How brands and stores benefit through the revolutionary bonsella® in-store rewards programme

How brands and stores benefit through the revolutionary bonsella® in-store rewards programme


Patrick Winter,Head of Strategic Partnerships at Retail Engage – innovator and custodian of the revolutionary bonsella® rewards programme

In April Shopping & Retail SA visited Retail Engage, the innovator and custodian of the revolutionary bonsella rewards programme for independent stores, and chatted to Patrick Winter, Head: Strategic Partnerships, to find out just what makes bonsella® tick.


S&R:. Why should independent stores be excited about bonsella?

PW: bonsella® is the first entity in South Africa who are strategic partners to the independent sector. We do this by giving our stores a free multi-million Rand loyalty programme to use, managing this programme with our team of experienced agents in each store, bringing additional brand spend to all of our stores (through airtime and other deals) and also by providing our stores with unique 3rd party services, such as in-store banking. This helps draw more feet, keep current shoppers happy, increases basket value and increase profit margins.

S&R: How many stores do you see bonsella rolling into going forward, and how many shoppers will this programme enrol?

PW: Our target has always been to reach 10m bonsella members in South Africa, which we are confident we will achieve through 500 stores, given that we sign-up over 20,000 members per store on average. Given that we are also expanding into the liquor, hardware and lifestyle sectors, this number of 10m could be closer to 15m at maturity.

S&R: At what pace will you be rolling out the bonsella programme to remaining stores across the country?

PW: After 4-years of testing the model and ensuring we have a platform that works for all of our stakeholders, we launched our growth campaign early 2018. This means that we are currently growing at around 15 stores a month. By December this year, we expect to be in around 125 stores, with just over 1m members, and expect to be at full maturity by July 2020.

S&R: Clearly the brands are benefiting significantly through the success and capability of the bonsella model – please elaborate.

PW: Brand have historically battled to spend marketing budget in the independent sector due to its fragmented nature, inability to target shoppers directly, and lack of reliable data to measure the effectiveness of this spend. bonsella has answered this in the following manners:

      • Provided brand with a platform to target shoppers directly (airtime, SMS, in-store campaign etc.)
      • Has access to all transactional, loyalty and consumer data across our stores
      • Provided brands with a single marketing partner in this sector
      • Provides brands with a unique platform to perform myriad other services such as stock reviews, brand activations and research
  • Most campaigns to date, have provided our clients with >50% ROI

S&R: Is technology, or lack of, a significant challenge in the roll-out programme? (i.e. till software, analytics, management systems and so on).

PW: Our roll-out of bonsella stores is based on strict criteria, looking at store size, technology and location. In South-Africa alone, there are estimated to be over 200,000 stores in the independent sector, of which a high % match the bonsella criteria. Our primary challenge is thus not the number of stores or related technology, but rather making sure we partner with right stores in each area of operations.

S&R: Still on the technology front, you have developed the app and in-store research platforms – do you have other technical developments in the pipeline? If so please elaborate.

PW: Absolutely, we have a number of exciting initiatives planned for Spaza owners, Traders and Stokvels and our retail shoppers. I cannot give in any more details on these, so you will need to watch this space!

S&R: Describe the geographic spread of independent stores throughout South Africa, and how Retail Engage will be engaging them.

PW: It is common knowledge that KZN is the dominant area when it comes to the independent retail sector in South Africa. This will form part of core growth, although we certainly plan to expand to all regions in the country alongside this. In terms of engagement, we have recognised that personal relationships and great customer service is critical to adding value to stores and ensuring you keep them as partners for life. This is proven through our current store universe, where have had the majority of our stores on-board for over 2-years now. This stems from a well structured regional team, and personal relationships with the key players in each of our stores.

S&R:: On the international front:describe your expansion programme model…. will you be focusing on African countries first? And what business models do you envisage – the same as bonsella or variations thereof?

PW: The bonsella model has been designed with scalability in-mind and growing a global brand. Put it this way, wherever airtime is valued as a commodity in-country, bonsella works! This is applicable in most developing countries around the world, although the initial expansion may be focused on Africa where we are fortunate enough to have a partnership with a leading entertainment provider. Through this partnership and market demands, we envisage growing into most major African territories from mid-2018 onwards.

S&R:: Will you be maintaining your focus on informal and independent stores throughout?

PW: Absolutely, this is a critical aspect of the bonsella model, and is the sector where there is the largest growth potential for both our brands and 3rd party service providers.

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