Under the Hood: A Look at Meineke's New Loyalty Program

The Auto Care Firm Wants to Drive Existing Customers Back More than Once Per Year

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When Meineke learned that 68% of its existing customers returned only once per year, the auto care provider knew it had an opportunity to draw them back more often. The firm seized it. This spring it embarked on a massive overhaul of its loyalty program, investing a significant portion of its $5 million CRM budget in a Point of Sale system upgrade, data integration and franchisee and staff education. The result is the Meineke Rewards program which complements the company's re-branding effort launched in September.

Sixty percent of the firm's customers have already been to a Meineke, and garnering a repeat visit from just 10% more of those existing customers is a "conservative goal," said Meineke Chief Brand Officer Artemio Garza.

"The biggest project on the CRM side is our loyalty program," he said. Meineke Rewards, developed and managed by cross-channel customer-engagement firm Clutch, is currently being tested and will launch system-wide Nov. 1.

Meineke looked to other successful loyalty programs such as My Starbucks Rewards and airline programs as inspiration, but based its new system mainly on consumer research and evaluation of the competition. The company determined that few if any other auto-care firms have intricate loyalty programs like the one they envisioned, one that keeps track of customer transactions and communication at multiple touchpoints.

"The program changes everything that we're doing from a branding strategy [perspective]," said Mr. Garza, who's been with the company for less than a year. Meineke launched its rebranding campaign in September with TV spots arguing that "taking care of your car shouldn't take over your life."

Customers will earn one point for every dollar spent and can use those points towards services they'd probably need anyway, such as brake pad replacement and oil changes. The program also offers a free oil change after three, a reduction from the previous program which required four oil change purchases before a free fifth. Customers can collect and use points at any location.

Beyond simply customizing offers to a customer's car make and model, data on things like purchasing habits could prompt tailored messaging. If a customer usually visits every three months on a Monday, the company could send an email suggesting she reserve a spot on a date following that pattern.

Customers also can rack up points on a household basis rather than an individual car basis. "We can start understanding their household needs, not just their individual needs," said Mr. Garza.

They'll be asked to supply their basic contact information including email addresses, but can also add information to their profiles such as their birthdays. Mr. Garza expects Meineke to use that data for tailored offers. The company already has been asking customers for their email addresses, but, "the reality is we were not providing consumers with enough value or reason for them to provide us with their email," said Mr. Garza.

"One thing we have gained advantage of versus most retailers is people are handing over their keychains to us," said Mr. Garza. Those keychains can now hold a scan-nable loyalty tag.

Getting it all together entailed collaboration among marketing, IT and the operations team. IT began digging in more than six months ago. Most of the POS integration work started in August and lasted about a month. The most significant change: the transaction data managed by Clutch will now feed into the Meineke system in real-time as opposed to once per week the way it happens now. A new website and mobile app also syncs with the new program.

With each transaction, an API sends out loyalty and purchase data in real-time into the Clutch platform, including details on services purchased and make and model of the vehicle, said James Hooven, VP of operations at Clutch, which stores and manages Meineke's data. Clutch has tested to ensure the proper amount of points were applied for each transaction, and training by the operations team has gone hand-in-hand with that testing.

It remains to be seen whether the investment will entice current customers to return more often, but, said Mr. Garza, "We're going to get to know our customers a lot better."

Artemio Garza is speaking at the Ad Age Data Conference today in NYC.

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CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article said the new campaign in September included YouTube celebrity "Kid President" as "Kid Mechanic." The "Kid Mechanic" ads were not part of the new campaign.

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