#548: Inside the Relaunched Carter’s Rewards Program with Kevin Severs

This episode focuses on the newly relaunched Carter’s Rewards – the loyalty programme of a $3Bn children’s apparel retail business. The successful relaunch lowered customer thresholds, added tiers, and accelerated its personalization strategy.

With Kevin Severs, the Director of Retention for Carter’s. Kevin is a seasoned Director with 18 years of marketing experience spanning retail, CPG, automotive, and consulting. Previously, he was a Director of E-commerce at Hertz and spent nearly a decade CPG consulting with General Mills and working in brand management at Procter & Gamble.

Today we will be learning about Kevin’s favourite loyalty programmes, how Carter’s Rewards is building real customer engagement and all about their plans for the future.

Show notes:

1) Kevin Severs

2) Carter’s Rewards

3) Carters Inc.

Audio Transcript

Paula: Welcome to Let’s Talk Loyalty, an industry podcast for loyalty marketing professionals. I’m Paula Thomas, the Founder and CEO of Let’s Talk Loyalty and also now Loyalty TV. Today’s episode is hosted by Charlie Hills, Chief Strategy Officer of Mando-Connect, a UK based agency that uses smart data to create brilliant partnerships and rewards that really work.

If you work in loyalty marketing, you can watch our latest video interviews every Thursday on www.loyalty. tv. And of course, you can also listen to Let’s Talk Loyalty every Tuesday, every Wednesday, and every Thursday, to learn the latest ideas from loyalty experts around the world. 

This show is brought to you by Comarch, a multi-country leader in loyalty in customer engagement tools that help you forge meaningful connections and boost profits, leveraging over 10 years of experience in utilizing AI technology. From immersive loyalty programs to captivating marketing campaigns Comarch helps you deliver personalized experiences across every touch point, gather valuable insights, understand customer behavior, and watch your brand recognition soar.

Comarch, where innovation meets customer satisfaction. To learn more, visit comarch.com.

Charlie: Hello and welcome to Let’s Talk Loyalty. I’m Charlie Hills, the Chief Strategy Officer for Mando-Connect, WPP’s Loyalty Specialist Partnerships and Rewards Agency. Today I’m delighted to welcome Kevin Severs, the Director of Retention for Carter’s, a 3 billion children’s apparel retail business. Kevin is a seasoned director with 18 years of marketing experience, spanning retail, CPG, automotive and consulting. Previously, he was a director of e-commerce at Hertz and spent nearly a decade CPG consulting with General Mills and working in brand management at Procter Gamble. 

This episode focuses on the newly relaunched Carter’s Rewards. The successful relaunch lowered customer thresholds, added tiers, and accelerated its personalization strategy. Today, we’ll be learning about Kevin’s favorite loyalty programs, how Carter’s Rewards is building real customer engagement, and all about their plans for the future. I hope you enjoy our conversation today.

So hello, and welcome to Let’s Talk Loyalty. I’m absolutely thrilled to have you on the podcast today. Thank you so much for joining us. 

Kevin: Thanks for having me. 

Charlie: It’s a bit of a treat today. And before we learn all about your loyalty program, we’re going to get straight into it with Paula’s favorite question. So it’s the question that everybody knows I’m going to open with. What is your favorite loyalty program? 

Kevin: I would have said over the last five years, the Delta American Express program for the flight benefits, right? Flying is a fantastic experience when you’ve got some status, but I have shifted this year to the credit card from Gemini.

Charlie: Ooh, controversial. 

Kevin: Yeah, the shifted away from the Delta Amex, which is so popular here in the US. But you know, the Gemini card from or the credit card for Gemini allows for Bitcoin rewards. And I’m actually, it’s a very difficult proposition to pass up. We’re kind of up 65 percent on the reward benefit. And so it’s hard to meet that value proposition in market. 

Charlie: Wow. That’s really quite something. So how does it work? It’s not all of our listeners will be familiar with what the program is or what you get. 

