The Challenge

Over that time our challenge has been to intelligently leverage Countdown's extensive Onecard loyalty data and emerging technology to deliver increasing levels of personalisation and customisation, first through the mySpecials programme and now through myCountdown.

The Solution

Today, Affinity ID produces myCountdown, Countdown's primary 1:1 communication programme - a multi-faceted email communication with a hyper-personalised data strategy at its heart that has continued to deliver to Countdown's bottom line.

To be effective, myCountdown requires deep involvement from customers, and for this we rely on highly relevant content. Every element, from the customer's unique range of specials and the subject line to their recipe suggestion, is served after consideration of hundreds of data points and multiple relevancy algorithms. Our approach revolves around three drivers – staying relevant, quickly responding to changing client priorities, and testing, learning and refining the programme.

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awards won in the last 10 years

Staying relevant

Keeping it personal

To keep customers engaged and making the most of their email savings, we needed to deliver hyper-personalised, relevant messages. To do this we built six relevancy algorithms to target products, recipes and content – three product algorithms, category reactivation algorithm, message and scoring algorithm and recipe algorithms. In concert, these quickly and accurately target content for hundreds of thousands of customers at once.

Giving customer control

Looking at spending patterns revealed marked differences in the categories shoppers preferred – fresh, grocery and alcohol. To give customers more control over the type of products in myCountdown and improve category relevance, functionality was built for customers to dial up or down the proportion of products from each category.

A big limitation with algorithms is the 'like-factor' – just because someone buys paper towels doesn't mean they always want to hear about them. To help solve this, we built a feature that lets customers choose their favourite fresh, grocery and alcohol product, ensuring they're notified each time it's on special rather than at pre-defined intervals.

Right time and right place

We discovered timing was everything when it came to making the most of myCountdown. Analysis suggested myCountdown was most effective when it arrived just before a customer's regular shopping day from the store they frequently shop at, ensuring their favourite specials were top-of-mind.

However, getting customers to update details, such as their preferred day, can be a barrier to having accurate data so we use the data we have instead.

To realign a customer's email and shopping day, we built a programme that runs quarterly. When we found a mismatch we forced the switch for low-engaged customers and recommended a better day/store choice for high-engaged customers with benefit-led messaging and a simple 'one-click-to-switch' method.

Discovering missed opportunities

Every relationship has room to improve and myCountdown is no different. After looking at the customer journey, we identified key opportunities to deepen the relationship. When matched with customer survey data, it was clear some customers were unsure about myCountdown programme benefits. Based on these insights, our creative team and customer behaviour experts created a suite of communications educating customers about knowledge gaps and a tailored journey of onboarding messages to create a habit of interaction with myCountdown.

Over time, we also educated customers on other aspects of the programme which they can further opt into-such as feedback or specific product category mailers-so that education and communication exposure is incremental.

Staying relevant

Keeping it personal

To keep customers engaged and making the most of their email savings, we needed to deliver hyper-personalised, relevant messages. To do this we built six relevancy algorithms to target products, recipes and content – three product algorithms, category reactivation algorithm, message and scoring algorithm and recipe algorithms. In concert, these quickly and accurately target content for hundreds of thousands of customers at once.

Giving customer control

Looking at spending patterns revealed marked differences in the categories shoppers preferred – fresh, grocery and alcohol. To give customers more control over the type of products in myCountdown and improve category relevance, functionality was built for customers to dial up or down the proportion of products from each category.

A big limitation with algorithms is the 'like-factor' – just because someone buys paper towels doesn't mean they always want to hear about them. To help solve this, we built a feature that lets customers choose their favourite fresh, grocery and alcohol product, ensuring they're notified each time it's on special rather than at pre-defined intervals.

Right time and right place

We discovered timing was everything when it came to making the most of myCountdown. Analysis suggested myCountdown was most effective when it arrived just before a customer's regular shopping day from the store they frequently shop at, ensuring their favourite specials were top-of-mind.

However, getting customers to update details, such as their preferred day, can be a barrier to having accurate data so we use the data we have instead.

To realign a customer's email and shopping day, we built a programme that runs quarterly. When we found a mismatch we forced the switch for low-engaged customers and recommended a better day/store choice for high-engaged customers with benefit-led messaging and a simple 'one-click-to-switch' method.

Discovering missed opportunities

Every relationship has room to improve and myCountdown is no different. After looking at the customer journey, we identified key opportunities to deepen the relationship. When matched with customer survey data, it was clear some customers were unsure about myCountdown programme benefits. Based on these insights, our creative team and customer behaviour experts created a suite of communications educating customers about knowledge gaps and a tailored journey of onboarding messages to create a habit of interaction with myCountdown.

Over time, we also educated customers on other aspects of the programme which they can further opt into-such as feedback or specific product category mailers-so that education and communication exposure is incremental.

