Marketing Week (MW): What is the role you have taken on at Game?
Fred Prego (FP): I joined Game two months ago, and I am in charge of the reward programme and customer relationship marketing in general. This is a new role for Game as well. It was a role that was created after Game realised how important insight and the customer strategy behind the insight was for it to achieve its ambitions. My role is also to bring a team together. We have a lot of data at Game and what I am here to do is to use that data and create insight, to help drive the business and the marketing strategy – to make the most out of what we’ve got.
MW: How have you gone about putting this team together?
FP: What I have done since I arrived here is brought together several people from across the business with particular talents around analysing data, developing strategies and executing the kind of insight strategy I would like to implement.
MW: What kinds of people were you looking for on this team?
FP: We’ve got a lot of good skills and people at Game. When you are working on insight and data and CRM, it is important to be able to understand numbers, but in my opinion there is much more than that. You need also to have creative people and people who can use both sides of their brain – the numbers side and the creative side. It’s important that people can link both.
MW: Why do you think Game was already well equipped with these skills?
FP: We are lucky at Game because we are a company of gamers, and gamers are really naturally suited to the role. They are logical, problem-solving people but they also have a high level of creativity and out-of-the-box thinking. They were all already in the business but in different parts of it. I have now created a team with common purpose.
MW: And what resources more generally do you think you will need to make your data strategy successful?
FP: To my mind, there are three things that are important when you are working on insight. It is not just about having data, although we have very rich data at Game. For me, having tools is also important. Our tools are the reward scheme, our app, CRM tools, a lot of analytics, the customer satisfaction project and the research we are doing. And you also need people to be able to understand what’s happening, to use the data to create insight and develop a strategy.
MW: What kinds of data does Game currently hold and how will you use it?
FP: We have a lot of data in the business, ranging from external sources, store data, our reward programme, our social media followers and much more. What’s important is then to form a single view of the customer – to bring that data together for us to be able to use it. We need to collect it together, compare it, analyse it and from all of that create insight. That insight should inform Game’s business strategy and the decision-making process. It should enable us to provide a better customer experience. It should, in turn, help us in brand loyalty, engagement and our CRM strategy.
MW: How will these insights improve customer loyalty and engagement?
FP: One of the aspects about CRM that I’m very passionate about is that nowadays there are so many messages going round in your life – I was reading an article the other day that said every minute there are 160 million emails sent. Because customers are inundated with messages and communications, we need to have the right dialogue to cut through all that noise. That’s what insight is all about – empowering CRM in a timely and relevant manner to create personalised communications through the right channels. That’s really what my role is about.
MW: Has this focus on data and insight always been part of Game’s business strategy, or is it something that has come about since the company came out of administration in 2012?
FP: I think it has always been a big part of the company’s strategy in terms of gathering the data. What it has not necessarily done is acted on that data – using the richness of the data we have here to empower the team to create incremental business for Game. That was the bit that was missing and that was the reason why I joined the company.
MW: In what areas of the business, the relationship with customers or the product offerings do you expect these insights to be realised?
FP: It could potentially touch everything. For me, segmentation is going to be really key. With all the data we have got, I want to make sure we segment our customer base in such a way that we can really personalise their experience with us, whether it is in store, online or across many touchpoints. Because of the richness of the data, we can look at spending habits and the way they play games – by themselves, in groups, in the community and so on – so we can build all the time on what we can do.
It’s not just, at a point in time, gathering data to be able to find out something. We’ve got, potentially, something that can evolve. As we bring out more campaigns, for example, we are capturing the insights into how people are talking to us about them, what they are doing as a result. We continuously reinvent ourselves, evolve, bring new stuff to customers and respond better to their needs.
MW: Where do you get the behavioural data you mention, on how customers play games?
FP: We get a lot of information every time they purchase games on the reward card. We know the type of game, how frequently they spend – but we get much more data than that and the beauty of it is linking it together to understand not just shopper habits but to understand how they play with it, how they see us as a social platform and how they interact with other gamers in that community.
MW: Can you explain how Game’s loyalty scheme works?
FP: Game’s reward programme gives customers the opportunity to earn points for engaging with us, whether they are buying from our stores or online, or trading games in. They get 2 per cent of their purchase value back when they are shopping and 2.5 per cent when they are trading in games. This is good value and it ensures people are getting a lot out of the programme. We are giving a lot to them but, because of that, they are also giving a lot back to us. They spend it in store or online as a currency when they buy a game, but what we are seeing is that more customers are saving it for a big occasion.
We have introduced recently what we call ‘accolades’, which is an opportunity for members to earn points for certain activities like trading in for the first time or using new services that they have never used before. This is quite powerful because it introduces new services and new benefits that customers might not be aware of, but also it helps us to drive behaviour change.
MW: What would you say makes Game’s loyalty scheme appealing to customers?
FP: We recently launched a Game app, which is fundamental to our rewards scheme. We are introducing tools all the time – it is part of a two-way system. We are rewarding them with a rich proposition, but we gain an insight and once we’ve got it we can reinvest in that insight and give them new tools, better services and better experiences.
MW: Can you give examples of improvements that have been made to the app following customer feedback?
FP: One of the tools that we have is a store locator, because people want to use it on the go, and because we have 320 stores now. We’ve also got a link to social media. If you are on the app and you have seen something [that interests you], you can click immediately onto your social media account.
