Defining a unique proposition for the iconic brand’s loyalty program in Greater China
Since its inception in 1968, The North Face has become an iconic global outdoor sports and lifestyle brand. For years, the brand successfully operated a loyalty program called XPLR Pass, but the team determined that the program needed to be revamped in the Greater China market to create deeper engagement with its broad Chinese consumer base. The North Face hoped to expand on the types of benefits provided by XPLR Pass beyond monetary rewards, ensuring representation of the organization’s brand DNA while elevating consumer perceptions, building greater engagement and further differentiating itself from competitors.
The North Face partnered with Prophet to craft a unique positioning for its loyalty program while ideating new benefits to bring it to life.
We started by immersing ourselves in the current state of the brand, conducting stakeholder interviews and reviewing past strategy efforts. In addition, we ran an immersive competitor audit to understand best practices around loyalty programs and interviewed industry experts to identify opportunities for differentiation.
Through our research, our team identified key insights that allowed us to develop a unique positioning for XPLR Pass. We anchored the program on The North Face’s authentic history, providing trusted guidance to fuel exploration, which helped to reinforce the brand’s DNA while clearly articulating its distinctive values in Greater China. We then facilitated discussions and co-creative workshops across The North Face’s teams to clearly define XPLR Pass’s strategic objectives, design targets and customer journey roadmap. This helped us align on the key priorities of the revamped program, which was brought to life through four strategic pillars: outdoor empowerment, expert guidance, community and exclusivity. These pillars were then used to guide the ideation of the benefits provided by the program.
A key ethos of our approach was to work collaboratively to ensure cross-functional buy-in of the new strategy. Our team leveraged innovative digital tools to facilitate interactive virtual sessions to drive alignment on the refreshed positioning. Once the strategy was set, we helped codify all elements of the updated program into a playbook, that could be used to inform all stakeholders about the program’s strategic components.
Next, we developed an engagement strategy for next-gen high-potential brand lovers, to cultivate future growth potential. We defined identifying metrics, preference metrics and engagement tactics for the next-gen consumers. Also, we examined the existing engagement strategy of the brand and provided recommendations on how to build solid customer profiles that combine membership and transactional data with broader engagement data. Lastly, with our digital experience expertise, we recommended best practices for consumer tagging through advanced social media tactics, such as WeChat CRM, to help The North Face team drive ongoing engagement.
Our strategic work with The North Face set the foundations for the success of the revamped XPLR Pass program, serving as a key pillar of future growth for the brand in the Greater China market. The North Face team used the playbook to drive socialization across business functions and begin implementation of the new strategy.
The strategy was then translated by the North Face team into customer-facing messaging. The revamped loyalty program was announced to Greater China consumers on WeChat in August 2022. The WeChat mini program was also designed to capture customer engagement data to help set the foundations for rich, actionable customer profiles to drive future personalization.
Refreshing the retail experience to deliver “Modern Value” to Chinese consumers
With over 20 years of experience operating in China, Walmart is one of the largest hypermarket chains today with more than 400 stores across the country. Walmart’s challenge today is how to evolve its offer and experience in response to disruptive shifts in shopper behaviors, as well as staying relevant with the emergence of new online to offline (O2O) competitors that are challenging traditional retail formats.
Prophet worked with Walmart to refresh its retail experience in order to fuel Walmart’s next phase of growth.
Prophet’s research demonstrated that while Chinese consumers are digital-savvy and are open to transforming how they shop; they are still looking to “save money, live better.” This is, and has always been, Walmart’s key purpose. Supported by this consumer insight, Prophet saw an opportunity to create an experience unique to Walmart’s consumer value proposition. To articulate what the Walmart brand stands for and how it stands out, we defined the brand concept “Modern Value,” which set the foundation for the rest of the design and experience.
After defining what “Modern Value” should look and feel like, our team set out to develop a retail design and identity that delivers on value, confidence and simplicity that would resonate with modern Chinese consumers. The new store experience feels contemporary without being premium and alienating. We brought more ‘warmth’ and introduced signature experience zones to appeal to families with kids. The visuals were designed to be vibrant, injecting energy into the retail experience.
The initial pilot of the “Modern Value” redesign in Shenzhen was highly successful, not only in terms of shopper feedback but also in “like-for-like” store performance. The new retail experience has since been rolled out more broadly across China to new store openings and store redesigns.
