Tash Whitmey  Group Director of Loyalty, CRM and Marketing, Tesco

Mail Unleashed Transcript

Rory: 00:07 – 00:58

Hello and welcome to another edition of Mail Unleashed brought to you by Marketreach. And today is a particularly special occasion, because here we have Tash Whitmey, who's Tesco's Head of relationship marketing, having spent beforehand 18 years at even some stops where the loyalty program was first created. The idea was it was just a kind of electronic version of a promotion. And Tesco ignored this criticism and went ahead and went big with Clubcard.

And boy, did they prove the criticism wrong because it was an absolute breakthrough move at that stage. It was a mass product selling, you know, often at quite low margins, very, very repeatedly. It was a complete revelation. And you've been there more or less throughout, it's fair to say.

Tash: 00:58 – 01:22

I have directly and indirectly. So, I worked at Havas for eighteen years and we had the Clubcard system. So, the direct mail bit of the statement from the very first time that Tesco issued the statement, and I worked on the Tesco account pretty much for the whole time that I was at Havas and then have moved over subsequently to, to look after the Clubcard scheme.

Rory: 01:22 – 01:24

How many members?

Tash: 01:24 – 01:32

Just over 21 million active members. And that's people who use their Clubcard in a transaction at least once every six weeks.

Rory: 01:32 – 02:01

What's fascinating about it is that it's obviously it has great promotional value and that was something I think that was completely missed in the sense that there's a psychological interesting thing that probably people are more engaged by value on than they are by money off, which I think is quite an important finding. And so, one of the very clever things you're doing at the moment is you're making certain discounts and certain discounted prices exclusive to the Clubcard. 

Tash: 02:01 – 02:02

That's right. 

Rory: 02:02 – 02:08

Which that's comparatively new, isn't it? just in the last couple of years, I think. What drove that?

Tash: 02:08 – 02:24

Yes. So, we've had points as the main currency right from the inception of Clubcard, and it works brilliantly for a lot of our customers who got very regular shopping and they can then use their vouchers either for money off their shopping or for one of our rewards partners. 

Rory: 02:24 – 02:25


Tash: 02:25 – 03:04

At double the value. But then I think we realized in COVID that customers were searching for a regular stable discount as well as part of the loyalty program. So, we introduced Clubcard prices. And really, it was a recognition of the fact that we needed to show up in a way that is simple, good value for our customers. So, we launched Clubcard prices in partnership with Aldi Price Match. And really what Clubcard prices was, was a transition of all of our promotions to requiring a relationship with Tesco via the Clubcard in order to access those promotions.

Rory: 03:05 – 03:09

And it presumably enables you sometimes to target those promotions if you wish. 

Tash: 03:09 – 03:35

You know, when you've got that many customers and you are in a relationship with them, we think of Clubcard as the way to get the best possible value from Tesco and obviously the ability to get money off at the shelf edge kind of instant. Instant gratification was one of the things that was missing in the loyalty program. But there was this craving, for instance, instant gratification. And for the loyalty program to show up at the shelf edge.

Rory: 03:35 – 03:43

And it also enables you to sort of reinforce the value of the program, because you can actualy communicate amounts saved over a quarter a month, 

Tash: 03: 43 – 03:44


Rory: 03:45 – 03:47

A year if you like, which makes it really, really potent

Tash: 03:47 – 03:51

Yeah, I mean, there's a couple of moments of magic. So, there's a moment at the till. 

Rory: 03:51 – 03:52


Tash: 03:52 -04:06

When you tap your app or swipe your Clubcard or tap your Clubcard where you basically see your previous bill and it goes down by quite a significant amount. And that's brilliant for customers, but also really good for colleagues because they see that that kind of magic.

Rory: 04:06 – 04: 11

They almost feel that they're the dispenser of the largesse of the generosity.