Kevin: Sure. Yeah. It’s based on the percentage of how much you spend and you get different percentages based on, you know, whether it’s gas or food, you know, grocery or travel. And those percentages that you transact with on the card, each transaction actually is awarded immediately in Bitcoin rewards, and they just kind of pool into your Gemini account. And you’re welcome to do whatever you’d like with those Bitcoin rewards. You can move them to a private wallet, to a different exchange, or you can leave them on the Gemini exchange if you’d like.

And of course, Bitcoin’s value proposition is unique in market. And and so it’s hard to beat that with airline miles, which are seemingly devalued every year. 

Charlie: Well, there’s a whole industry isn’t there dedicated to working out the value of airline miles and points transactions. So quite cool that there’s going to be a new bitcoin market out there as well. Good luck. 

Kevin: Okay. Thank you.

Charlie: Are you saving for anything in particular? 

Kevin: No, just a long term holder. 

Charlie: That’s great. Well, look, that’s really interesting and a brilliant kind of first program and actually the first favorite program I think we’ve had on the show where we’ve talked about Bitcoin rewards. So maybe this will be the first of many as we get through all the different international markets.

Tell us a little bit more about your background and what you enjoy working in loyalty marketing. 

Kevin: Yeah, I love to work in loyalty marketing because it touches all customers and all channels. My background kind of started in logistics and went into marketing analytic consulting. And then I went into brand management, so I’m able to do all of those different things with a program. Like I do at Carter’s just the amount of data that’s available, that first party data collection, the way in which we can change the program to impact the UX and the customer experience. It’s just all really comes together in loyalty for me. 

Charlie: That’s really nice. Actually, we hear that from a lot of our guests, actually, the fact that the loyalty touches so many different areas of the business as being a kind of thing that people really love. And that actually that ability to do things. It’s based on the data and then see the changes really quickly within the context of the program. It’s something I’ve heard from a lot of people, actually. So, it’s a really nice kind of common thread. 

What about that your program and the business that you work in? Again, because I’m obviously very familiar with Carter’s, but I’m sure many of our listeners might not be. It’s a gorgeous business. Sort of, if you can start off telling us a little bit about Carter’s and then tell us a bit about the program as well, that would be great. Thank you. 

Kevin: Yeah, sure. The children’s apparel market in the US is around 29 billion dollars and Carter’s holds the number one position at about 10 percent market share. So Carter’s was started in 1865, which is just an incredible number to be honest with you as far as the age. We celebrate those anniversaries with pride. 

There are three brands included in Carter’s, three other brands. There’s Oshkosh, Skip Hop and the newest Little Planet. So we’ve got a couple of different brands. We’re focused on direct to consumer and e-comm. So we’ve got our own stores. We’ve got an e-comm channel. And then a lot of the other half, about half the businesses in wholesale. So we sell through Amazon, Target, Walmart, Kohl’s, and a lot of other outlets with about 18, 000 outlets and are global. So the external kind of outside the US is a wholesale business. So 18, 000 points of contact. 

Charlie: Blimey. I mean, that’s great, isn’t it? Children. My Children are slightly older now and we’re out of children’s apparel and I really miss it because men’s apparel because I’ve got two boys is so much less exciting to buy.

What about the program that you operate as well within that business? How does it work? 

Kevin: Yeah. So, the program’s goal is to drive customer traffic, sales and overall brand loyalty. We’re a points based system with three tiers. We actually introduced a third tier this April this year, and we have our customers kind of earn points based on the dollars they spend.

They move up through those tiers, or they get the credit card isn’t kind of the fast pass to the top tier. We give customers birthday rewards, early access, exclusive products, early access to sales. So the right kind of price and the right product. That’s a big part of the program for a lot of our better customers, and it’s really the key data collection point for our personalization strategy, which is a huge part of what we’re doing at Carter’s.

Charlie: That’s great. And what do customers tell you their favorite bits of the program? What do they like best? Is it the tears or the points or the credit card or early access to sales, which is always one of my favorite bits? 

Kevin: Yeah, it’s interesting. You know, you like to think that a lot of the customers are all about your program all the time, and they’re certainly not right. You’ve got a small segment of the population that really cares a lot. 

