An Interview with Richard Yeung, CEO, Convenience Retail Asia Limited
This article about Circle K Hong Kong was first published in Global Convenience Store Focus.
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” This famous Charles Darwin quote seems to be the secret to success for Convenience Retail Asia.
Led by Richard Yeung for nearly two decades, Circle K and its sister brand Saint Honore Cake Shop together operate almost 600 stores in Hong Kong and its surrounding territories, so as part of our series on Chief Executive insights on customer loyalty, we asked Yeung what he knows ‘for sure’ about earning loyalty from customers. In particular, I wanted to understand how Circle K stores throughout Hong Kong are managing to grow revenues in such an intensely competitive market against stagnant customer demand. In true Darwinian style, Yeung’s strategy is to continually adapt their business model to remain relevant for the ‘fastest changing customers ever’. Shopping behaviours have changed “beyond recognition” as a result of digitisation and Yeung describes them as ‘Internet+ customers’ so Circle K needs to evolve ‘Plus+ strategies’ as a way to differentiate its stores.
Yeung clearly understands his customer’s needs, and it’s these insights that drive the brand’s evolution. His insights are quoted here as Hong Kong customer’s needs, however they are re-assuringly familiar and I’ve no doubt they will resonate worldwide.
Customer Priorities in 21st Century Convenience Retail
Fun/Joy, New, Fresh, Wellness, Cool, Value, Discovery, Sharing, Ease & Simplicity, Immediate Gratification, Premiumization, Experience, Relevance, Value for Money.
As you’d expect from a marketing leading retailer, Circle K has continued to develop their store formats to make customer’s lives ‘easy’. Hong Kong is the fourth most densely populated region in the world, so it’s no surprise to learn that their latest flagship store in Causeway Bay (shown below) spans two floors. The ground floor is focused on selling novelty products, complemented with a premium coffee and seating area upstairs.
With a fundamental guiding principle to make life easier for customers, these stores provide an extensive range of convenience services such as bill payment, reloading, ticketing and cash withdrawal services, as well as an innovative power bank loan service, essential for customers whose phone batteries are dying when they’re out and about from home.
More recently, the business expanded beyond the basics to include efulfillment services for leading e-commerce websites such as Taobao.com and FingerShopping.com, but the brand also believe it’s no longer enough to simply work alongside online stores as partners. It’s critical to link the two channels – creating a ‘virtuous circle’ (and buying behaviour) from online to offline and back again online. Yeung believes the ‘Internet+’ customer who engages with the brand across both channels is the key to quality and profitable growth, and his ‘OK Stamp It’ platform is the app the brand has created to achieve a fun, contemporary, vibrant and unique shopping experience for customers.
Using the tag line ‘Easy Play. Easy Rewards’, the OK Stamp It app is cleverly designed to focus on driving purchase frequency first and foremost – building habits and measurable behaviour changes as the best loyalty programmes do. Ok Stamp It invites and incentivises customers to “Shop with Circle K at least 30 times in 90 days and earn a gold card” – a classic online-to-offline approach driving customers from smartphone to store. Gold card holders are rewarded with generous functional and emotional rewards that ensure brand loyalty and increase customer lifetime value. The strategy has been highly successful according to Inside Retail Asia who quote that “eighteen months after its launch OK Stamp It has attracted more than 1 million members and won industry awards for excellence.”
With their customer needs so clearly understood, it’s easy to see how Circle K are executing on this clear digital strategy. Every aspect of their app is mapped directly to these insights – each one focused on engaging customers effectively, entertaining, connecting and building relationships that customer’s value as much as the brand.
One additional innovation is the move towards incorporating financial services in their digital strategy as we’ve seen in other markets. Circle K Hong Kong have partnered with Aeon to launch the first Visa payWave-enabled co-brand card for Hong Kong convenience stores – the Circle K iLike Visa Card. Successful card applicants benefit from instant gratification with Circle K welcome coupons, birthday vouchers to share with friends, as well as earning both OK Dollars and AEON bonus points on all card spend. The card also give holders access to exclusive Sunday offers in Circle K and discounts in Saint Honore cake shops.
Hong Kong describes itself as a city that offers ‘the best of everything’, so with these ongoing digital enhancements, it’s clear that Circle K Hong Kong is in very safe hands. Richard Yeung himself was named the 2018 Asian Convenience Retailer of the Year so Hong Kong can enjoy the ever-evolving award-winning O2O experiences that Yeung and his team are delivering in Circle K Hong Kong.
Liquid Barcodes is a leading global loyalty technology company specialized for the convenience store and foodservice industries. Our proprietary cloud-based technology platform allow retailers to create and manage their digital marketing campaigns with a proprietary process we call the “customer connection cycle’ to engage, promote and reward customers activities in real-time across digital and media channels.
How we do it:
We have developed the most advanced loyalty and digital marketing technology platform specifically for convenience store and foodservice retailers globally.
Retailers use our self-service dashboard to create and manage loyalty driven marketing campaigns that increase purchases with their existing customers, as well as effectively target and acquire new customers through partners or paid media channels.
One core component of live loyalty is gamification. We have gamified branding, loyalty and promotions. We believe this approach is essential in order to get customers’ attention and ultimately truly engage them with repeatable actions thereby winning their loyalty.
Check out some of our exciting/proven results here:
Chief Content Officer, Liquid Barcodes and Independent Loyalty Consultant.
With over twenty-five years marketing experience, I specialise in loyalty marketing consulting, managing consumer loyalty propositions, strategy and operations. In addition to working with Liquid Barcodes, my clients have included Telefonica O2, Three Mobile, Electric Ireland, Allied Irish Bank and The Entertainer, as well as Avios – the global points currency for some of the world’s top airlines. I am also a judge for the Loyalty Magazine Awards.