An executive interview with Bradley Breuer, Vice President Marketing – Loyalty, Personalization, and CRM
We all love our pets, dog, or cat, large or small. People have a passion for their pets like almost nothing else and the willingness to spend discretionary income to care for and pamper a pet is highly elastic. In other words, people will do almost anything for their pets!
PetSmart is the leading pet retailer offering products, services and solutions for the lifetime needs of pets, operating approximately 1,660 pet stores in the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico. Services include training, grooming and PetSmart Veterinary Services, as well as more than 200 in-store PetSmart PetsHotel® dog and cat boarding facilities. Its brand promise to do ‘Anything for Pets’ is evidence of their understanding of passionate pet owners.
PetSmart’s Treats Rewards loyalty program just reached a milestone 60 million members, a big achievement considering, for example that Starbucks launched its loyalty program in 2008 and had about 29 million members at the end of 2022.
The retailer has been testing and learning how to better engage members, and their approach is obviously working, giving them broad insight into consumer insights and behavior. The Treats Rewards program is a critical piece of PetSmart’s strategy in driving desired activation behaviors, retaining customers, and deepening their connection to the PetSmart brand. In 2022, Treats member offer activation was up nearly 150% compared to the previous year.
To celebrate this big membership milestone, we talked with Bradley Breuer, Vice President Marketing – Loyalty, Personalization, and CRM, to hear more about PetSmart’s loyalty program strategy, key learnings, and successes.
Wise Marketer (WM): You just announced the achievement of a big milestone with PetSmart Treats Rewards. How long has the PetSmart program been in operation and can you share some history about how the program has developed?
Bradley Breuer (BB): We launched Treats Rewards in 2018 and reached 19.1 million members in the first six months. Since that time, we have grown steadily and in January 2023, we reached the 60 million mark. That’s about 214% growth over time and we continue to add members.
We attribute the growth and success to the fact that Treats Rewards is very compelling. Treats members earn 8 points per dollar spent and can use those points towards future purchases of any item, including the pet salon, day camp and also for donations to PetSmart Charities. One thousand points is equivalent to $2.50 in savings. We also have birthday and other special offers. Behind the scenes we have a robust offer strategy. Members can receive offers through three channels, in their app, through their account online and via email.
When we track activity levels, we generally look at activity over the course of each year. One of our big metrics is to track the number of members each week who engage with one of our offers. This is a critical strategy for us as engagement with offers drives trial of new products, purchase routines, product replenishments, and ultimately customer retention. In 2022, we grew 150% YOY of the number of members activating offers each week.
WM: Before we go on, can you share a bit of your background, your current role at PetSmart, and how you became so involved in the customer loyalty business?
BB: I started my career when Google Maps was just coming to the market. I ended up with Walgreens at a time when they were opening a new store every 17 hours and we used lots of geo location data to make sure that we planted store locations effectively. At one point, Walgreens decided to shift investment from the opening of new stores to their customers and that’s when I made the transition to data-driven marketing. I became part of the team that planned and launched Balance Rewards, since renamed to Walgreens Rewards.
Later I moved on to work with Nike and worked on the growth of Nike.com as one of the early DTC brands. I was involved in Nike’s membership strategy as well. I also worked with Coach and helped to launch Coach Insider before joining PetSmart.
WM: Your press release mentioned that the loyalty program is a key component of PetSmart's retail strategy. Can you expand on how customer loyalty strategy is integrated into your overall marketing efforts?
BB: Sure, when I arrived here there were some who expressed the idea that loyalty was an afterthought and ever since we have been on a journey to “lead with loyalty” and to put those efforts at the heart of everything we do in Marketing. Two areas where we have had a strong emphasis are Digital and our store associates.
We want to make sure that loyalty comes to life in digital channels, and we have been successful in that pursuit. We also realize the power of our 50,000 store associates and worked with them to create a special offer during Treats Members Month as they learned how to present and activate offers with customers.
We have a capture rate of 90 percent at the point of sale, meaning that 9 of 10 customers associate their member number with their purchase. That has to be one of the highest rates in the industry. A lot of that comes from the commitment that our store associates show to our customers and to the loyalty program. It’s also the result of our commitment to associate training as we want everyone to understand and be comfortable with a focused message for customers.
WM: During April, PetSmart hosted its first-ever Treats Members Month to delight and reward loyal pets and pet parents. Tell us about this campaign.
BB: This was our first-ever Treats Member Month. Every week, members receive new offers for their pets, with opportunities to earn bonus points on dozens of items. There are a total of 25 offers throughout the month and even a Treats Super Giveaway offering a chance to win 1 million Treats points and more.
Some of these are big deals including 10x points on purchases which is equivalent to 20 percent off that purchase. We have signage all the way from the parking lot to inside the store to alert people to the celebration. Our average customer who shops with us regularly earns about $90 each year on their activity, and we believe that value drives trial and retention for us.
WM: How does the store experience impact your loyalty program? Is there an experiential element to your program?
BB: Our Pet Parents love to celebrate their pets. We do something on virtually every holiday, giving people the chance to take photos with their pets during holidays and to have some fun. If you are part of our doggie day care, you will experience special things. For example, when we launched our Stranger Things collection, we hosted a Stranger Things-themed play date for the pups.
WM: Pet owners are passionate people. We have seen studies that indicate people will spend lots of money on their pets for many reasons. How do you tap into this emotional component of pet owners to drive results for the loyalty program and the overall retail operation?
BB: In our brand DNA is our love of pets. Through PetSmart Charities, we support animal welfare and allow members to donate points to PetSmart Charities to support animal welfare. For the first time this year, we did an activation around Veterans Day supporting K9s For Warriors. We do a quarterly sweepstakes for members and recently gave away three tickets to the “big game” which was held in our hometown of Phoenix, AZ. For those that engage with these programs, we can retarget them and send ideas for how to take better care of their pet as well as some tips on how to make best use of their loyalty program benefits.
WM: Do you have a subscription tier to your loyalty program? Would you consider this in the future?
BB: Our program is free to join. We don’t have a paid tier and believe that our program is highly valuable to customers as it works today. In terms of tiers, we are continually working on how to reward members over time and to take best care of our high value customers. The customer that keeps shopping with us all year will average about $90 in savings and these customers are clearly more frequent shoppers. We do our best to treat all customers well but do special things for our high value customers.
WM: Who rules, Dogs, Cats, or do you just love them all?
BB: I grew up in Wisconsin and we had a multi-pet household. There were always dogs, cats, turtles, birds, snakes. We love them all. Actually, we have found that some of our best customers have multi-pet households.
WM: Is there anything else that you would like to add?
BB: We are very proud of our proprietary product brands and believe that selection of proprietary branded products is the ultimate form of loyalty as it is something that you can only get in our stores. We have 10 proprietary brands that each generate over $100M in annual revenue each. We put a lot of importance on our proprietary brands and have built a reliable replenishment program for those products.