So the customers like more Carter’s. You know that what we found in our research and our testing is they like free shipping. They like more products, better value products, the right style at the right price. You know, when you’re dressing your children, you want that that onesie with the cute print on the butt or, you know, the really the dinosaur shirt that your son really loves. But you want that at the right price. And so that’s a big component of the kind of early access to different parts of the program. 

Charlie: Yeah, I think it’s really nice to hear that realism as well, actually, that we know consumers have got so much going on in their lives that the loyalty program of one particular brand is not right up top at the kind of the top of their consideration set.

And yeah, some guests we have on live and breathe their program and maybe don’t always recognize that there’s a lot going on in people’s lives. Although I fondly remember the dinosaur shirt, my 13 year old now is all about Nirvana t-shirts and anything with a football logo on. So it’s a very different a different world.

What do you feel sets your program apart from the rest? I mean, it’s a highly competitive sector that you operate in. You know, what’s different about your program? 

Kevin: Yeah, the as I mentioned, we’re kind of the market leader in children and kids apparel. And so you could imagine the life cycle of a customer who’s expecting a child, has their first child, second child third all the way through to where you are, you know where they’re more interested in nirvana t-shirts you know, we get this question window with these children and these families.

And that’s really, I think what’s unique to our program is the amount of data we have and how our customer kind of comes into our the customer life cycle and kind of, you know, exits out of the back end and kind of graduates into, I would say, when the kids start making their own decisions, you start to lose some of the our business starts to become less relevant.

And so that’s really unique for us. And so I think that a lot of the work that we’ve done with Carter’s rewards that just launched this April kind of making it a little bit closer to the brand. And we’re starting to build the systems and structures using technology and analytics internally to leverage a lot of that data. So I would say a lot of the innovation is on the horizon for us, but we certainly have a road map to that. 

Charlie: You’re on your own life cycle as well. It won’t be long till your program is choosing its own Nirvana t-shirt. What do you think other programs should learn from what you found out so far? You know, is there any kind of gold standard best practice stuff in there that you’re like, actually, you know, others could learn from this?

Kevin: Yeah, the I think the biggest challenges around keeping things simple, but yet making them relatively complex from a targeting or from an experience perspective. So from our business, it started out as a bit of a punch card system to have where you’d shop 10 times and then get a reward. The problem is you start, you know, the customer behavior changes. They start splitting purchases. They come in every day and they check the boxes, right? 

So you really have to be thoughtful about how you design the program to the behavior that you’re trying to drive and obviously the business outcome that you’re looking for. For us, that was a lot around frequency, speed to, you know, speed to first reward, getting the person that kind of has that child or is having that second child to choose us for their entire kind of wardrobe, right? And the entire journey so we can retain them over the years. 

Charlie: Yeah, that’s really interesting thinking about that sort of almost you’ve got a network life cycle, haven’t you, with, you know, a lot of families with the second child coming in and what can they reuse? But also, what do they need to get new?

That’s a really different dimension to a lot of the sectors of our listeners, I’m sure. So I had to deal with building a new loyalty, you know, a program, as you’ve said, you know, you’ve made some big changes. You’ve been doing some cool stuff. What have been the highs and lows of that journey? Because it’s not an easy thing to build a new program.

Kevin: Yeah, especially it’s such a historic kind of business. You know, it’s there’s a lot of entrenched understanding about how things are and how they should work. I would say that the highs are around time with the customer. 

One of the, my favorite parts of the journey is when you really start to sit down with all of the customers. We have a great customer insights team at Carter’s that helps facilitate this. But you know, those, the dialogue and the way in which they talk about their families, their children and how they use the products. That’s really where a lot of the key insights come from. That can be a pillar of the program. That’s part of the reason we added that middle tier, which is a non card based tier, but still a higher value benefit tier. 

You also have to kind of consider what they do and not what they say. So I just kind of that again, there’s a lot of that in research. And so that’s, you know, being able to know that when you put that program structure in place and you’re going to forecast and see the benefits of each of the different segments that use those benefits across the program and different tiers to see that come to life is probably the most satisfying things. But so that’s some of the highs from customer. That’s kind of it. 