Refining programme management

Agile workflow and planning

Sitting behind myCountdown is a collaborative team from Affinity ID and Countdown who create and then regularly review the overall roadmap of work for Countdown; a multi-stream plan outlining and prioritising projects, including those that directly and indirectly influence myCountdown. Constantly evolving, the roadmap is regularly adjusted to align projects and resources with changing business needs and priorities. Planning is further broken down into half-year cycles with shorter-term targets and objectives.

On our side, teams work in one-week sprints so we can quickly respond and adapt to changing client needs.

Keeping data in top shape

Data is at the heart of what we do and keeping it clean, usable and up-to-date is one factor in myCountdown’s continued success. Behavioural data is refreshed in real time and transactional data on a daily basis.

Affinity ID maintains the myCountdown database with periodic hygiene practices that pinpoint which accounts are unengaged with the programme. Rather than sending emails that aren’t being opened, and to remain more relevant for these customers, an email is triggered to let these inactive customers know they will stop receiving communications unless they opt back in — before they are hibernated in the database. As soon as a customer becomes active again, they receive another triggered email welcoming them back and also undergo an onboarding education journey. This process helps ensure our customers find benefit in our communications and keeps our data relevant.

Test, learn, refine

Digging into the numbers

Underpinning myCountdown is an ongoing approach of testing, learning and refining. To highlight areas of success or opportunities for improvement, we have regular reviews, such as daily assessment of subject lines, regularly weekly reporting and a monthly catchup on engagement rates with the Countdown team.

At an email level, if a customer doesn’t open myCountdown, even the most relevant content is wasted. To tackle this, we began testing A/B subject line variations, and categorising subject line styles for each myCountdown message. Our ongoing category report reveals valuable insights into the most effective subject line options, informing ongoing choices. Subject line performance is monitored daily and can be further optimised throughout the week if necessary to lift engagement.

myCountdown innovations

Introducing a world-first - your personalised online mailer

With the success of relevant products in emails, both in terms of customer appreciation and value to Countdown, Affinity ID extended the concept, initiating and leading the development of a world-first personalised online mailer, featuring over 50 of a customer’s specials, made instantly available to logged-in Onecard customers, of which there are over 1 million.

A dynamic new look

With customers’ mobile-first mindset coming to the fore, in 2017 our creative team developed a modular email template allowing multiple content swap outs, quickly and easily, that can cater to different customer preferences, such as price versus inspiration-led shoppers; all built on our in-house marketing platform, Symphony.

Bringing multi-buys into myCountdown

Multi-buy discounts were popular with customers, but not every product in a multi-buy lineup appealed to everyone. To integrate them into myCountdown, we undertook a complex project of work to group products within a multi-buy offer together, while also distinguishing between them so the most relevant flavour or product sub-category based on a customer’s purchase history displayed in a customer’s product lineup.

Results

myCountdown and its predecessor mySpecials are some of the most awarded programmes in market, demonstrating continued relevance for customers and effectiveness for Countdown Supermarkets.

Since myCountdown’s launch in 2014, the base audience has more than doubled.

Email open rates remain above the industry average, demonstrating that the ethos of continual evolution and refinement continues to hit the mark for customers.

Accolades

2017 NZDM AWARDS

  • Craft Gold - Excellence in Data Strategy
  • Industry Silver - Retail
  • Channel Silver - Email Marketing
  • Nexus Bronze - Customer & Market Insight
  • Best use of Data Analytics
  • Best use of Email Marketing
  • Craft Gold - Excellence in Data Strategy
  • Channel Silver - Email Marketing
  • Industry Bronze – Retail
  • Keith Norris Award – Countdown named as Direct Marketing Organisation of the Year

myCountdown
  • Channel Gold - Email Marketing
  • Nexus Gold - Media and/or Channel Utilisation
  • Nexus Gold - Production & Fulfilment
  • Craft Silver - Excellence in Data Strategy
  • Industry Bronze - Retail
  • Channel - Campaign Website Bronze
  • Channel - eCRM Multi Channel Bronze
  • Channel - Email Marketing Bronze
  • Nexus - Marketing Products & Services
  • Platinum Winner 2010
  • Craft Best Data Strategy Winner
  • RSVP Craft Best Use of email/eCRM Strategy Winner
  • RSVP Customer Engagement Gold
  • RSVP Sales Generation/Promotion Gold
  • Nexus Supreme
  • Nexus CRM and Data Management Gold
  • Nexus Media and/or Channel Utilisation Gold
  • Nexus Production and Fulfilment Gold
  • Nexus Strategic Vision Gold
  • Nexus Innovation Silver
  • Nexus Customer and Market Insight Silver

mySpecials
  • Nexus Supreme
  • Nexus Customer and Market Insight Gold
  • Nexus Marketing Products and Services Gold
  • Nexus CRM and Data Management Silver
  • Nexus Strategic Vision Silver