The nutritional supplements retail chain takes advantage of digital receipt open rates up to three times that of other promotional emails using technology from personalization vendor flexEngage.

GNC Holdings Inc. is getting healthy results from technology that personalizes digital receipts. What were once dull paper, GNC’s email receipts now feature product recommendations based on previous customer purchases that are driving increased sales and more loyalty program sign-ups, says Jennifer Biefel, the vitamin and supplements retailer’s director of customer marketing and loyalty.

Results of a recent digital receipt promotion effort include drawing 7% of sales from product upsells based on individual customer buying behavior and a ten-fold increase in upgrades to the Pro level of its paid loyalty program MyGNC Rewards. The increases are rooted in GNC’s use of technology and services from flexEngage, Biefel says.

Jennifer Biefel GNC

Jennifer Biefel, director of customer marketing and loyalty, GNC

Personalization technology vendor flexEngage provided GNC personalized digital receipts since the two began working together in 2014. “The receipt has a number of personalization areas: one is a promo spot that can be a coupon or a sale based on data we know about those customers,” Biefel says. “The main area of the receipt is the product purchase area, which we augment with images of the products. It’s the most engaged part of the receipt, and customers can click there to go learn more about the product.” Details include how to mix nutritional supplements into health drinks or doses of supplements in pill form.

And the bottom of the digital receipt includes a list of top sellers and recommended products targeting the specific customer, Biefel says.

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8 million digital receipts

GNC, No. 210 in the Internet Retailer 2018 Top 1000, sends more than 8 million digital receipts each year for both online and store purchases, Biefel says. The personalization technology has helped the seller take advantage of the receipt volume and grow its MyGNC Rewards membership to more than 16 million since its launch at the end of 2018. The MyGNC Pro program membership is nearing 1 million, she says. The MyGNC Rewards is free and upgrading to the Pro level costs $39.99 per year.

Digital receipt language offers upgrades to the Pro level, and those members visit stores and the website more often and spend four times as much as non-Pro program members, Biefel says. The paid program benefits include a “special saving” time period, free shipping and twice each year members can select the contents of a special box of GNC products, targeting areas such as sports performance, wellness and weight management.

GNC pays an annual fee to flexEngage for the personalization services. Biefel declined to disclose the amount and Tomas Diaz, CEO of flexEngage, would only say the yearly fee is divided into monthly payments, based on number of stores or transactions. The vendor delivers the services in a software-as-a-service model, and merchants can choose from a growing list of services that were the impetus behind the company’s name change to flexEngage from flexReceipts, announced in January.

Personalized packing slips

The vendor now offers personalization of printed receipts, order and ship notifications and post-purchase triggered emails, enabling merchants to add personalized messages to customers, Diaz says.

Other flexEngage clients include Under Armour Inc. (No. 33), Aldo Group (No. 882) and Oakley, a unit of Essilor International SA (No. 58). Those and other retailers are attracted by the fact that post-purchase digital messages “get really high open rates,” Diaz says. “That’s when the buyer is most excited about the purchase and they want to check the order.”

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Traditional receipts, especially printed forms, are “static and boring,” Diaz says. “In today’s world consumers are demanding very personalized communications, but retailers haven’t been able to take that step because information comes from different systems.” Those systems include order management software and ecommerce platforms, Diaz says, and “those systems don’t speak well with marketing systems.”

FlexEngage provides retailer clients access to its merchant portal and from there manages the merchants’ transaction-related digital communications by incorporating the seller’s transaction data.

Most of flexEngage’s clients are mid-sized and larger companies that have a marketing department, Diaz says.

Driving multichannel interaction

GNC has already moved beyond personalized digital receipts and is using flexEngage’s digital packing slip feature. Since its launch in late 2018, “we’re seeing greater offer redemption in stores and it’s driving multichannel interaction,” Biefel says.

The next steps for GNC include going beyond basic customer transaction and loyalty program data to tap more information in other databases, Biefel says, but declined to provide details. GNC also plans to tap the potential of printed receipts. “There is still a number of customers in stores that request printed receipts, so we’re going to add promotions and personalization to those as well.”

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GNC reported revenue in the U.S. and Canada segment decreased $15.9 million, or 3.2%, to $476.5 million for the third quarter ended Sept. 30, compared with $492.4 million in the prior year quarter. Ecommerce sales were up 12.5% and accounted for 7.2%, or $34.3 million, of U.S. and Canada revenue for the quarter. That compares with 6.2%, or $30.5 million, in the prior-year quarter.

The company in November announced plans to close 700-900 stores at the end of their lease terms in the U.S. and Canada over the next three years. GNC has about 8,500 stores and sells online and through other third parties, including Amazon’s marketplace.

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