Charlie: It’s very tangible as well, isn’t it? That high of actually, you know, you’ve been on a journey and you’ve built a new program. I always think it’s a real privilege to sort of create and craft something as opposed to sort of picking up somebody else’s legacy and just optimizing it and tweaking it. You must be quite proud of it. 

Kevin: Yes. And the journey to get there internally, you know, is a, it was always a challenge. And so.

Charlie: What about some of the lows? Cause again, most of our listeners have been through, you know, this journey that you’ve been on and building a new program is not easy. In a legacy business, in a highly competitive sector with, you know, multiple life cycles and multiple audiences, what are some of the lows and what did you learn from those lows?

Kevin: Yeah, we have because we have such a complex business, we’ve got direct to consumer wholesale. The current program doesn’t include wholesale today. And we’ve got multi-channel, right? We’ve got a great app. We’ve got web. We’ve got stores. I would just say, don’t underestimate the complexity of building a program across all of these touch points.

And one of the pieces that I did I spent a lot of time doing and I have in my entire career, wherever I’ve gone is really trying to focus on all of the details. I think there’s a lot of opportunity there to kind of bring everybody along in the journey. And that’s what when you launch an omni channel program at a large retailer, a large organization, it’s really important to have all the details buttoned up.

One example is just working with the call centers to make sure that our service centers understand why we’re doing it so they can help bring customers along on that journey. Give them empower them with any recourse or any kind of remedies to customer concerns so they feel empowered to make decisions and not have to you know, kind of stonewall customers as they’re having issues and also to get him excited about it. You know, you can hear a smile on the phone. And I know that’s a pretty common phrase, but that is a part of the launch that we had in April. And the internal associate perspective of the launch was very exciting good, because we just kind of empowered everybody and got them all excited about it and supported their work. 

Charlie: Yeah, I think that’s a great tip. Actually, the importance of those internal stakeholders and that they buy into the vision and the rationale as well as the execution is absolutely critical.

We’ve seen in the British market, a lot of big grocery programs launched recently, and it’s very you can really see where the investments been made in the people in the stores so that they understand the program, so they can help people with it, but also so they’re passionate about it. Any other top tips, any other things you learn from the highs and lows of that journey?

Kevin: It’s really about, I would also say forecast well, you know, if you get some, if, you know, these are big decisions with big investments. And I think if you’ve got a track record of kind of predicting what will happen with the levers you pull you’ll have a lot more buy in to pull those levers, especially as they get larger in the future. So, that’s a big part of what I do at the business is understanding what will happen and making sure everyone’s aware of those impacts. 

Charlie: Yeah, and scenario planning and real world testing. So you’ve got some rigor behind those numbers as well. I think those are really great top tips for building a new program. So any of our listeners that are out there that are thinking about building one make sure you cover off your internal stakeholders and get your model right with as many scenarios as you need to get through all those finance teams. 

If we take a sort of a broader view outside of Carter’s, I know, you know, you’re a bit of a loyalty nerd like myself. You’re always kind of looking out. You’ve already talked about Bitcoin. What other kind of trends are you seeing in the loyalty industry? What should we all be thinking about? 

Kevin: There are a few that I could hit on. One is just speed to value. You know, the customers aren’t really willing to wait around for that second, third, fourth purchase. I mean, particularly in our business the frequency you shop for children’s clothing is, you know, every six months or so speed of value is really important. 

The other one is around resource shifting. I see a lot and it’s both good and bad and some companies it’s really kind of supporting the loyalty program or retention strategies through a loyalty program with more people. That’s what’s happening at Carter’s. Our team is growing. My role is expanding to total retention beyond just the program. 

And I would say other companies, it’s they kind of think of it as the periphery or is like an afterthought. And when I’ve seen in market is that the companies that put the loyalty program very close to the brand or even the customer strategy, CRM strategy at the top and then resource it appropriately. That’s where it can make a big impact. And so very happy to be in a seat that has that support those resources. 

