Today’s episode is available both in audio format, as Let’s Talk Loyalty and also in video format on www.Loyalty.TV.
This episode is perfect for those of you who love to spend time outdoors, and no doubt, you will also love this iconic omnichannel brand – The North Face.
The North Face® describes itself as “the premier exploration company in the world” with a long history enabling exploration, protecting wild places, and creating technically advanced products to enjoy the outdoors.
As you can imagine, both the mindset and the mechanics of loyalty marketing play a huge role for The North Face, so I am delighted to be joined for this episode by Vanessa Christie (former Director of Loyalty for the Americas) as well as Erica Hood, Director of Global Membership and Services.
Please listen and enjoy this conversation and insights from The North Face.
2) Vanessa Christie – Former Director of Loyalty for the Americas
3) Erica Hood
Paula: Welcome to Let’s Talk Loyalty, an industry podcast for loyalty marketing professionals. I’m your host, Paula Thomas, and if you work in loyalty marketing, join me every week to learn the latest ideas from loyalty specialists around the world.
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Hello, and welcome to today’s episode of Let’s Talk Loyalty and Loyalty TV. If you love to spend time outdoors, I’ve no doubt you will love this iconic omni-channel brand, The North Face. The North Face describes itself as the premier exploration company in the world, with a long history of enabling exploration, protecting wild places, and creating technically advanced products to enjoy the outdoors.
As you can imagine, both the mindset and the mechanics of loyalty marketing play a huge role for this brand. So I’m delighted to be joined for this episode by Vanessa Christie as Director of Loyalty for the Americas, as well as Erica Hood, Director of Global Membership and Services. I hope you enjoy my conversation with The North Face.
So, Erica and Vanessa, welcome to Let’s Talk Loyalty and to Loyalty TV.
Erica: Thank you, Paula.
Vanessa: So excited to be here.
Paula: Great. Great. Welcome also Vanessa. You’re both looking fabulous on screen.
Erica: Thank you.
Vanessa: Thank you. Got a good, a lot of good brand gear to show off.
Paula: Nothing like an outdoor brand with bright orange, just to set the scenes. So absolutely gorgeous stuff and some beautiful mountains there in the background as well. So listen, it’s a very inspiring story. And The North Face, I have to say, is a brand that even in my family, I have a sister who’s totally obsessed with your products and she’s not particularly outdoorsy and she’s still obsessed.
So it’s amazing the kind of loyalty that can be created in lots of different ways. So we’re here today to share the story of, I suppose, the work you’ve been doing quite recently of which I know it’s been a busy time as always. But of course, as you know, we always start this show just picking your brains about what you admire as loyalty professionals.
So what is appealing to you, what you’re seeing working either personally or professionally from a loyalty perspective. So Vanessa, I’m going to come to you first and foremost, please share with our lovely audience. What is your favorite loyalty program?
Vanessa: Of course. Thanks, Paula. So my favorite membership program is actually from Peloton. You know, it’s a little bit of a less obvious choice because it’s a service versus a product. But what I love about Peloton is they really do, in my opinion, a best in class job at driving frequency and loyalty from members where I think of every workout that you take as basically like a purchase.
Extracting value, whether it’s online through their at home bikes or treadmills or from one of their studios. And particularly really what I admire about what they do is really that number one is around member recognition on these behavior based milestones, you know, you’ll be in a class and an instructor will call it out. Other members will call it out. It can be on your screen.
Vanessa: And they do a great job with personalized communication recognition in direct comms and their referral program is both really generous and rich, but it also drives value for both the refer and the referred in a way that really, I think, fuels this wheel of loyalty and brand affinity. So it’s Peloton for me.
Paula: Okay. It’s actually a fabulous one, Vanessa. And I do remember a number of years ago, I’m going to guess maybe like 2016. I think in the very early days of Peloton, I remember reading a story and I think it was inc.com magazine, but there were people actually tattooing the Peloton logo on their skin. I mean.
Paula: And I’m going to go and look for that article now because honestly, they did create something I think that is quite iconic. I think they’ve had a bit of a roller coaster over the years. And for those of us not in North America, we’re probably not as up to date as you clearly are. So absolutely wonderful. And a shout out if anybody is listening from Peloton, we’d love to have them on the show. So thanks a million. That’s a wonderful example.