Our project with Walmart won two gold awards at the 2020 Transform Awards Asia in the categories of “Best Localization of an International Brand” and “Best Visual Identity” from the retail sector.
Driving retail growth through customer data strategy
Over the past decade, Emart, the leading general merchandise retailer in South Korea, has been on an aggressive format expansion drive to address competitive and regulatory pressures on its core hypermarket business. As they have expanded into new formats and increased their licensed businesses, they have assembled a diverse portfolio of affiliate companies that fit into consumers’ lives in many ways.
With an over 90 percent penetration rate among South Korean shoppers, Emart was looking to improve current customer relationships and spend across all its affiliate businesses to fuel its next wave of growth. Emart needed to gain a deeper understanding of its customers’ needs and preferences, strengthening its ability to deploy a micro-targeted marketing approach. Emart engaged Prophet to define a comprehensive customer data strategy, as well as the roadmap for transforming their businesses to be more data-driven.
Prophet defined a customer data strategy with a detailed roadmap of initiatives to help Emart drive impact across the business.
The Prophet team helped Emart uncover revelatory data that helped define new experiences along the customer journey. Then, Prophet identified the capabilities and organization structure needed to manage, analyze and act on these new data insights. Based on our detailed mapping of Emart’s current state and our knowledge of best practices in leading global organizations, we were able to design a future state model for Emart, as well as the roadmap to build the required capabilities and organizational model.
To demonstrate the value of data and justify future investments, we took a large sample of Emart’s existing transactional and CRM data to identify clear behavioral profiles that could be targeted in pilot marketing experiments. We were able to prove that targeted marketing could have an impact on two levels – increasing spending on the targeted category (e.g. increasing spending on health & beauty), as well as increasing total basket size (e.g. how much they spent on their weekly shop overall).
For a duration of 6 months, Prophet supported the Emart team in conducting a series of test and learn marketing experimentations based on customer data insights with continuous proven success in driving business impact. Since then, Emart has established a dedicated team to run targeted marketing at scale as the full organization at Emart is committed to investing in becoming a data-driven company.
Increase in sales by non-category
increase in sales by targeting in declining categories
Best known for their mass-market electronics stores, Suning’s brand was limited in terms of its perception and stretch. They saw an opportunity with their Suning International group to create a new innovative brand that would not only be attractive for their new customer but also help to elevate perceptions of the group itself as being more pioneering and innovative.
The company approached Prophet to define a clear brand philosophy and retail experience concept for Suning International’s O2O offering. The concept would be launched as a pop-up exhibit for Salon del Mobile Milano Exhibition in Shanghai, debuting the upcoming store concept.
Prophet worked closely with Suning International to help develop an innovative experience and optimize its brand strategy towards the global market. We created a philosophy around a global community of curators, who believe that life should be culturally enriching, openly inspiring and actively shared. The exhibition design brought this idea to life as ‘Issue:01 – Found goods from Italy’, a lenticular hallway of inspirational products, curated video and multi-sensorial experiences, which documented a day in the life of two global citizens and their daily experiences in Italy.
“We’re responding to a new generation of consumers who love to discover and experience new things and share their finds with others. With the rise in global travel and access to more products and experiences than ever before from around the world, we want to create a brand and platform that empowers this global community of curators. We are bringing together select items of substance, from around the world, that will bring small moments of joy to everyday life,” said Young Kim, partner and executive creative director at Prophet.
Within the exhibit, visitors could collect and share their own personal online journal of products and stories through a WeChat mini program that showcased the seamless O2O journey that Suning International offers.
The Suning International concept debuted in November 2018 in Shanghai, generating significant media interest and visited by over 22,000.
Driving double-digit sales growth for a home goods retailer
After several years of disappointing performance and a lack of brand clarity, Crate&Barrel reached out to Prophet to help diagnose the issue and determine a solution to turn the business around.
We worked with the Crate&Barrel team to transform its retail branding strategy and implement it across the key aspects of the business – brand, merchandising, store experience and service offers.
Our retail branding work began by developing a deep understanding of the market and customers. Our segmentation research uncovered the opportunity for Crate&Barrel to win by focusing on an under-penetrated high-value segment. Based on this new target, we repositioned the brand to be relevant to its needs, defining the critical product and experience elements – both unique brand assets and critical gaps to invest behind – required to win and drive growth.
