Interview: Holland & Barrett on leveraging loyalty data

It’s fascinating to think that one in five UK households currently have a Holland & Barrett Rewards For Life loyalty scheme. The retailer’s seven million active members provides Holland & Barrett with a huge amount of insights into its customers’ shopping habits.

Speaking to group digital director at Holland & Barrett, Emma Mead, she tells Essential Retail the loyalty card quickly spread across the country following its launch in late 2011 thanks to its generous points scheme – Rewards For Life gives customers four points for every pound they spend, which converts into vouchers with 100 points equating to £1.

“We have a very large number of shoppers who use it every single time they shop,” she says. “It’s a great experience to give our customers and it’s great for us to understand what is important to them, how they buy, what they shop, and what categories are important to them.”

Next-level insights

Earlier this month, Holland & Barrett announced a partnership with data science company, Starcount, which Mead says will take the retailer’s loyalty scheme to “the next level”.

Mead says the retailer is already using Rewards For Life insights to improve its store layouts and decide which products sit in which categories.

She describes how Holland & Barrett would regularly look at product categories and based on sales data, decide whether the space should be used for a different set of products. But Mead says Holland & Barrett has made very different decisions based on the insights it gains from what the business calls its “loyalty lens”.

“The thing is a product might not provide the biggest revenue, but loyal customers are shopping those products, so we shouldn’t be shrinking the space,” says Mead who used to head up multichannel operations at Asda, where she said he had “loads of data, but no loyalty scheme”.

Meanwhile, Starcount – which was founded by Dunnhumby founders, Edwina Dunn and Clive Humby who helped to establish Tesco Clubcard – is now helping the retailer improve on its loyalty insights by drilling down on individual products to find out which drive the most sales.

She points to watermelon seeds which was one surprise Holland & Barrett’s loyalty lens recently unearthed. “Watermelon seeds are quite a niche product,” she explains. “But early analysis with Starcount found that it had a very high composite rank in our loyalty lens, so we definitely needed to keep and retain the product.”

Since then the business has asked store staff to taste the seeds to better help any customers enquiring about them.


The insights will also improve email communications with customers, tailoring offers depending on shopper habits. “If you walk into one of our stores, our colleagues have a high-level of training and customers come in asking for help because perhaps they can’t sleep,” explains Mead. “So with personalisation [online] it’s about how do you build on that – it’s not just about giving them products, but hints, tips and advice, such as no caffeinated drinks after lunchtime if you’re struggling to sleep.”

In an ideal world, Mead would like to offer this level of personalisation to customers as they walk into a store, before they hand over their loyalty card at the POS. But the problem lies in how can retailers recognise the shopper?

“We are starting by recognising customers digitally first, because even the conservative stats say 66% of shoppers do some digital research before they purchase in store,” explains Mead. “How do we start looking at personalisation in the digital space first? But to solve personalisation in the physical store, we still need to solve recognition while remembering to only take it to a level people feel comfortable with.”