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Behind the Scenes of Paw Points Loyalty – a Q&A with HelloWorld and Fresh Step

HelloWorld is a digital marketing solutions company that specializes in the strategy and development of loyalty programs. It uses technology and marketing campaigns to create brand-customer interactions, drive demand, and accelerate growth.

The Fresh Step brand is a subsidiary of the Clorox company, a manufacturer and marketer of consumer and professional products. Fresh Step provides cat owners with a variety of litter types, including clumping, non-clumping, and crystal offerings. Fresh Step has also donated litter to animal shelters throughout the United States in an effort to increase cat adoption. Members of its loyalty program, Paw Points, can even donate points to shelters so that they can redeem them for litter, cat beds, and other necessities.

Gina Fleck, Director of Loyalty at HelloWorld, recently sat down with Anne Marie Ghigo, Brand Engagement Lead at Fresh Step, to discuss the Fresh Step brand and the Paw Points program.

Gina Fleck: For a product that was historically fairly transactional, how did Fresh Step initially seek to create loyalty?

Anne Marie Ghigo: Paw Points was originally a “snip and clip” program that was transaction-based. Over time, it became a mix of transactional and emotional loyalty, an evolution spurred from key program insights. We learned that members care not only about their own cats, but about supporting shelters and helping cats get adopted. Providing new ways for members to contribute to these causes ties into Fresh Step’s brand purpose to make the world a more welcoming place for cats and their people. In 2014, we launched a shelter-specific program, allowing shelters to earn points and redeem them for pallets of litter while giving Paw Points members the ability to donate to their local shelter. Today, we have over 1,300 shelters participating in the program, and members have donated over 30 million Paw Points in support. Additionally, Fresh Step has donated over 750,000 pounds of litter to partner shelters across the country. That’s something we get excited about.

GF: What are some of the unique loyalty challenges for a CPG brand?

AMG: The first challenge that comes to mind is awareness. A lot of loyalty programs are for retail and services, giving the consumer an easy way to interact with the brand and learn about the program. Fresh Step relies heavily on the packaging to educate consumers, and there is a lot of information on the package.

I’d also cite “cost comparing” as a challenge for CPG loyalty. Consumers often switch between brands based on sales or whoever has a special offer that week. The advantage for Fresh Step is that people know they are always earning toward their rewards (such as free cat litter) if they stay with the brand.

GF: You mentioned that cat litter is more typically purchased offline. What is the role of digital engagement in your loyalty strategies?

AMG: Because we don’t directly interact with consumers at shelf, digital is how we are driving a personal connection with our consumers. It is a critical element that deepens our relationships with our consumers and how we engage with our loyalists. For example, through both the Paw Points website and mobile app, we have over a million touchpoints with members each year—opportunities we would not have without the loyalty program.

We offer promotions such as sweepstakes to drive digital engagement. Rewarding members with prizes such as a year’s supply of litter, a washer and dryer, or a Dyson pet vacuum has allowed us to provide value and thank them for their loyalty in the digital space.

GF: What do your consumers expect from a loyalty program in 2018?

AMG: They expect a great consumer experience from the package through to digital. Beyond getting rewarded for purchasing the product, they expect the interaction to be seamless, simple, and a positive experience with the brand.

Additionally, consumers today, especially millennials, want a brand that is committed to causes that they care about. Our recent research shows that 93 percent of people believe Fresh Step cares about cats, and that 89 percent believe Fresh Step is contributing to the wellbeing of cats. It’s important that we ensure that our members know how we are supporting our mission and that their brand choices are rewarded in our actions and our ability to support the greater good.

GF: You mentioned promotions and sweepstakes earlier. What is the role of promotions within Paw Points?

AMG: Fresh Step believes it is important to keep a loyalty program differentiated, with many different ways to engage. So many programs out there seem to be “set it and forget it” or rely solely on purchase transactions to try to engage consumers. Promotions keep our program interesting and engaging. At the same time, they allow the brand to communicate engaging promotional content along with the latest news, whether it’s tied to Adopt-a-Shelter-Cat Month or a new product launch. Ultimately, promotions allow us to give members richer awards in a way that is sustainable for the business, and that provides a way to give more back.

GF: What is the future role of technology in loyalty programs?

AMG: We’re always looking for ways to make it easier for consumers to get rewarded and improve the experience they have with the brand. Technology can amplify this quickly and overall provide a better user experience. The use of data has become a more important part of the marketing mix, because it allows us to evolve the program to build emotional loyalty and offer a more personalized approach. For example, we have a Paw Points app that our tech savvy consumers can use to make uploading codes even easier. And for those who prefer to upload a receipt rather than a code, they have another way to get credited for their purchase. Finally, the more we know about our consumers and what type of rewards and content they prefer, the more we can personalize their interactions with the brand.