We have local communities of gamers, meaning all our stores have Twitter accounts and they communicate locally with their customers. It’s a link between people’s social media accounts and their stores, talking about what’s new in the store, what they have got planned, what activities they have, what promotions they have. It’s part of the app and it makes it a really useful tool. We have won several awards for the app recently.
MW: It has been reported that Game will have opened 18 new stores in the year to July, after having closed 277 when it went into administration last year. Is the high street still important to the Game customer’s experience?
FP: Yes, definitely. The high street is fundamental to our business. We’ve got a credible proposition in store – I can’t tell you about new openings because it is not my responsibility, but it is always a big part of our data collection and it is a big part of our customer relationship and communications. We’ve done a lot of activity recently in store that are helping us to get better insights but also to create better engagement with our customers.
‘Lock-ins’ are an opportunity for our customers to try a new game before anyone else. We work with our suppliers, the publishers, to organise these events for our communities of gamers to come into our stores and experience it first-hand. This is how important the high street is to us – not just as a selling portal, but as a way of engaging with customers beyond our call of duty.
MW: And do the lock-ins then feed back into your collection of data from people commenting on social media?
FP: Absolutely. In fact, we don’t have to advertise these lock-ins. We just announce it through Twitter to the local community and usually it spreads like wildfire. We have been extremely successful with lock-ins and, again, it is helping with our engagement. We are using stores and social media at the heart of our strategy of being what I would call ‘omnichannel’ – we talk to our customers through all the channels and what we try to do is talk to them in a relevant way and in a timely way. When the lock-ins happen, we only talk about it through the local Twitter account – not everyone knows about it but we know it’s going to be successful because people engage with it, they know it’s personal, they know it’s only for them.
MW: Are the data and insights Game now has changing the way it markets to consumers, in terms of creative, tone of voice and so on?
FP: Not yet, but they will. We are working on that at the moment and hopefully in the next few months it is going to become reality. Again, insight is just one peg, in terms of delivering the business strategy, but it’s an important one and we’re taking time to really understand what we’ve got and integrate what we’ve got.
Fred Prego on…
data in different industries
I have worked on fast-moving consumer goods [at Kimberly-Clark], but it’s not really fast moving. The beauty of working in a business like Game is that it is changing every day – for example a couple of weeks ago with the announcement of [upcoming Microsoft games console] Xbox One and a couple of months ago with the PlayStation 4.
That means, in terms of the data and the people we need to do the job, we need to be as dynamic as the industry. We need to have people who are passionate about the industry, because we need to move really fast. That’s going to be one of the key challenges for us – to ensure we’re always moving fast and always keeping ahead of the game.
data marketing skills
What I like, in general, is a broad mix of individuals in my team; not all of them being ‘big data’ analysts. The reason for that is that I believe we need to challenge our own thinking all the time. But things that for me are key are not just being able to analyse data, but also being able to have the critical strategic thinking so we understand the impact of the data on the business, and also to have creative thinking.
If you have the ability to understand numbers and tables together with creative thinking, then you can really understand what’s coming in the future. That’s what I think is missing in a lot of businesses. A lot of businesses are very good at looking at the past; the power of data and insight is in being able to use it to look at your future.
Q&A: The Avios rebrand
Marketing Week (MW): You previously ran marketing at Avios. Did the criticism you received for rebranding Airmiles to Avios make you more cautious about the way changes should be introduced into loyalty schemes?
Fred Prego (FP): Yes, definitely. You’ve touched on a sore point. I think the biggest issue around the rebranding of Avios was a misunderstanading, not having shared all the information at once because for legal reasons we were not allowed to. I have learned a lot from that. At the end of the day what is important are customers – not upsetting them and listening to them, making sure that whatever we’re doing, we’re doing it with them in mind.
Customers nowadays are very powerful. They use social media a lot – we have a lot of interactions with our customers through our different channels and my role here at Game is about listening to them. So I hope there will never be a repeat of what we saw at Avios. I think it was the right thing to do but it was not communicated in the best way possible.
MW: Do you think Avios is in a better position now than it would have been without a rebrand?
FP: Probably. I have been away from Avios for a few months, so I don’t know exactly where it is at the moment. But when I left it was in a really good position.
MW: With all your experience on loyalty schemes, are you tempted to try to rebuild Game’s reward programme from the ground up, or is it fit for purpose as it is?
FP: The Game reward programme is really successful and, coming from a background of loyalty marketing, it is very interesting to see that from a different perspective. What I am really happy about is that we have a solid base of engaged customers, and we need to make sure that we’re not losing that. Whatever we’re doing, we need to be thinking very carefully. As a business we need to be continually thinking about how we can make customers aware of new initiatives.
For example, we have recently launched devices such as mobile phones in store; we have launched movies as well. We need to talk to them about all these new opportunities without alienating them. The reward programme gives us that opportunity, gives us permission to talk to them because customers value the reward programme. We’ve got the right structure for the reward programme to deliver that evolution.
Fred Prego CV
Insight and reward director, Game
April 2013 – Present
Head of marketing, Avios
January 2006 – December 2012
European marketing manager, Kimberly-Clark
January 2002 – December 2005
UK marketing manager, Kimberly-Clark
January 2001 – January 2002
European marketing manager, Kimberly-Clark
January 1999 – December 2000
Czech Republic general manager, Kimberly-Clark
January 1998 – December 1998
European brand manager, Kimberly-Clark
October 1995 – December 1997
Business development manager, Sodexo
August 1990 – August 1995