#RIC19: How Shinola Used Surprise And Recognition To Redefine Its Loyalty Program

Shinola knows a thing or two about generating brand and product awareness: the retailer sold out its first 2,500 limited-edition, Detroit-made Runwell watches within 10 days of launching its first print ad in March 2013. Shinola has continued to foster deep connections with shoppers as it has grown, and in 2018 the luxury goods retailer realized it needed to modernize its Foundry loyalty program: moving away from a traditional incentive-laden and external tier-based program to one based on four value propositions: inclusion, recognition, visibility and surprise.

Shannon Washburn, President of Shinola, revealed how the upgraded Foundry program is helping the retailer achieve its goals in a Retail Innovation Conference session, titled: Why Loyalty Programs Aren’t Working And How Shinola Used Guest Insights To Create A Non-Traditional “Loyalty” Strategy. Since implementing the new program, Shinola has:

  • Established “Foundry Day” on March 14, 2019, a day to say “thank you” to Foundry members and offer an inside look at a new timepiece via email — generating a 40% sales increase that day among Foundry members; and
  • Generated 100% more repeat business from Foundry members than regular shoppers.

In one particular instance of using storytelling to connect with loyal members and drawing from the four core value propositions, Shinola went above and beyond to thank the first 2,500 shoppers for helping the company take off.


“When we finished completion on our newest store, which is located in the Shinola Hotel, we really wanted to do something to mark that milestone moment,” Washburn said during the session. “Before the final bricks were laid on this interior wall of the store, members of the Shinola team hand wrote all the names of the 2,500 original buyers on this wall. We took a photo of this and sent that in an email to them, along with a note that said, ‘You were with us in the beginning, now you will be with us always. You believe in us as much as we believed in ourselves and that will never be forgotten.’

Washburn noted that the “surprise and delight” of that email campaign generated 50% engagement and an even higher click rate — above the typical 35% engagement on Foundry member emails.

To understand better what shoppers desired as part of a loyalty program, Shinola consulted with ERDM, which conducted one-hour Voice of the Customer (VoC) interviews with 30+ shoppers. As part of the VoC conversations, Shinola learned more specific, qualitative details about how shoppers define their expectations of value and engagement from the Foundry program; shopper perceptions of the Shinola brand; and recommended improvements to the program.

Ernan Roman, President of ERDM, highlighted five key points Shinola learned for crafting its updated Foundry program:

  • The importance of exceptionally engaged guests;
  • Ensuring guests can access and utilize loyalty benefits across multiple channels;
  • Fostering curated relationships powered by personalized products/communication;
  • Experiential ROI; and
  • Surprise and delight.

With the program now based firmly on community, Shinola has two aggressive growth goals for Foundry: to increase Foundry member repeat purchase rates by more than 25%, and to scale up its “Leaders” group by 100% by 2020.

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