Ace Rewards – Program Review

Dec 15, 2011

The holiday season brings joy to our homes and, for most of us, it also brings a few more chores added to the “to do” list around the house. Preparing for family and guests visiting at this time of year, I always seem to make multiple trips to hardware and “do it yourself” stores. During a round of errands recently, I made a stop at Ace Hardware and was presented with the opportunity to join in a refreshed version of Ace Rewards.

The best part of my experience was the way the program was presented to me at checkout. The cashier had clearly been trained well about the program and enthusiastically encouraged me to take advantage of the program. As point of fact, I had joined Ace Rewards about 3 years ago and mentioned that to the cashier. She searched a database and didn’t waste time suggesting that I sign up again.

I’m not certain of the database implications of that action, but can only guess that there must be duplication in the Ace Rewards records as inactive members (as I was) are allowed to sign up all over again. That type of duplication should be avoided by loyalty sponsors or any company engaging in direct response marketing to maintain the value of its customer database for marketing purposes.

Ace Rewards seems easy to use in-store as it is tied closely to the store point-of-sale system (POS). I was told that after a period of 7-10 days, I could be identified with a bar code key fob, by offering a telephone number, or even just by a name search at POS. In the interim, I could offer my last name at the store where I enrolled and could be identified easily. I did return for a purchase about 2 days later and found the promise to be true as a different cashier quickly found my name and gave me credit for my purchase.

When the welcome kit arrived in the mail as promised, about 10 days after sign-up, I was surprised by its simplicity but a bit disappointed by the content. The welcome letter was a self mailing 5 x 7 piece that offered me a $5 freebie on one side and also alerted me to Ace presence on social media sites Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. As Ace tells the story, the rewards program is “the best tool for saving money”.

Member perks include:

  • 10 points for every $1 spent
  • Money savings coupons
  • Sale reminders
  • Helpful tips to take care of your home
  • Ability to submit rebates online
  • Web site to view points balance, purchase history, and edit my profile

When I looked at the list, I had to think that if I presented this to a client as their recommended program benefits list, many would send me back to the drawing board. I don’t wake up trying to be critical, but everything from money savings coupons to the helpful tips and sale reminders are things I can generally find from retailers without a rewards program. How about a little more creativity here?

My first impression of the program value at Ace Rewards went further South when I read that 2,500 points would earn me a $5 reward – the equivalent of 2% back. That’s it.

I understand that the rewards business has grown up largely centered on a 1% deferred discount mentality, but in the age of Groupon and other more aggressive campaigns, retailers wishing to break out the pack should go beyond 1 or 2 % if they want to grab the customer’s attention and hold it for any sustainable period of time.

I’ll continue to visit Ace for its convenience, friendly service and as a welcome alternative to big box stores teeming with people and short on parking during the holidays. At this point however, I’m not so sure that the Ace Rewards program would impact my decision to shop in their stores.