Tash: 04:11 – 04:20

Absolutely, and it gives them the encouragement to always ask customers if they've got their Clubcard. It gives them a sense of pride in what Tesco is doing for its Clubcard customers. 

Rory: 04:20 – 04:30

It remains a brilliant mixture of both digital and paper. You must come under pressure from the various finance folk to make it all digital all the time. How do you resist that?

Tash: 04:30 – 04:51

Well, I mean, I've worked in direct marketing for a very long time, and I've always had a sense of there's a role for mail, you know, even as the world goes increasingly digital. There are certain moments when something landing on your doormat, its tangibility is really important. And 

We’ve got customers who won't go digital.

Rory: 04:51 – 04:52


Tash: 04:52- 05:18

And we're a really democratic brand. So, we will always have customers who would prefer to receive their statement on paper than email. We're always going to have customers that choose or can't interact with us on digital channels. And it doesn't feel that it sits well with the Tesco brand, which is a Democratic brand that's open to everybody, great British public that we would force everybody into digital.

Rory: 05:18 – 05:38

And then of course, you have that fantastic thing, I think, which not many people spotted in terms of the value of the data with Clubcard, which is, you know, you can now see over time whether it is ten people buying something once or one person buying something ten times. 

Tash: 05:38 – 05:39


Rory: 05:39 – 05:55

And I remember talking to Tim Mason who said he gave an example, I think, of you, you created a kind of category, say, of gluten free foods, okay. And when it first launched, people were slightly disappointed that the actual aggregate volume of sales. 

Tash: 05:55 – 05:56


Rory: 05:56 – 06:22

But what the data enabled you to find out was that many people were actually driving their entire shop weekly to Tesco, because if you had one family member who has gluten intolerance, you have to go to that particular shelf anyway and therefore the rest of the store, the rest of the shop followed effectively that particular category. Now with that kind of data, you never would have been able to make that case and you might have gotten rid of something which was actually a good idea.

Tash: 06:22 – 06:51

I mean, absolutely. Well obviously there's the use of the data for the benefit of the customers who are part of the scheme, which has surfaced through the various touchpoints that we have with them. But then obviously that data, I mean, you've got 27 years of day-to-day gross transactional data that we use that for a lot of internal decision making at Tesco, you know, from what we stocking in our different stores to launching new brands and understanding the take up of that.

Rory: 06:51 – 07:25

You'll know this pretty well as a like me, a direct marketing lifer if you like, which is that I think in a multi-channel world, one of the dangers of excessive focus on what you might call accountability is that we only attribute value where it's easy to measure. For example, in other words, the physical in combination with the digital, it's not really an additive effect. It's a multiplicative effect. And that the same message in two different media or complementary messages in two different media just seem to be more potent. Have you found evidence of this

Tash: 07:25 – 07:37

Well, I mean, I think, you know, the first thing to say probably at Tesco is that the statement, which is a predominantly paper piece of activity, is the backbone of the loyalty program.

Rory: 07:37 – 07:38


Tash: 07:38 – 07:52

And so, we know for a fact that customers for whom we've got a longer tenure that have received a statement four times a year, for however long they've been here, do go on to have a higher frequency and a higher value of their shopping and their loyalty at Tesco.

Rory: 07:52- 07:56

They actually ring you up if they don't receive it, don't they. Which given this quarterly…

Tash: 07:56 – 07:57


Rory: 07:57 – 08:00

Shows a fairly high level of anticipation.

Tash: 08:00 – 08: 55

And I think it's because we're returning real value to them. So that value that we give back in that statement is tangible, it's real and it's significant. So, you know, I fundamentally believe that there's a role for that. I also believe that there's a role for the combination of email posts, digital alongside paper and when we've done activity like even kind of migrating customers into digital channels, we've used a combination of email and kind of messaging into direct mail. And we have a number of mailings that we do in partnership with the Clubcard statement. We tend to think of like, what's the most comfortable channel for the person that we're communicating with? And we would tend to start there and think about the proposition that we're communicating. Is a is it an in-store proposition is a digital proposition, and that would be our start point. But we definitely do blend the channels.