So Erica, coming to you, tell us what are you going to tell us is your favorite loyalty program?
Erica: I love this question. I had to think about it. And I really came back to the one that I use the most. It makes me feel the most special. And so I’m a huge traveler. I love being on the go. And my choice is AVIS. I love AVIS because of the, this VIP experience that it creates and the way that I can truly interact and receive their service, but in this elevated faster, smoother way as a member. So I love that I can skip the line. I get to choose the car ahead of time while I’m waiting on my bags in big studies where they allow that. And so it brings me back and it truly they’re top of mind every time I have to rent a car.
Paula: Amazing. Amazing. Yes. For me, like renting a car, like it’s actually been quite stressful I’m going to say like most times when I do it, and clearly I haven’t had the AVIS VIP experience, but I can see for something that to me is, you know, sometimes like a grudge purchase, something, you know, not really looking forward to if they can find a way to make you feel that’s actually going to be like useful and removing all of that friction. They’re clearly doing some wonderful things, right? So amazing. You know, AVIS is obviously standing out so clearly for you. And given your travel background, I’ll be dying to get into hearing all of that, but yes, I suppose we also have to give out a shout out to AVIS if they’re listening. Make sure that they cover the show with a never ending a list of brands that we want to talk to. I think you had another one you were going to drop in as well. Yeah.
Erica: Tell us. Oh I couldn’t, I’d be remiss not to mention Sephora. It was actually my birthday. This past weekend, and I love birthday season because all of the rewards programs ping you with all their gifts and recognition.
And I just love Sephora’s because they give you a free birthday gift. It feels really personal, the entire shopping experience. I’m very loyal to them and the way that they serve up the right offers and a very kind of personalized, tailored experience when in the shopping. And in communication that I get from them. So how to plug Sephora.
Paula: Happy birthday. Yeah. So that’s amazing. And do I remember Vanessa, are you having a birthday tomorrow?
Vanessa: I am having a birthday in a few days. Yeah.
Paula: Okay. There you go. So happy birthday. Both of you.
Vanessa: Thank you.
Paula: Special times and actually I do find it also like the way you were just saying, Erica, when my birthday comes around, which is a few months away, but from a professional point of view, I’m very judgmental. Like I’m actually looking like what programs? ’cause I know who’s taken my data, who’s gone and done something that’s actually gonna celebrate me on my birthday? So I think there’s a lesson in that, that we do have, I suppose, elevated expectations. Obviously, when the data is being captured, so, so well done so far, they’re obviously doing a great job.
So listen, let’s get into both of your career backgrounds. I think, Erica, you just referred to your travel background and a wonderful brand you were working for before. So give us a sense of what you were doing, because I think it’s a really wonderful context as coming into this role with The North Face.
Erica: Yes. Before The North Face, I was at Southwest Airlines. They have an amazing loyalty program. Shout out to that Rapid Rewards team, some friends over there. But yeah, that was, I would say my first true education and a really consumer focused loyalty program. But in general, the brand is incredibly strong in terms of how they position everything they do with the consumer first and consumer in mind and also the employees in mind. So it’s very people first brand. So yes, I was there for a little over 7 years and my background at Southwest.
And then prior to that is really in brand strategy. So I started, really, at the beginning of my career in advertising and slowly shifted through multiple roles and opportunities into a brand strategy role, working cross enterprise with really how to drive your brand mission and all the different verticals and services and touch points that a company can offer. And then that kind of created a segue into loyalty naturally as just the closest expression and connection relationship that a brain can have with their consumer. And so I think it was natural and really exciting shift for my career where I am now at The North Face.
Paula: Oh, absolutely. And of course, both are iconic brands. I have to say again, Southwest is even an airline that by reputation, I’ve always wanted to fly and I just haven’t had the opportunity. So clearly some great work. So again, well done on all of that. I always feel it’s kind of hard to leave the travel industry, but I guess you’ve moved into, again, as we said, another iconic brand, so I totally get it. So Vanessa, what’s your kind of background professionally? How did you end up in loyalty?