And the third is around partnerships. You know, I mean, you’re very aware of this, Charlie but it’s just in the US, Nike and Dick’s Sporting Goods, Target and Alta, you know, Sephora and Kohl’s anywhere you can increase your points of distribution and increase the scope of your funnel as a business and then use loyalty to capture that first party data, capture those customers and move them through to your direct to consumer channels. That’s really kind of a big trend. That’s something that I’m looking at very carefully. I would love if anyone on the call here in the US has a large program or large company to reach out about. 

Charlie: Yeah, please do. And that’s what this podcast is all about, you know, connecting people with insight, but also with people. And we’ll put all your details in the call notes for the podcast so that anybody that heard that call to action can get in touch. I mean, as you mentioned, I’m a huge fan of partnerships, really passionate about it. And that core principle, if you can achieve more for less when you work together is, has never been truer, I think, in our current kind of challenging situations with ever more demanding consumers and ever rising cost of goods. It’s a really smart way of working and it’s something that we are seeing on the rise across the globe. 

It also segues brilliantly into my next question, actually, which I know because you’ve seen the questions before we went through them, which is about the role that brown partners play in your program and the role that you imagine they will play in your program as you move it forward. What are your ambitions in that space? 

Kevin: Yeah, we have. So we have four brands today. So I know we’ll talk about external brands, but you know, one of, that’s one of the challenges for me is around, we have Carter’s Oshkosh, Skip Hop, Little Planet and certainly more to come. And so how do they integrate across all the customers that buy skip hop, developmental, you know, toys for children integrate with a toddler t-shirt, you know, these customers that just really want a cheap t-shirt. So, that’s a big challenge for me. 

I think that the call to action is true where I actually found if, you know, kind of connected with you here, just through reaching out to build a bear and some other partners. And just starting to see where we can leverage different parts of the customer experience or different touch points across brands. I’m really open to exploring all of that. And that’s part of what I’d like to work on in the next 18 months, 

Charlie: The opportunity with partnerships that used to just mean coalitions, you know, and now it means everything from partner awards to promotions, corporate social responsibility and beyond. So, yeah, a really, really exciting area.

You’ve talked as well about how, you know, invested the business is. And I know you have like all your lovely kind of team huddles where everyone gets together and they talk about the program and that importance of internal stakeholders. But you know, when you step back, how important do you think the loyalty program is to Carter’s?

Kevin: I think it’s just hugely important. So their number one long term corporate strategy is to provide the best value and experience in apparel and related products for young children. So value and experience. And that’s really the core tenets of the loyalty program. And so if you look at the way in which we’ve integrated Carter’s rewards into the Carter’s brand, this historic brand and the way in which we funneled investment and benefits through the brand to drive frequency, lifetime value and really customer value. 

So that customers that choose us and their parenthood journey for their family, they get the most benefit from it. If they choose us over competition or over other channels, that’s really a large part of what we do at Carter’s. And so, yeah, this is the new loyalty program this year was one of the, one of the largest initiatives for the program is a top two initiative for marketing at Carter’s this year was to get this off the ground in April. And we’ve successfully done that. 

Charlie: That’s great. I’m rare that people hit their timelines. You know, I’m often, you know, you often have a launch date and then that becomes a soft launch and then that becomes a pilot. And then sort of six months later, the launch happens. So great that you actually hit it. And as you say, it’s a huge investment of time, budget, resource, team and getting everything aligned. So yeah, no small achievement there. 

Kevin: Yeah. When you look around the room and there’s six vice presidents and they’ve all made it a top priority for their organization, that’s just really how it gets done. So good people. 

Charlie: That’s really inspiring. Are they all members of the program? Did you get them all signed up? 

Kevin: Oh yes. I hear a lot about membership communications and benefits and experiences from our internal leadership team, which is fantastic. And I encourage it. 

Charlie: Yeah, that’s great. That’s really good when you’ve got a savvy leadership team, less so when you’ve got people who perhaps sometimes struggle with experiences. I’ve seen some client brands have lots of fun explaining to the CEO how to work through the program. So great that yours are switched on bunch. And then that’s been one of the highs. 

