Last year's headline: Via retools Preference program...

Last year’s headline: Via retools Preference program

Synopsis: In an attempt to ‘clinch’ customers, Via Rail rejigs its four-year-old Via Preference loyalty program. Under the old structure, Preference was split into gold and regular categories, based on whether a passenger spent more or less than $1,000. The updated version, which incorporates new partners such as Novotel, Hertz and Bell Canada, is divided into three segments, where one point is rewarded for every dollar spent to Preference members, two points to Privilege members and three points to Premier members. The goal is to move from acquisition to recognition. Via also aspires to freshen up its application forms, point-of-purchase materials and its Web site, plus establish an inbound telemarketing component to ensure that Preference member phone calls are prioritized.

One year later: Via Preference continues to chug along. The program accounted for growth in dollars spent by members and raked in a greater share of overall revenues, according to Pamela Rice, Via’s Montreal-based marketing director. The passenger rail carrier is now looking to secure new marketing partnerships to shore up the program’s offerings. While the inbound telemarketing plan is still on the table, Via is currently working out the ‘little things’ that are an obstacle to implementing the new technology and Rice can’t say when the initiative will actually launch. This year, Via also plans to introduce more user-friendly features online, so that Preference members can gain access to their statements in real time.

Last year’s headline: Just White Shirts rewards with money, not points

Synopsis: Toronto-based Just White Shirts and Black Socks (JWS) sets its sights south of the 49th parallel, where it aims to take on the likes of Brooks Brothers, Huntington Clothiers and Lands’ End. The catalogue and Internet retailer, which started up in 1994, intends to expand its product line in the hopes it can attract a wider base of customers than the professionals it normally draws. JWS president Leon Goren also hopes to implement a more sophisticated database marketing program to do more than simply process information for mailing labels and accounting purposes. A ‘Just Rewards’ scheme, offering patrons a credit for 2.5% of their purchases, is also established. The credit is applicable to future buys and is intended to encourage people to re-visit the site.

One year later: Americans now account for 15% to 20% of JWS’ business, reports Goren. But with the acquisition rate of a U.S. customer costing US$60, the retailer is looking to entice an investor or business partner before it ventures full steam into the American market. Meanwhile, on the domestic front, business is booming. In September, JWS tucked a retail outlet into its Toronto corporate offices. The space measures roughly 2,000 square feet and gives patrons a view of the Internet and call centres. Women’s custom-made shirts debuted at the store several months ago, and on the horizon for 2001 are more women’s products, plus a men’s cosmetics line, which is slated to debut in March. Corporate sales are also piling up for the dot-com venture. Finally, the internal database marketing program has improved tenfold, says Goren, and allows JWS to segment data and cater to customers’ needs more directly.