Vanessa: Yeah. So I’ve been with The North Face now on the membership or loyalty team for five years and I’ve actually spent most of my career in the outdoor industry in a marketing capacity. I first started at a company called Timbuk2 Designs, which are pretty well known for their cycling bags.
Vanessa: And that started that was really my first exposure to this, like, outdoor industry that we had both wholesale and direct to consumer. And during my time there, it was really a giant lesson in because it’s a relatively small company, but a really big lesson in all parts of the business and all parts of marketing from working on the direct team.
So on the econ team, as well as opening new stores, new branded stores across Canada and the US as well as working with our wholesale accounts. So whether it’s large accounts like REI, who I know has been a guest on your show to, to smaller, more specialty shops and really learning about how do we reach consumers and our customers in a memorable way that’s consistent, whether you’re working with a wholesaler or direct.
I then was at specialized bicycles which is a more of a global brand. And there I was head of women’s brand for the global marketing org, which basically looked like rolling out and working with our regional teams on building a strategy about how do we really connect with women who cycle or are cycling curious to become the brand that, that women look to and trust and want to come back to.
And so all of my, my, my experience really, or the bulk of my experience has involved like an omni channel. An omni channel presence and retail playing a really important factor as well as digital. And so, when I started at The North Face, one of the in as a in loyalty, one of the parts that I loved the most in addition to really coming to a company with this really great internal culture that really believed in what we were doing for the world and for our consumers.
But also what I loved is we had access to so much more data to really understand our customers and our members more so than any of the other organizations that I’ve worked for. And so being data informed really was an unlock across our metrics and keep you guys of how are we doing because, as you know, in sometimes in pure brand marketing, it’s a little bit more dotted line or loosely correlated when we see results or lifts. But what I really love about this space is that is, is the data side, which unlocks this, like, creativity in a way to really to connect with our customers based on knowing more about who they are.
Paula: Yeah. Beautiful. Yeah. I cannot comment on the beautiful words, cycling curious, because I love words.
Paula: Yes. I am guilty of having been cycling curious.
Paula: Yes. No. And I did cycle, would you believe from Dublin to Paris, which from memory is about 1200 kilometers.
Vanessa: How fun.
Paula: Exactly. Charity thing. Totally off topic. But anyway I can totally see, you know, people do go through, I think at different times of our lives, we are interested in exploring, of course, the outdoors. And of course The North Face does that beautifully well. And actually I would love Vanessa, if you don’t mind, given that you are, you know, I suppose, director of the Americas now with this lovely responsibility within the loyalty field, would you maybe talk our listeners through a little bit about the brand and how it seeks to be seen, to be felt, and to be experienced by your members and your customers?
Vanessa: Of course. So actually The North Face started in 1966 and it has pretty humble beginnings. Someone named Doug Tompkins opened a shop, a small shop in San Francisco, and it really is rooted in him and some of his friends in wanting to create gear that made being outside specifically climbing more accessible to more people because the gear that was available at that time just didn’t meet their needs. So, it started really small, but, you know, of course, at that time, didn’t know that he was starting kind of this outdoor revolution around creating access for more and more people to experience the great outdoors.
Vanessa: So we have, yeah, so, so we have this really beautiful and long and storied history at the core of who we are and what we do now around enabling exploration and wanting to kind of open the aperture on, on who gets to explore and be outdoors so that it really welcomes everyone. And so in that way, you know, our loyalty program really seeks to again, kind of put our members at the core and of everything that we do so that they are the ones who really feel this moment to get outdoors and explore whether exploration for you looks like climbing a mountain. Like, my background is Yosemite, California.
Paula: Beautiful. Yeah.
Vanessa: Whether it’s Yosemite and you’re climbing or you’re hiking or backpacking there, or if you’re taking a walk with your family or going to the dog park and want some protection from the elements to just stay comfortable and safe. And so a lot of what our loyalty program comes back to, and we’ll talk more about it, of course, is how do we bring those enablement moments to our members, not just through products, but experiences to.
