials and tools they’ll need. And then they get stuck into it, and they might need a little help again, before finally lying down on lawn that they’ve sown and mowed for the first time.”
The Mitre 10 Garden Club was a success, and has now become a truly distinctive branded property in its own right; it also clearly fulfils a key over-riding objective of attribution back to the retailer brand, which in turn delivers to the club’s purpose of improving brand preference.
Mitre 10 has seen a bunch of great results, including increasing its share of sales against other retailers from April last year to April this year; a lift in the average sales values of club members from the same period; a lift in average sales of garden products; and a lift in sales of non-garden products and specific products promoted to Garden Club members.
There has also been an enormous increase in club members since the launch, with a large percentage of them registering their Fly Buys number.
The club has also drawn attention on social media, with the Mitre 10 Garden Club’s Facebook page having over 7,800 fans. The page also acts as a great recruitment source and also acts as great two-way channel to communicate club messages.
As the Garden Club was built to be fully measurable, the marketing team was able to work with the early adopters to track the impact it was having in terms of their individual store business performance. The results being measured were impressive. And it became very compelling for people to get on board when they could quickly demonstrate triple digit sales growth. The marketing team was able to take these results back to the business to really quantify (beyond just theory) what business returns could be achieved through correct in-store execution. And it was this ability to demonstrate actual results that overcame some initial resistance to gain full buy-in across the entire co-operative.
And the Garden Club isn’t just a one off campaign. It continues to evolve and adapt and is an important branded property, focusing on driving ongoing customer engagement delivered through interactions relevant to Mitre 10’s consumers.