Turning customers into fans through the use of flexible and expandable point services

This voice was created by using Toshiba’s speech synthesis middleware, ToSpeak.

The point services that customers use when shopping have become a mainstay tool of sales promotion. Customers can save on product purchases by accruing points, and they can exchange these points for incentives. This stimulates purchase motivation and increases customer satisfaction, so point systems contribute significantly to increasing sales. They are also extremely helpful to companies because they assist with building long-term relationships with customers.
PointArtist2, Toshiba's point customer system, has been used for years in a variety of industries and business categories, including retail. We have continued to enhance PointArtist2 while accumulating experience and know-how, and it can simultaneously connect to POS systems from multiple manufacturers. In this article, we will look at the features of PointArtist2 and our own vision of the point services of the future.

What kinds of point services do companies want and need?

In Japan, a wide range of point services are being used in all kinds of industries -- retail, dining, e-commerce, finance, communications, energy, entertainment, healthcare, and more. These point services are important tools for companies. They are used to encourage customers to continue to use the services, visit stores, and make purchases, and are also used to strengthen brand loyalty.

Customer loyalty refers to the emotional connections and trust customers have for products and services, and for the brands and companies that supply them. Toshiba sees improving customer loyalty as turning customers into fans. We want to assist with the provision of point services to help companies build stronger relationships with customers and turn them into fans, improving company reputations and boosting company value.

While already being used by many companies, point services offer various functions and use many different approaches. Because of this, even companies that have already introduced point systems need functions to further business stimulation, such as reducing the operational burdens involved in point system operation and management, enabling the sharing of points between their brick-and-mortar stores, e-commerce sites, and other Group companies, and enhancing promotional and marketing activities through the use of point information.

Increasing company sales requires finely-tailored promotional efforts that use points. For example, retailers can carry out more flexible, more effective sales promotion activities if they can configure and combine various promotional campaign settings. For example, they could set detailed point granting conditions and levels for individual regions, individual stores, and individual products, tailor the granting of points based on when individual users became point users and their past purchase histories, and the like. What's more, point system membership ranks could be defined based on customer purchase histories, and different point rates and service contents could be set for different membership ranks. This helps further increase customer purchasing intent. Furthermore, in addition to granting points, companies can issue customers "sales promotion receipts," personally-tailored receipts with discount coupons, congratulatory birthday messages, or the like. This has the potential not only to stimulate customer purchasing intent but also to turn customers into fans. Information on the usage of coupons that have been issued or the results of sales promotion events can be visualized as data, and responses to direct mail and sales promotion e-mails can be analyzed in depth. This makes it possible to implement measures that are backed by concrete data.

Our PointArtist2 is a point customer system that manages both points and customer information in real time. It combines all of these functions, which have been developed through a process of continuous refinement based on customer feedback. As of January 2023, PointArtist2 is in use by over 60 million members and over 2,500 stores.

PointArtist2 uses various functions to help companies build positive, long-term relationships with customers. For example, not only does it offer basic point service functions such as managing point member information and card information and configuring point settings, but it also provides customers with convenience by rapidly granting their points, so they can immediately use them in next purchases. In addition, the system can easily be integrated with various systems such as core systems, it can be rapidly deployed, companies can start small and then take advantage of its flexibility to smoothly expand system functionality, and it includes security functions. It is a solution that uses the know-how we have built over the years (Fig. 1).

Highly flexible and expandable point services

One of the major features of PointArtist2 is that multiple point granting settings can be combined to carry out an extensive range of rich promotional activities. It has various other functions, as well. One of these is its rapid response -- it can respond to point inquiries from POS systems and smartphones in less than a second*, eliminating wait times.
* Average response time based on past our company results

It also supports multi-POS, so POS systems from multiple manufacturers can be used at the same time. This is one of the distinctive features of our system and is a rarity for systems of this type. This is possible because PointArtist2 controls point calculations and sales promotion receipts. Companies that use POS systems from multiple manufacturers can use PointArtist2 without worry, as it achieves consistent levels of service across point rates and sales promotion receipt issuing conditions* (Fig. 2).
* We do not guarantee that all specification differences, even minor differences, between the POS systems of different manufacturers will be aligned completely.

Growing attention is being turned to ecosystems created by collaboration and coordination between different companies, connecting their systems and services. To accurately meet the business needs of these ecosystems, we have also reviewed and revised PointArtist2 at the design level. This revision not only enabled PointArtist2 to support multiple POS systems, but also provided support for Web API-based integration, improved the solution's function expandability, and made it easier to connect with external systems. For example, PointArtist2 can now be used to provide more precise and effective point services by utilizing attribute information gathered by questionnaire systems, and customer relation management (CRM) systems can make use of PointArtist2 data. We have created a system in which necessary functions can be combined and widely used. Furthermore, by providing it as a cloud service, we have reduced deployment times and costs and created a flexible and expandable solution that enables customers to start small and expand as their business grows or their data volume rises. Through the years, we have developed a high level of expertise regarding the real-time processing of high volumes of transaction. We have now optimized that expertise for the cloud, and PointArtist2 has evolved into a highly reliable system used by a major retailer with over ten million point system members.

Furthermore, PointArtist2 handles customers' personal information, so it has a host of security measures such as transmission and database encryption and logging of system operations. To protect customer services and operations from interruption, the solution's systems are provided with redundancy and managed services are offered for system monitoring and operation.

The PointArtist2 solution has an established track record of use in major supermarkets, commercial facilities, and more. Its effectiveness can be seen in its track record. It has been used to integrate online supermarket and e-commerce site points, linking existing point cards with electronic money and providing customers with even greater convenience. It has also been used to integrate previously independently managed systems within a single group to improve customer operations and enhance marketing activities.

The point services of the future, contributing to marketing activities

We aim to drive further evolutions in point systems. We plan to provide customers with greater convenience and make point systems even more fun to use by, for example, using a single ID to bundle multiple point services provided by a customer and grant points for all applicable services simply by authenticating that ID in stores. Another way is by linking systems with current customer location information to notify customers of point cards, sale information, discount coupons, and the like that they can use in nearby stores. Furthermore, congestion information, measured using sensors and beacons inside stores, could be used to change point rates based on the time of day, and it reduces store congestion. This could be linked to weather information to provide push notifications of coupons, encouraging customers to come to stores (Fig. 3).

We are working hard to coordinate with various services and partners to make these kinds of future point services a reality.

We are seeking collaborators and growing PointArtist2 into a platform that combines diverse services with added value. By doing so, we will make it a system that eventually extends to all point services, leveraging their data to the fullest to foster greater customer loyalty.

  • The corporate names, organization names, job titles and other names and titles appearing in this article are those as of July 2023.
  • PointArtist is a registered trademark of Toshiba Digital Solutions Corporation in Japan.
  • PointArtist2 is not currently available for purchase outside Japan.
  • Other company names and product names mentioned in this article may be trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective companies.