Rory: 08:55 – 09:06

That's excellent. And I understand you've got another piece you're particularly fond of alongside, quite rightly, the quarterly statement, which, as you said, is the backbone of everything, which actually dates back a few years.

Tash: 09:06 – 09:07

27 years.

Rory: 09:07 – 09:08

27 years.

Tash: 09:08 – 10:10

So, there's quarterly statements, been going for 27 years and it's four times a year and it gives that benefit of real value. The vouchers that you've earned, the money that you've earned, which you can then very easily in digital redeem for your partners as well. But the other piece I was thinking of was a mailing for Volvo car, which we did when I was at Havas. And it was really when Volvo started to, where they wanted to move away from the very traditional way of buying a list mailing, incentivizing test drives. I think what they could start to see was they got a lot of test drives, but where they serious about kind of moving it on and we got an insight from the conversations with Volvo around the fact that they, that they tested their cars with pregnant, with pregnant dummies. So the cars were actually tested and were fit for purpose for pregnant mothers and first time mothers.

Rory: 10:10 – 10:18

Because there was an extraordinary controversy recently, which is that nearly all crash test dummies were male and therefore cars were being optimized around male safety for that.

Tash: 10:18 – 10:21

Well, this was definitely not that.

Rory: 10:21– 10:22


Tash: 10:22 – 11:05

And what we did was based on that insight and the fact the HSA built a kind of suspect pool. So, prospect suspect pool, we did a piece of DM that, that was really tangible. It was lovely to open and on the envelope, we'd written Baby on board and the line inside basically said, not all passengers have been born yet. 

And there was a little picture of the baby and basically just said that this is because of that safety, that insight around safety, the insight around who we were targeting and the fact that Volvo wanted to grow their market share among first time parents. 

Rory: 11:05 – 11:06


Tash: 11:06 – 11:12

And that for me is a classic example of when direct mail is at its best, when you've got brilliant targeting.

Rory: 11:12 – 11:18

Because you've got a moment where people fundamentally rethink their car choices anyway, which is when you have a child.

Tash: 11:18 -11:19


Rory: 11:19 – 11:42

You have the safety strength of the Volvo brand, which suddenly comes to the fore. Yeah. You know, as a childless 28-year-old, you're not really that bothered about your car's inertia, real seatbelt capability. Suddenly those things become really, really acute. And I think that, I think that targeting by context or by moment, I've always said that we spend too much time talking about target audiences and not enough about target moments.

Tash: 11:42 – 11:43


Rory: 11:43 – 12:01

You know, if you want to sell camera cases, someone who's just bought a camera is literally 100 times more likely to be in your market than someone who's, you know, whatever their other demographic or other qualities. Time often trumps everything else, and that's when and it was presumably pretty successful.

Tash: 12:01 – 12:39

It's really successful, I think from memory we had something like a 7% open rate from a you know, from a list and test drives. And the test drive rate was, I think it was 20% that went on for a test drive. So, you know, really phenomenal. In particular the reason I love that example is, delivering it to someone's doormat when they're in the market with a really deep insight that links the product to the person's life stage.

Rory: 12:39 – 13:25

Which is actually when you got a really great inside. Yeah, that's one of the great reasons where, think mail, I agree completely. Well, it's been a huge pleasure to welcome Tash on to the program as kind of the oracle of what must be the biggest direct marketing activity in Britain in any given year. The first thing to do is to copy and absorb all the learnings you’ve got for free this session from some of the best in the business. And if you want to know more and really unleash the power of your direct mail, take a visit to marketreach.co.uk, where you'll find more episodes like this one and you'll also find a whole variety of tips, tricks and effectively fantastic repositories of wisdom that you can use to make your direct mail even more effective.

And also join us next time. Thank you very much indeed.