We rebuilt our loyalty program from scratch, and as we started the project we asked ourselves “What is the soul of Russ’s Market, and how can we magnify it through our loyalty program?” After discussions with associates, customers, and people who influenced the chain throughout its history, we saw that the heartbeat of Russ’s Market was in the special relationship it had between its associates, its customers, and its community. Our new loyalty program, Russ’s Community Rewards, is centered around a points program, where customers earn 10 points for every dollar they spend on eligible groceries. These points can be redeemed either toward free or discounted in-store items, or toward supporting one of several local community organizations through offers in a catalog we created. The support of community organizations is the heart of the new loyalty program. In each of our communities, we partnered with several local non-profit organizations (we currently have 24 in Lincoln and 20 in Hastings) and we worked with them to create an offer of something they could do or provide that would make the community a better place. We streamlined how the program works in October, and currently there is also a calendar that features two community organizations per week throughout the calendar quarter. During an organization’s feature week (in addition to receiving exposure from us), offers redeemed toward that organization will be matched by Russ’s Market.
This program is running in a total of seven stores (6 in the Lincoln market and 1 in the Hastings market). So far over 2,700 households have used their community points to redeem over 11,000 offers for community organizations, generating over $36,000 worth in actions and items for Lincoln and Hastings. The community organizations are currently eclipsing us in their efforts to spread the word about the program. The organizations are mobilizing and coordinating their support base to shop at Russ’s Market and redeem them for the organization’s offer, preferably during the feature match week. Several times a week we receive notifications of community organizations making social media or web posts about Russ’s Community Rewards, urging their support base to take advantage of the program. Many organizations are also staffing booths in our store during their feature week to tell shoppers about what they do in the community.
Our goal was to establish Russ’s Market as a place where people can become a part of something greater than themselves, and to create Russ’s Market as an anchor in the community, where people could rally together to create positive change for their neighborhoods. We plan to grow this concept of Russ’s Community into a full-fledged entity that people identify with and consider themselves a part of. We want to make Russ’s Community a group that grows together to do good in their areas, not only passively through the rewards program, but eventually actively, where we will eventually host projects that customers and associates can join together to physically complete to improve their neighborhood.
Here are some of our results from Lincoln, Nebraska (contributed by six stores), over the first eight months of the program. During that time, Russ’s Community: • Provided over 2,100 meals to families of four with the Food Bank of Lincoln. • Bought over 670 winter coats for homeless people with the People’s City Mission. • Supplied $35 of personal care products to over 700 people in need with the Center for People in Need. • Sponsored the Voices of Hope twenty-four hour crisis line for over 150 hours. • Supplied over 170 meals to homeless youth through the CEDARS street outreach team. • Sponsored tutoring sessions for over 90 children with City Impact. • Sponsored over 40 Big-Little activities with Heartland Big Brothers Big Sisters. • Fed the Red Pandas at the Lincoln Children’s Zoo for over 260 days. • Provided over 9,000 kitten meals through the Capital Humane Society. • Fed a bison from the Pioneers Park Nature Center for over 100 days. • Provided sheet music for over 150 students in Lincoln Public Schools (replacing musical scores that were lost in a 2011 fire to the LPS administration building). • Provided over $2,400 to Red Cross Disaster Relief as they work in Northeast Nebraska, in communities afflicted by the twin tornadoes that struck this summer.
"For 50 years our customers have supported Russ’s Market and that support has allowed us to help local groups that make a difference in people’s lives,” said Pat Raybould, president of B&R Stores, Inc. “This new program expands the “Russ’s Community” to more organizations and gives our customers another way to help those who serve us all.”
From a customer: “We lived in Lincoln for nearly 25 years – moved last summer. We are here for a visit and learned of your new Community Rewards program. I just wanted to say how impressed I am with your initiative. Congratulations on your efforts to encourage philanthropy and increase awareness of those in need."