Aeropostale’s P.S. Rewards Builds Loyalty Among Shopping Moms
August 9, 2011
By Richard H. Levey
A new loyalty program from Aeropostale P.S. was created using two primary sources of input. Yes, the brand’s marketing executives conducted tests and research. But they also asked their mothers.
The program, P.S. Rewards, was launched in mid-July to boost the fortunes of Aeropostale’s youth-focused brand. It was created more for the mothers who buy the line’s offerings than for the kids who wear them. The initial reward it offers—a $5 discount coupon for every $75 spent—was the most popular among a test audience among several possible choices, including merchandise-based premiums.
That wasn’t the only concession to the holder of the purse strings. Its primary communication vehicle, email, appeals more to the mothers who buy than the kids who wear: The latter would be more likely to appreciate mobile messaging.
Mothers are the primary reason the program was launched among the 70-store Aeropostale P.S. line, as opposed to the 1,000-location parent brand. “Moms were asking about [a loyalty program],” says Scott Birnbaum, Aeropostale Inc.’s senior vice president of marketing and e-commerce. “They’ve become a competitive necessity in the kids clothing space.
“We have an expression that drives us,” Birnbaum continues. “We want to be loved by kids and endorsed by moms.” The “loved by kids” element is also part of the new effort: In addition to the clothes, mothers who volunteer their children’s birth dates enable the kids to receive birthday gifts. (Actual membership is limited to people over 13, in compliance with COPPA rules.)
“The reason to get the birth date is to first give them a gift, and then to customize the marketing and offers,” says Birnbaum. “For a girl who is 10, we don’t want to send [her mother] messages about jeans for a six-year-old boy.” But, he notes, submitting children’s birth dates is not a requirement for participation.
Parents and children alike can take advantage of special activities, which, while still in the planning stages, may include early access to stores on sales days or me-first privileges for new product launches.
Aeropostale P.S. solicited members for the new program through a run-of-file mailing to its email database of online shoppers and customers whose information had been collected through in-store activities. The company is also promoting the program through in-store signage, as well as having its sales associates tout it.
While online registration can be done without buying anything, due to a programming quirk in its point-of-sale system, in-store applicants need to make a purchase in order to register, “but they get points immediately,” says Birnbaum.
Birnbaum recognizes that this audience also provides a receptive test market for the parent Aeropostale brand, should it choose to eventually launch its own program. The children’s apparel space is “a great pace to get learning,” he notes. But any consideration of a similar scheme will require at least a year’s worth of data from P.S. Rewards, he says.
So for now, Aeropostale’s loyalty efforts will focus on its kid-focused brand. “The consumer [the mother] is already engaged in these programs, and doesn’t seem to have resistance to adding another to her wallet,” Birnbaum says.
While Birnbaum isn’t willing to share specific enrollment figures, he characterizes signup levels as “exceeding expectations.” And if membership reaches a certain critical mass, Birnbaum anticipates using catalogs and other direct mail for late-year holiday communications.
Initially, Aeropostale is focusing on maximizing participation. Future goals include using it to incent participants to advocate on behalf of the brand through social media, and to better understand the combinations in which its products are purchased. That knowledge will help its merchandise group design items, and will influence in-store design.
The company will eventually segment program participants into buckets based on their shopping behavior. Initially, the buckets will be fairly broadly defined—high value preferred shoppers, opportunity shopper and samplers.