Retail Company Makes a Multi-Organizational Upgrade to Customer Loyalty Program
A major, Seattle-based retail company was looking to make a significant change to its existing customer loyalty program. The current program allowed customers to redeem a fixed number of points for a wide variety of products, which had a cost range that would become unsupportable and financially untenable. The program also required customers to accumulate a very high number of reward points before they could redeem; the company wanted to lower the reward points needed to attract customers to their loyalty program.
The desired result would introduce several “reward tiers” for customers to redeem points for lower-cost items with fewer points or more points for higher-cost items. It also eliminated the initial amount of points required to qualify.
Changing the rewards tiers required a new implementation across 14 internal departments and an external partner company. This change impacted everything from customer client apps, platform systems, all US point-of-sale (POS) systems (both company-owned and third-parties), the core loyalty rewards platform, the point redemption process accounting, customer service systems, and several others.
Scope: Business model for tiered rewards would impact hundreds of systems to support the new program.
Coordination: The project affected 14 different technology and business departments for the organization, in addition to partnering organizations.
Timing: The company wanted to roll out all updates at once, rather than incrementally, so all of the teams needed to complete their implementations and test them together, end-to-end.
Continuity: The rollout would take several days, during which normal business operations would need to continue.
An AIM Consulting Technical Delivery Expert (TDE) was brought in to analyze the existing systems against the requirements for the new loyalty program, identifying the specific roadmaps to update the systems affected by the new program. Thus, ensuring that every department impacted was in sync for the program update.
Project highlights included:
Digital Platform: The Digital Platform team supported the mobile client apps at the center of the Rewards experience. AIM Consulting identified several changes in how the company assigned reward tiers to products (tools and methods), then provided this data back to the client applications. AIM Consulting also coordinated changes to the APIs that partner licensees would need to use with their POS systems to support the new program.
Customer Service: The customer service department was a necessary rotation during the project implementation. The AIM Consulting TDE studied the existing customer service tool (built on Oracle Service Cloud), and specified modifications required to support the new loyalty program. Additionally, the TDE specified changes that needed to be made to the Interactive Voice Response (IVR).
Event Data Simulator: During the project, subsequently, the Enterprise Architects realized that the Rewards system was interfacing with several downstream systems to feed them data for analysis. Rather than creating unique interfaces for each system, they designed a publish-and-subscribe architecture that allowed the downstream systems to subscribe to the streams of data they needed.
However, the Rewards team would need several weeks to develop all the data streams that the downstream systems required. Consequently, the AIM Consulting TDE, along with the client, worked shoulder-to-shoulder, taking the detailed specifications, written by the Rewards team, to design and build a data simulator. This tool allowed the downstream teams to use test data to start work quickly and stay on schedule. The simulator created streams of data that simulated customer transactions.
There were 15 different transaction types, which included customer account creation, purchase, reward points redemption, transaction void, and so on that could occur over several simulated months for thousands of simulated customers. Simultaneously, the AIM Consulting TDE discovered bugs in the design specifications and provided immediate feedback to the Rewards team during this process of testing for the organization.
Reward Data Flow Analyses: The AIM Consulting TDE worked with the Rewards team to track end-to-end data flows across several systems. This included every data flow between the Digital Platform and the Rewards system. One promotion type had data passing through 12 different systems (including an external vendor) before completing the processing and posting the results back to the client for customers to see. The analysis involved studying the APIs and sample data passing through each actual system. In one case, AIM Consulting TDE discovered discrepancies with data loss and values rounded in unexpected ways. For instance, upstream operations allowed fractional rewards points, but some downstream systems only allowed reward points that were whole numbers. All issues were tracked addressed with the client to ensure a resolution.
Deployment Planning: As this project involved several large systems and data migrations, the organization began to realize the deployment would need to take place over several days. Additionally, the system was designed to be rolled out to all customers at one time instead of a selected trial group. As the company could not stop sales operations for several days, a deployment plan had to be created that allowed operations to continue while the underlying systems and data were being upgraded.
The AIM Consulting TDE, being involved in several end-to-end system analyses and understood many nuances of the project, was brought in to help design the deployment plan. Understanding the customer implications of shutting down various systems for the upgrade and what features would stop working was essential to align all teams. This also allowed the client teams to develop features that would inform customers about what was happening during certain phases of the rollout. Ultimately, the company was able to deploy the changes for three days with minimal customer disruption.
AIM Consulting was able to help the retail company in several areas of the project. From analyzing the new loyalty program requirements, understanding current business systems, and working with business and technical teams for a smooth implementation of the reward tiers upgrade. With AIM Consulting, the client was able to have a communication bridge, raising the visibility of integration, keeping the project timeline on track, and providing resources across all 14 departments involved. The project impacted over 16,000 company-owned retail locations, numerous partner company storefronts, and over 16 million customer loyalty members.
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