Paula: For sure. Yeah. And actually something that I did notice on your website actually is this idea, of course, of exploration in the physical sense, but also I think it was explicitly called out as a mindset, which I thought was really lovely. And I think that does come through with The North Face as well is like the kind of people that you seek to serve are really people that are open and curious and looking to, I guess, almost be their best. So yeah, a lovely brand, a lovely value. So thank you for taking us through that.
And then Erica, you’ve come into, I suppose, you know, redesign or you came in to redesign, redevelop and restructure the program. So would you talk us through the history of the loyalty strategy, I suppose, for The North Face before you came in and then what did you change? So take us up to where we are today.
Erica: Absolutely. And I just want to add a build off what Vanessa said is this exploration mindset was really the core attraction for me to the brand. Something that was just part of who I was and. Probably the one thing that could give me out of travel was that and outdoors. So, it truly embodies the culture and the people and everyone really lives the brand. And I love that the brand actually supports the employees getting outside exploring, we do a lot of internal events that just foster that. So I just wanted to say it’s such a living, breathing ethos at the company.
Erica: So, yeah, I’ve been at The North Face for three years and I came over to specifically rebrand and redesign the program. So, I came in to The North Face being introduced to the loyalty program at the time, called VIPeak. And it was I would say more of a transactional leaning program. So we had a point and rewards system, our structure of the program. And then it did have some other benefits, which I’ll speak to that was our starting point and really building out that other balance side of a loyalty program, which is that emotional reason to believe and benefits to interact with.
So VIPeak was established in 2012. And it was doing good. We just we’re getting a lot of customer research and insight on areas that we can improve and the business was changing at the same time. So, I actually joined in June, 2020, the height of a very monumental year, and we were seeing consumer behavior change very fast. And so we had a very this kind of moment where business strategy was changing consumer behavior and expectation was rapidly changing. And we were seeing the competitive landscape of loyalty programs, just proliferate with a lot of competition. So we had a lot of things to look at.
And so I will say that we grounded ourselves in a lot of what Vanessa said is our mission of how are we going to inspire, equip, and enable our members to get outside and explore. And that truly is our is still our mission today, but we wanted to be, to redesign the program to bring that mission closer and really connect to our members in new ways. So, it we launched the program 3, 2 ½ years ago, kind of speak to what the new program looks like and the objectives we had going into the redesign. So, the program was rebranded to explore past. So that’s what you’ll see on our website and what you will join today.
The three things that we looked at going in and kind of summarizing all the challenges and environment we were looking at was one, we wanted to simplify the program. So the big change from VIP to explore pass was let’s take the points and reward structure and simplify it so that our customers. And members don’t have to do the math and that they really feel the value right off the bat with joining and getting something in return for their purchases in a very tangible way. So simplification was the theme across every type of benefit change that we made.
Second I kind of mentioned this was delivering on this more balanced transactional and emotional value of the program. And then last, we wanted VIPeak was global as a program. And we were going to continue that with XPLR Pass. But what we were up against is we had a lot of differences across the globe and the program and we wanted to kind of create a more global centric model for the program with regional nuance. So that’s kind of our, the way that we tag how we run this program globally.
North America is our largest member pace. So we really take a lot of research and insights and guidance from that consumer base, but then we translated and work with the regions to really understand the differences in their member base and make sure that our benefits and structure speak to them.
And last, I’ll just say what was really important to us in the rebrand and redesign was grounding and research day one getting downloaded on this project. I, I remember bringing up and it was at the forefront of, like, what research do we have and or what research do we need? Because that is just I think my philosophy and obviously a philosophy of a lot of brands is we really want to make decisions based on what our members and customers are looking for. So we use some past research and did some qualitative and quantitative research along the way of this design to really, back up and support really every benefit that we rolled out. So I feel like we landed in a really solid place for that.
Paula: Incredible. Incredible. Yes. And I really think that I suppose, you know, challenge of again, global brands and making a program loyalty relevant or locally relevant is exactly what I meant to say. That’s actually not an easy task because at the end of the day, yes, human needs may be the same, but the competitive landscape, of course, is totally different. And I remember you mentioned in our call before that, you know, that there’s a lot of similarities, I guess, in terms of brand marketing and loyalty marketing in that they’re both coming from that place of insight.
