As Russian shoppers become more familiar with large food chains, existing retailers need to combat the inevitable growth in competition by developing strong brand loyalty. Lenta, one of Russia's largest retail chains, has recently partnered with Emnos to build a growth strategy based on a true customer focus. This article is copyright 2014 The Best Customer Guide.

Following an injection of investment capital in 2012, Lenta expanded its group of supermarkets and hypermarkets - over 90 outlets in 45 cities by early 2014. The company wanted to strengthen a fast growing shopper base by adapting its strategy based on detailed customer insights - and delivering a landmark experience.

Lenta believed that harnessing the wealth of customer data generated throughout the stores and by well used loyalty cards would significantly impact business decision making, boost sales and keep it ahead of the competition.

"We are committed to continued growth and aim to double our selling space in three years - and customers are undoubtedly the key to our development and improvement," explained Herman Tinga, Lenta's commercial director. "Emnos was chosen to take our customer knowledge to a whole new level and provide the behavioural insights we need to grow and retain a competitive edge."

In 2013, Emnos was asked to assess Lenta's approach to customer loyalty in relation to its business challenges and goals. Emnos applied its unique combination of strategic planning, best-in-class retail analytics and proprietary software to deliver crucial and actionable customer insights.

True customer focus
The first step was to stop focusing on the 'average' shopper and develop a finer grasp of the different types of Lenta customers. This in-depth segmentation analysis started with an audit based on basket data generated by over five million active shoppers across all stores and all products going back to 2010. Three types of segmentation were used to answer questions such as: who are my customers? - how much do they spend? - why did they come to the store?

Needs-based segmentation established what shoppers require for their lifestyles - highlighting, for example, 'Budget Cooks' who focus on own label and saving money; or 'Party People' who are typically men buying drinks and snacks. RFV segmentation differentiated between, for example, 'Frequent shoppers' who visit the store often and spend little, and 'Occasional Big Spenders' who spend more but less often. Although both segments may overall spend equally, these behavioural insights help Lenta understand how to grow the business - to focus on pulling people in more frequently or perhaps on increasing basket size once in the store.

By uncovering the different shopping occasions, the Trip Mission segmentation established why customers buy. Are they 'XXL shopping' for a wide product range or do they fall into the 'Small, fresh driven' food segment topping up a previous shop with a few fresh items? This knowledge helped identify cross selling opportunities as customers move around the store.

As Lenta is price led and committed to bringing its customers more goods at lower prices than the competition, pricing had to be very carefully investigated. Emnos therefore identified the products which matter most to customers, enabling Lenta to give higher discounts on items most relevant to customers' budgets.

Keeping data current
Knowing what is important to customers and making it easy to purchase those products drives growth - and is an ongoing process. To keep decision makers throughout the company up-to-date with the latest customer insights, Lenta uses software modules from the Emnos Insight Portal. For example, changes in customer behaviour are monitored using Emnos Segmenter - which helps detect shifting customer patterns and evaluate the impact of marketing activities on customers and sales over time. It is perfectly complemented by Emnos Analyser which turns years of shopper data into information on how Lenta customers shop stores, categories and products. Emnos Ranger provides interactive reports which identify customer needs and how well the current assortment fulfils those needs in terms of sales and loyalty.

Tinga added, "Having been trained by Emnos, our teams can use the web-based software daily to help them provide the best possible customer service - by constantly considering what they think, the products they want and the services they demand."

Driving customer loyalty
Determined to keep ahead in this fast moving market, Lenta wanted to be the first Russian food retailer to use direct marketing to drive customer loyalty, innovation and growth. Offering consumers customized, relevant promotions was identified as a key lever in Lenta's growth strategy. Emnos supported Lenta in developing a vision based on multi- channel interplay - including coupons, self-service kiosks, e-mail, SMS and traditional post. The project began with several pilot campaigns and, as expected, the delivery of selected, data led coupons to carefully targeted customers across Russia proved very successful.

And the result is that Lenta can now harness insights - to understand what customers love, why and how they buy, what influences shopping behaviour and what earns loyalty - and act accordingly. For example, promotions are to be developed based on precise segments rather than 'average customers'.

The pricing process is more efficient and more in-depth checks are made at competitors. A new annual category review considers customer insights and enables the commercial team to make better strategic decisions. The first direct marketing campaign was a resounding success with 18.6% of customers who received the mailing redeeming at least one coupon. Research also showed the campaign produced additional sales worth RUB11-14 million.

"There is considerable opportunity for growth in the Russian market as consumers' disposable income increases and shopping behaviour changes. We now have the knowledge we need to adapt and grow as we continue to focus on the customer and delivering the best possible experience," concluded Tinga.