What about some of the biggest challenges that you face, you know, and how you’re addressing those? And those might be immediate challenges or ones you can see coming on the horizon. You know, what are you thinking about? What are you planning for? 

Kevin: Yeah, I wrote out a kind of a strategy slide very early on in the journey, and just I kind of had this spectrum of externally simple, internally complex, and I communicated that a few times, and I don’t think it landed internally as well as I’d like it to.

But I think that this audience would understand what I’m describing. You know, you really want it’s difficult to make a seamless, simple experience for customers externally, and that takes a lot of work internally. Now I’m not saying work for work’s sake internally, but it’s about getting everyone to buy in the right testing plans, the right technologies, the right data collection and data utilization strategies.

It’s hard to do that. And so I think for us, that’s the mentality. And we’re adding resources to my team this year, and you know, Looking for growth in the future to deliver that great simplified customer experience, though it’s very challenging internally to do that. So that’s probably one of the biggest challenges.

Charlie: Yeah, I think that’s a really interesting one. Actually, we see a lot of programs face that because you externally want to be simple. You want people to intuitively get it, but you also want your brand DNA to be part of it, and you want to be differentiated. And then you’ve got to line everything up internally. So it all comes. We would talk about that as the swan, you know, gracefully going across the water on the top, and then the feet are going like mad under the water. But I wonder if that’s just a British thing. The other way of doing is the iceberg, isn’t it? You just see the little bit on the top and there’s the massive bit under the water.

Kevin: We use ducks here to describe that. Yep. 

Charlie: That’s brilliant. Whereas we use our royal swans. Yeah. Very British. That’s hilarious. I’ll remember the duck for future. 

What about the lessons that you’ve learned? I mean, the simplicity is obviously going to be one of the most important lessons that you’ve learned and you know, as a stakeholder management, but what are the sort of things you’ve learned on the journey of building this new program? What’s the most important lesson? What’s this right at the top? 

Kevin: Yeah, I think at a high level it’s about kind of keep going and we’ve got bringing new ideas, new concepts. Some work on paper and then don’t in the market. Some are just hits out of the gate. One, one example I’d give you that’s still in our program today is this concept of a personal bonus day.

You go through research. We know that customers are expecting or have just had a child. They have to build wardrobes, change the wardrobe out every six months early on. And then it kind of you know, the wardrobes last a little bit longer as the children age up, but this concept of personal bonus days was to deliver early value in the funnel to say, if you land on the website, you know, we know you had a child based on your purchase behavior or you’ve told us so you get this personal bonus day where you can get all this value today if you really stock up. 

And it really just never was executed across our channels in that way. It was executed kind of that cart as a checkbox that we just gave points away or at POS, the associates, just as a surprise and delight, we just hand them out, you know, and apply them to everybody. And so that is a great concept from research and from even strategy, but you get into execution and it falls apart and you just need to pivot, you know, change it. We actually keep that benefit in the program for our best customers, our cardholders one day a year. But that’s an example where you just have to kind of move on. 

Charlie: Yeah. And I think that’s really a great example of an idea that then the execution really let down. And actually you probably need to test the ideas as well as the execution and pilot. There’s nothing like a pilot and a real world test is there to kind of really learn. There’s so much research can take you so far but not over the final line. 

Kevin: That’s right. 

Charlie: What about success? And how does that look for the program? You know, actually, what KPIs are you focused on and how’s it going without revealing anything commercially sensitive obviously.

Kevin: yeah, at a high level, it’s lifetime value driven by frequency. We look at redemption behavior a lot. You know, we talked about speed to early reward and redemption is key, particularly for the life cycle of our business. 

One of the things that just coming from marketing analytic consulting, I did a lot of you know, kind of CPG consulting before coming to Carter’s, is I like to look at ratios and variables relative to each other and not to say that they mean anything on the output and absolute, but it’s about how things are moving over time for different segments and different, like, you know, clicks on the website and redemption behavior.