So I really like that you have that sense of, you know, we really need to understand the pain points, whether it is for the members or for the business. But then allow the local teams and I think what you’ve said is you do have different obviously market leads in terms of loyalty that you guide as the global director and is that fair to say? And then obviously Vanessa would, you know, execute on that strategy and advise on what the America’s customers might need. Is that the way that you’re thinking about it?
Erica: That’s exactly right. We really think about a global strategy and I would say Vanessa and I work the closest given her market is the largest. And guidance is maybe the approach because again there it’s a huge collaboration between our other regions and really me leaning on their insight. They know their member basing and consumer much better than I do. And so there’s a lot of freedom for them to translate the benefits or structure as needed and really come up with the right programmatic strategy in their market.
Paula: Yeah. Yeah. I’ve often said on this show, you’ve probably heard me say it, that loyalty can be quite a lonely business. Because certainly, you know, I’ve sat in shoes like Vanessa’s, for example, where I’m in market and I may not have somebody maybe further up who may not have the expertise at the time, actually, it was in, it was in tourism, marketing and leisure. But to have somebody in another part of the world, at least you guys actually are in the same part of the world physically as well, but there’s something wonderful about having subject matter expertise that you can tap into to make sure that you know, really can make the right decisions for your market.
But again, you do have guidance from somebody who’s thinking about the global picture. And again, maybe taking insights from other markets, because of course, none of us has all of the ideas. So Vanessa, I’d love to hear how you’re experiencing it. Operating this incredible market, as you said, with Erica there as well to support you. And I know you have some big milestone numbers as well to share with us today. I think it’s a global number, but first of all, just tell us how is the US market doing? And how do you feel loyalty’s doing for The North Face in the US right now, since this wonderful rebrand and relaunch?
Vanessa: So I’m so happy to share that our customers and our members have responded positively to this the rebranded and redesign. You know, we do conduct not only before we launched XPLR Pass, but also we conducted customer research, but we now, twice a year run a biannual member survey, which allows us to keep a pulse on how our members are receiving the benefits. And allows us to really understand what some of the things that we’re doing, some of the strategies that we were offering, how that’s resonating and making an impact.
And sort of, you know, what Erica was outlining around our key targets when doing the rebrand redesign, this idea around simplification and understanding is something that we continue to ask about because our membership base does grow by double digits every year and in, in the Americas. And so it’s really important for us, for everyone that’s new to the program, and maybe it’s just starting to engage and just starting to extract value. Are they like, what is their member experience? Both our existing members and then those new members. So, so I would say to your question around how is it going? I would say it’s going really great. Both from that acquisition perspective, but then also I would say. You know, we are really starting to balance our focus on that reengagement piece and in reengaging our members, not just from that transactional perspective, but from an engagement perspective, that doesn’t involve a transaction so that we, of course, continue the dialogue with our members throughout the year.
You know, it’s not The North Face products, they last a very long time as you and your sister, who’s a big fan, knows firsthand. And so with that longer product life cycle, something that we’re mindful of is this maintaining contact and engagement not related to transactions. And so how we look at that in the Americas it looks a little bit different potentially than some of our regional partners in Europe or Asia Pacific based on our member population. But, you know, we’re, we get really excited by being data informed.
So, looking at whether it’s consumer research or the data itself to allow us to create different strategies that either surprise and delight our members with gifts or offers based on either some behaviors or milestones, shared milestones like birthdays. As well, as different events and experiences that have more of that, like, regional, of course, a regional appeal or regional application.
But I would say for the Americas were this transactional piece, the rewards and the points because of the rebrand and the simplification that it’s really allowing our members to feel transactional value. So what we’re really focusing on in the Americas is around driving some of that emotional, emotional value and connection with the brand through these more experiences, gifts, surprise and delights. So that’s really a lot of what our focus is on right now in the Americas.
Paula: Brilliant. Brilliant. Yeah, I think it’s always a huge achievement if your research is showing that people are understanding the transactional piece, because, you know, as you said, Erica, you don’t want to have to do too many mathematical complicated calculations to figure out what’s you know, what’s exactly getting or coming through here. So, so that’s amazing. So that’s obviously worked on the simplification side. And then the emotional piece, I think, is something people often say. We want to do that. We don’t know how.
