NMBS have launched a new end-user loyalty scheme for their merchant members, working with the loyalty scheme operator Smart Trade.
Named Professional Points, the scheme enables end-user customers to accumulate credits for business placed with a specific NMBS merchant – credits which can subsequently be redeemed for gifts.
Martin & Partners of Northampton and West Building Supplies of Bridlington are currently trialling the scheme in preparation for a national roll-out starting on March 1.
“We’re trying to increase sales,” Martin md David Dickens told BMJ. “Firstly to existing customers who have accounts with us but who have the choice of three or four merchants locally; and secondly it’s a way of bringing new customers on board. And we happen to have a company called Screwfix next to us, so we’re using them as a traffic builder – their customers have to pass us to get to them.”
Martin launched the scheme with a trade day on February 1, and Mr Dickens reported keen interest from customers.
“It’s new to us and to NMBS, and we have offered it only to certain customers – not contract customers like NHS,” he said. “But those we have offered it to are very keen. And we can watch their accounts and see whether their spending goes up as a result.”
A further benefit, he said, will be better tracking of customers’ spending patterns. “We have some trade customers who prefer to spend cash, and at present that means we can’t track them,” he said. “But the loyalty scheme means we sign them up and we will be able to track their spending.”
Operating Professional Points represents a costing to the merchant of about 1.25% of a sale, said Mr Dickens. “But we expect it to encourage OTC sales where margins are higher, which means the scheme will pay for itself,” he added. “And we’re factoring that extra percentage into our mark-up on OTC lines as well.” Suppliers have been supportive as well, and he expects to be able to offer promotional deals like 500 extra points for a Makita drill.
He also expects to see a reduction in debtor days – a major benefit, given that like many independent merchants, Martin & Partners has a constant problem with chasing payment. “We can use it to incentivise people to pay their accounts on time – because if they don’t pay on time, they forfeit the points,” he said. The Martin staff are fully on board with it as well: “I’m pleasantly surprised how hard our team are working to promote this,” said Mr Dickens. “They think it’s a really good idea.”
Although he is enthusiastic about the scheme, Mr Dickens recognises that it won’t transform his business overnight. “We’ve got to give it 18 months to 2 years,” he said.
Smart Trade, the scheme operator, will be attending the NMBS show at Telford on May 14.