Part of the formula for success meant Crate&Barrel needed to inspire and engage this target customer, while also making the stores more profitable. As part of this new retail brand strategy we identified opportunities to make the store more effective through SKU optimization, cross-merchandising and product distortion recommendations. Crate&Barrel moved quickly to bring it to life in new social media stories and marketing campaigns to capture attention and encourage the target to take another look at the brand.
At the same time, Prophet began to focus on a longer-term plan to create a more engaging, impactful and immersive store design for Crate&Barrel. It would deliver on the brand strategy and result in increased cross-shopping, dwell time and traffic. We also identified opportunities for growth through new design services offering to increase transaction size while also better serving the consumer.
From insights gathering to strategy to execution, Prophet collaborated closely with Crate&Barrel leadership to diagnose the issues and develop solutions to support the in-market execution of the new retail strategy. After less than 12 months in the market, the business began to see significant improvement in sales and traffic. In fact, the brand saw double digits growth in sales.
Ranking 10th among the world’s largest economic powers and fourth in Asia, South Korea’s retail market may be fast-growing, but so is the influx of competitors.
Emart, the country’s largest retailer and Korea’s first hypermarket, wanted to ensure it could maintain its competitive advantage and provide customers with novel new ways to shop. Besides sharpening the value proposition of its hypermarket flagship, Emart knew it needed to explore new retail concepts to achieve transformative growth.
Prophet worked with Emart to explore alternate retail formats that would resonate with consumers’ unique and evolving behaviors. One of the three new businesses our team developed was a warehouse shopping concept to compete with the likes of Costco and Sam’s Club launching in the region. The biggest challenge? Emart wanted to launch the warehouse format in just 100 days.
Prophet was tasked to develop the customer strategy, brand positioning and design the store concept. With just over three months to take the initial idea from the Chairman’s whiteboard sketch to the doors opening, Prophet’s agile team moved fast. We worked closely with Emart in weekly sprints to create the name, Emart Traders, and develop a differentiated brand identity. We then partnered with Emart’s implementation teams to build out the first store.
To stand out against the competition, Traders’ customer experience needed to make consumers feel like smart shoppers. It had to offer the emotional thrill that comes from getting a good deal on top-quality items. And it had to be fun.
Traders launched with a significant competitive difference – unlike Costco or Sam’s Club, it has no membership fees. The store features a warehouse aesthetic, including pallets, industrial fixtures and wood finishes suggestive of packing crates. The merchandising strategy is founded on a distinct shopping experience of discovering unbeatable offers. With right-out-of-the-box freshness in every aisle, Traders offers a tailored product mix seeing value-priced and high-quality store brands housed side-by-side.
The first Traders store opened with great success, generating $100 million in sales in its first year. It has subsequently grown to include 20 locations, creating a $1 billion brand in five years. With gross sales up 26.4% year on year, Traders has become a continuous growth engine for Emart, helping it outpace other retail formats in the market and contributing nearly a fifth of total revenue for the group.
Refreshing a global icon and modernizing the brand
Electrolux is on a journey to become a world-class consumer marketing company – but the brand’s visual identity felt out of date and undifferentiated. Electrolux worked with Prophet to create a visual platform that modernizes the brand and stands out in the market.
Equipped with a deep understanding of Electrolux’s consumers, resulting from a long-standing partnership, Prophet worked with Electrolux’s team to build a brand identity that would appeal to consumers on an emotional level. A key insight led to the idea; consumers want to see the benefit of a product not just the features – a beautifully poached egg, a pile of soft, fluffy towels or a perfectly crisp white shirt.
Each aspect of the identity was modernized. The logo was stripped of superfluous shapes and the tagline, maximizing its visibility and impact. The font was updated to a custom, modern sans serif, echoing the shapes in their iconic brand symbol. The symbol was given a new lease on life, creating stopping power wherever it is encountered. The letters in the logo were extended into a custom brand typeface, creating a look that is distinctive in appearance on anything from billboards to product stickers. Their core color blue was darkened to have a more premium and modern appeal supported by a palette of bold, vivid colors that will stand out in busy retail environments.
The new visual identity has been embraced by all corners of the organization and will change the way customers interact with Electrolux – in-store, online, on packaging and through mobile devices.