So Vanessa, just to close on that piece. I think you mentioned to me offline that there’s more events. There’s more, I suppose, appetite for connecting in real life for your members, I guess, to connect to you as a brand to connect to each other, I guess. So would that be fair to say is event led, experience led, as well as the surprise and delight piece?
Vanessa: Absolutely. So, for us, it’s it there’s definitely a we’re looking to continue to layer on different experiences that are uniquely The North Face that really create this in real life experience. Even though the pandemic is mostly in our rear view mirror, we’re still feeling some of that appetite for connecting in person. And we started to really feel that back in 2022, and we’re continuing on that path.
One thing that I find interesting, based on my background also in, in events too, as well as here at The North Face is that it feels as though the, our playbook are like existing or previous playbook on, on events has changed that since the pandemic has happened and it was like this big reset on, on how it is that, that we bring our brand to life in person, which is really exciting. That it’s kind of opening up a lot more opportunities because there is so much more demand for that in person connection point.
Vanessa: Which, of course, we were all in a big deficit of for quite a while. And so experiences and events definitely. And Erica can speak to, or I’m happy to speak to around some of our partnerships that Dove also has an experiential element to it that drives that non transactional engagement too.
Paula: Absolutely. Well, Erica, tell us I want to know, of course, the. The numbers from your perspective, because I do know that there has been incredible success. So tell us, I suppose, yes, what have you done with the emotional engagement and what does success look like as we come to the end of 2023?
Erica: Yeah. So globally, we’re at 20 million members, which is huge and something to celebrate. We’ve seen rapid growth over the past three years since I’ve been here. And since we’ve rebranded the program and relaunched it so huge success. As far as the emotional side, so, yeah, I’ll kind of rewind a little bit at the launch of XPLR Pass. We really looked at what type of benefits we could offer that engaged our members in our product. And the experience of exploration in a closer way. So some of the things that we do are, we’re testing.
So part of what Melissa Vanessa was describing was we do surveys by annually. We also survey member segments around different activities or outdoor interests, and we take those lists and those survey for recipients and respondents and ask for volunteers or people that would be interested in where testing. So that’s one way we can engage members that are really keen in one activity and get their feedback on product, and really work that back into the product development life cycle. So that’s one really interesting benefit.
We do product field testing what Vanessa mentioned with the long life cycle of our product and really seasonal purchases. We wanted to think about ways that we could get our members to feel more comfortable trying new product, trying product they might not have considered. So, product field testing is just a way to lower the barrier as a member of buying something, getting to try it out. We encourage you to run on the shoes, try out the product on the trail, and if it doesn’t work for you, come back and find something that does. So that along with our lifetime warranty as a brand it all kind of creates this circularity story of, like, really keeping people engaged and trying and using our product in different ways.
But then there’s the experiential side. So we’ve been rolling out a lot of really interesting, exclusive experiences. I’ve got to attend some with Vanessa such as trail days in America, where we invited people out to spend a day on the mountain hiking with our athletes, listening to live music, bonding with other explorers and people that loved outdoors and kind of building that outdoor community.
So, that’s just one in a series of events we did across the United States and then globally because Europe and Asia Pacific are doing a lot of similar things and building community in those regions. One way that we are expanding that idea is to work with partners and really think about like minded brands or brands that deliver services or experiences that would resonate with our members.
So we just launched this week a partnership on the XPLR Pass side with Alterra, because we’ve had a partnership with them before, but Alterra Resorts are a large ski resort conglomerate here in the US and Canada. And there’s some spots in Europe and we are partnering with them to offer our members a go offer of buy one ski pass, get one and that is on the first Friday of every month during ski season and it is for first time skiers. So, the idea of this was to really again, lower the barrier of expiration and snow sports to our members that where costs may be a barrier. Or, you know, the fear of trying something new, like which skiing and snowboarding can be intimidating and welcoming that friend with that BOGO offer.