What is happening with that ratio? Just to see if things are getting out of order, behaving differently, and then you can go identify what the driver of that is, whether we’re getting the right traffic to the site or whether they’re, you know, are they coming into the program? Are they redeeming over time at a macro level at a company like Carter’s?

We just have so much data that we can aggregate everything to a KPI. But I really like to understand the 50 things and how they relate to each other to see what the pulse of the businesses. That’s probably the thing that I focus a lot on. 

Charlie: Getting under the dashboard. Yes, I get quite frustrated. Sometimes we were just presented with three KPIs and you’re like, well, that’s great. That’s the facts. But what I need to know is what’s the data that’s driving that so I can influence it to make it better for the future. 

Kevin: Exactly.

Charlie: That’s nice. I’d be happy if it sat there with your ratios, but I can think of a few people who are probably like, no, just give me the dashboard. That’s fine. Brilliant. 

What about the the internal communication of your program? I mean, you’ve obviously got a huge number of stakeholders and a huge number of channels and, you know, even, you know, more than one brand, how do you actually manage all that internal communication? That feels like it could be several people’s full time jobs.

Kevin: Yeah, there are a few roles at the company that probably feel like several people’s full time jobs. We’re an efficient bunch over at Carter’s. You know, you just yesterday on the Memorial Day holiday, I received an email from our CMO and our executive vice presidents about something that Starbucks is executing in market and that we should do it and test it.

And so the communication really just doesn’t stop. It’s which is so great from again, the stakeholder buying across the organization. Everyone’s thinking about what others are doing and how we could apply it. So we’ve got our usual reporting kind of outlook road map meetings. There’s just every week, there’s probably another hour long meeting, just kind of communicating out and making sure everyone’s aware of what we’re doing, why we’re doing it and how it’s going.

And then I would just say it’s really important to forecast. Well, if you forecast well, and you hit those numbers and hit those deadlines, you get to do more. And so there’s more work to do, which is a good thing. 

Charlie: Yeah, that’s a nice problem to have, isn’t it? More work to do based on success rather than more work to do to actually hit the kind of base KPIs.

You’ve talked a lot about proactivity from your internal stakeholders. I love that you’ve got people messaging you on the weekend going and probably driving through Starbucks going, oh, this is great. We should be doing it. You know, as well as those lovely anecdotal and informal sources of insight about what’s going on in the industry. What do you use? You know, where do you get your own updates for what’s going on outside?

Kevin: Yeah, we have a internal focus on the kind of external you know, companies and strategies. We’ve leveraged consultants in the past. I get to, I’ve encouraged everybody at Carter’s and anyone I can speak with really to start to really listen to podcasts, not just in their own field, but adjacent fields.

And that really builds the knowledge base. So I cycle a lot. And so I spent a lot of time on, on podcasts you know, on retention, UX innovation, and that’s the conversation we like to have at Carter’s, not just what the kind of what we know and what we’ve done, but really just what’s out there and how is the where’s the ball going, if you will.

Charlie: Yeah, I think that’s we talked about trends in the industry earlier, and I think that’s one of the really interesting ones is this outlooking and it’s actually you can see insights from one sector being applied to another sector. You know, it might be, you know, what are the coffee shops doing? What’s QSR doing? What are the banks doing? And actually, what can we learn from that and bring in and test in our own sector? 

Certainly in the British market, retail is one of the most interesting sectors actually, really kind of driving the way and testing out new things. We’ve got a big trend now in missions and actually getting members to actually almost undertake challenges and, you know, behavioral challenges to go and find items and stuff to earn kind of extra points. And I’m wondering how that will, how quickly that will translate to other sectors. 

Kevin: Yeah, we’ve done some testing on that and our app you know, our app is a great ecosystem, a wonderful team built it in house and we kind of manage it. So we have a lot of flexibility and they work very quickly. So that’s kind of our sandbox.

But we did a personalization kind of gamification test that’s still kind of out there today that we’re evolving, but around kind of nested offers, nested value, blowout insurance, all these kind of fun blowout being like, you know, a child, a children’s blowout within the onesie, right? So you can get a cheaper onesie or get one replaced with us. So just fun things like that to try to again, take the insights from that customer journey and bring them to life in the program beyond just transacting value. 