Paula: So Alterra, that’s actually a beautiful example, Erica. I did see it on your website today and I loved it. I thought this whole idea of, as you said, buy one, get one free. So for me, skiing is one of those things I’m actually terrified of. My husband does ski, but I can imagine if we did get a lip pass for, you know, for me to, for example, to bring a friend to go and try something out in a safe way and in a new way. And again, maybe to explore and push my limiting beliefs a little bit. I think that’s wonderful that The North Face can facilitate. And obviously then there’s a halo effect between the two. So I guess there’s loyalty that goes both ways. They get new potential skiers and you obviously get some exclusive offers. So very exciting times.
So what would you say then is coming up in the future, Erica? What are you thinking about from a global perspective? And of course, I’ll be dying to hear what Vanessa’s thinking about as well as we come into 2024.
Erica: Yes for the future. We are really focused on creating an omni channel, really clean, easy, simple experience for members. So, yeah, back to almost the beginning where I was highlighting my favorite loyalty program is AVIS but a lot of what they offer and what attracts me is just that easy experience and interaction with their brands. So we’re looking for ways through technology enablement and also looking at our different channels in terms of engagement moments and ways that we can plus up service or offers in those spaces to really, truly make the experience exceptional for our members. That would be one big area that we’re focused on.
And then the second is really getting thinking outside the box in terms of how we can engage people in exploring and everything that we represent in the outdoors. So our athletes are another area we have not talked too much about in this episode, but are such an important focus for our brand, because we have these extraordinary athletes and ambassadors that are living exploration every day and have so much insight to share with our customers and members, inspiration for what they do.
So we’re looking for ways to take that bottle it up and really deliver that to our members and new and different ways. I know our Asia Pacific partners have done an exceptional job having athlete panels and discussions, which they’re streaming lives and some of their digital channel for their members to engage with and listen to. So that is the area that we are focused on, and I know Vanessa is doing some really interesting events in the coming year and have this year to really build that out and bring it to life.
Paula: Amazing. I did see a wonderful YouTube channel. So obviously Erica, that’s already kicking off and I’ll certainly be looking to what the Asia Pacific team is doing because you’re absolutely right for a brand like The North Face to bring, I suppose, essentially sometimes celebrity athletes just because of pure inspiration, as you said, and make those accessible to those of us who aspire to doing greater things outdoors.
I think that’s absolutely wonderful. So Vanessa, tell us, how’s it feeling for you as you’re coming into 2024?, I know you’re again, very passionate about this idea of your athletes as partners. So tell us, what are you thinking about for the future?
Vanessa: Yeah, so for the Americas to echo sort of the how America’s will apply some of that global strategy and lens. The first one is really, you know, we’re continuing to look at how do we improve our member experience? How do we make it more premium? How do we make our members feel valued at all the touch points, whether it’s redeeming a reward, earning points. How do we make sure that everything that we do for our members feels thoughtful and feels easy and in that experience alone is going to build that positive association with the brands that so that in itself builds loyalty and return visits.
So the second, again, I know we’ve talked quite a bit about, but is around driving this like, non transactional engagement with experiences and events and specifically in that space. What we’re focusing on is so trail days is an event series that Erica mentioned. And what we’re trying to do is really anniversary some of these event series or events so we can start to build equity and some awareness year over year for some of those events and experiences.
The way we see it, too, is that there’s some of these larger kind of top of funnel brand building events where it’s not the experience itself is not fully explore past exclusive, but there’ll be this, like, premium experience within this larger event. And then there’s some trail days is, for example, is an example of this, but some explore past member exclusive events. So, in order to participate for those events, you must either sign up to be a loyalty member, or if you’re an existing member, no problem, you can register right away. So we really see it in these two ways, like a fully exclusive member experience or an exclusive experience within the larger brand experience. So we’re definitely going to continue to be engaging with our members in different parts of the Americas region, where to meet our members where they are.
Other ways that we’re driving that we’re focusing on driving non transactional engagement is as Erica has talked about partnerships like Alterra, so that we can enable exploration in addition to keeping us top of mind. And allowing our members to extract value in ways beyond just purchases. And more access to our athletes, whether it’s through exclusive experiences, or potentially exclusive content, but there’s a whole host of really exciting areas of engagement that we’re looking to ramp up and continue to put the gas on for next year.