Charlie: Oh, that’s really nice. And I think it’s great to hear that there’s that real propensity for testing within it and actually you built your own app and it works and it’s flexible. That’s great as well. We don’t always hear that experience of in house development. So that’s brilliant. Well done to the team. 

That might actually be one of these and the new ideas and innovations that you’re particularly proud of. But is there anything else that you’ve seen out there at the moment or that you would admire?

Kevin: Yeah, externally, I’m very focused on AI and I know that’s, you know, everyone talks about it, but there’s a product. I’ll just call out that was launched about a month ago, or at least released called MicroStrategy Orange. 

So MicroStrategy is a business intelligence company here in the US, and they’ve released a product called Orange. And the idea here is it’s an enterprise platform. For decentralized identity applications and why that’s important to us and loyalty is if you think about email deliverability, e-commerce experiences, social networks, the way in which we communicate with our customers identity is going to be a huge part of the next five years.

And how does that get sorted in the world of? You know, deep fakes and some of the more complex things that I brings. And so this product will integrate blockchain technology to verify even through Outlook. And there’s all these pieces here. So where the brand can be trusted as a trusted source and cut through all of the noise a lot better. And so it’s just really a question of how do these programs and our communication strategies evolve? And what are these new technologies bring to us? And so it’s really moving quickly. And that’s really where I’m spending a lot of time. 

Charlie: Yeah, that’s really cool. I think that’s such an interesting area for all of us. We’re trying to sort of dedicate 5-10 percent of our time to those sort of sessions actually going on. What is out there that’s new? And then how might we use it and test it? It’s really interesting. 

I was at the Loyalty Summit in Copenhagen a month ago now, and I heard a really great, a great mind, Rob Chandler, talk about how AI almost is to be treated like the account executive, all the potential and all this exciting things they can do. But just at the moment, we just need to give them kind of careful guardrails and see what they can do within parameters as we sort of learn what’s possible. And there was a great way. It’s actually, it’s really changed the way I’ve thought about the testing that we’re doing and actually the opportunity as well. It’s exciting. And not that scary when you think of it in that way. 

Kevin: Oh, I agree. I don’t think it’s scary at all. Because there’s many tools as they’re scary. There’ll be plenty of tools that make our lives way better.

Charlie:  I mean, we’re already using it to the max. I think in the, communication space, it’s great. I personally on a personal level, I absolutely love the AI written eBay descriptions as well for when my kids and I are kind of eBaying stuff. That’s great. That’s a huge time saver. So yeah. And one application of many.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our listeners as we sort of move towards the close of this brilliant podcast on Carter’s?

Kevin: I’ll just leave you with this saying that I kind of live by is around you overestimate what you can do in a year and you underestimate what you could do in 10. I’m a huge fan of taking incremental actions today to build something great that you thought almost impossible in 3 years or 4 years. That’s something that I, both personally and professionally look to do every day. So it can get hard as you’re going through the time now today in this year, but you just have to keep going. And you know, you’ll get a lot done over time. 

Charlie: And in a business, you know, the age of Carter’s, I wonder where it will be in the next hundred years as well, not let alone the next 10. You know, I wonder what on earth the program will look like then. It’s a, an exciting thing to think about. 

Oh, well, look, thank you so much. It’s such an interesting program, such a brilliant sector and some really great insights there from building a new program within a business like Carter’s. So thank you so much for sharing. 

I’m sure many of our guests are going to want to reach out with you, and I’m hoping there’ll be some really good partner opportunities as well who want to get in touch. What’s the best way for people to find you? 

Kevin: Yeah, I’m on LinkedIn. You know, Kevin Severs. That’s probably the best spot. 

Charlie: Brilliant. And we’ll make sure we include that in the show notes for everyone so you can find Kevin really easily. Well, all that’s left for me to say is thank you very much and that’s goodbye from Let’s Talk Loyalty.

Kevin: Thank you. 

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