The last one that I will mention that we haven’t talked about too much is also continuing to turn up the volume for our members around our sustainability and circular design initiatives. Where so we have our sort of used gear website called TNFR or The North Face Renewed. And that allows us to keep more product in consumers hands. It’s also a really great entry point to the brand for consumers to really try out the product.
And so we’ll be looking in the Americas to really integrate further with that side of the business and to create more special moments for our members through exclusive products or exclusive collections within that area as well. But really our members tell us in our member surveys, how the our values, the brand’s values around in the environment and sustainability is important to them. And so this is one of the ways that will meet them where they are and to continue to be either their favorite outdoor brand.
Paula: Beautiful. Yeah. Well, I think, you know, for me, that means, of course, we have to stay in contact. I hope this is not the only time that we’ll be able to have this conversation because I feel even this time next year, all of these ideas will again have moved forward. You’ll have many more milestones to share the fact that you’re getting double digit growth in the Americas is to be celebrated and congratulated to you, Vanessa. And of course, the 20 million milestone globally, Erica, is incredible. So congratulations to you both on such a wonderful success story.
I’ve asked all of my questions now. So I just want to give you an opportunity to mention any final thoughts, any comments, any other tips or tricks you have for our loyalty professionals around the world. Maybe Erica, I might come to you first. Have you any closing words of wisdom for us?
Erica: I’ll part with my philosophy as I kind of kicked off in loyalty coming from a brand strategy concentration and origin of study. I really feel like the exciting part for loyalty is truly delivering the focus or vision for your brand and ours is really, truly to get more people outdoors, more people experiencing nature and exploration.
And to me that, what that’s what motivates me and inspires me when we’re thinking about ways to extend our program to our members and think of really neat events that really connect people to that mission. So, I think that when you think of loyalty through the lens of your brand and what you’re truly trying to deliver, it makes it really fun and it opens the door to a lot of needs and exciting opportunity.
Paula: Brilliant, brilliant. And I know you said off air as well, Erica, that you’re comfortable if anybody does want to reach out and connect with you. And so if that’s okay, we’ll make sure to have your LinkedIn profile, hopefully also for yourself, Vanessa, because I’m sure there’s plenty of people will be dying to connect with you. So thank you for that. Have you any final words from your side, Vanessa, before we wrap up?
Vanessa: Yeah, so the one thing that I think our team in America is really grounded in is this kind of this dimension of sentiment from our members, which is this the sentiment being I feel valued as a member.
This is a question that we ask in our biannual member survey and have for the last two and a half years. And it’s really the lens at which we view all of our strategies and initiatives and our tactics through that when we’re either approached with an idea from the business or through our own ideation based on strategies of how are we going to deliver on the strategy that we always ask ourselves.
If we were a member, would I feel valued as a member with this offer, with this experience, with this initiative? And if the answer to that is no, then we don’t do it. And kind of coming back to data and consumer research is that we know in our, because of our biannual survey that the degree of which someone feels valued as a member, there’s a direct correlation to the NPS score.And so we really use this as our wayfinder for member satisfaction. And so, for us, America’s, this idea of, I feel valued as a member is pretty paramount for what we bring to market.
Paula: Beautiful. Yeah. Very wise words, I will say, because yeah, there’s so many, you know, ideas that we all have, but at the end of the day, it is a feeling and it’s hard to, you know, really know unless you feel it. So super important to give that opportunity to your members to hear them and let them express how they’re feeling and to make sure that’s all going in the right direction.
So with all of that said, I have really enjoyed our conversation, ladies. So Vanessa Christie and Erica Hood from The North Face. Thank you so much from Let’s Talk Loyalty and Loyalty TV.
Vanessa: Thank you so much, Paula.
Erica: Thank you, Paula.
Paula: This show is sponsored by The Wise Marketer, the world’s most popular source of loyalty marketing news, insights, and research. The Wise Marketer also offers loyalty marketing training through its Loyalty Academy which is already certified over 500 executives in 38 countries as certified loyalty marketing professionals.
For more information, check out thewisemarketer.com and loyaltyacademy.org.
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