Does Automation of Redemption Actually Work? 🤖

Lessons from a year of merchINSIGHTS

By Mike Tipton, VP Customer Success & Marketing

In 2016, at IAAPA, we launched merchINSIGHTS. We built the program to automate the ordering process for our customers. No longer would they need to worry about ordering because our system would take care of everything for them. Seems wonderful, right?

In a world of which most of our monthly bills can be set up on autopay and processed without us ever cracking open a checkbook, or logging in to make a payment, we as consumers, believe anything is possible so long as a software can be programmed to do it.

But unlike a bank account, where you set what you want to be withdrawn, the world of redemption has more variables than even we (with over 22 years of industry experience) could predict.

To be fully transparent, we learned a lot about our customers through merchINSIGHTS. One of the insights we pulled from the last 15 months is that you, Customer, ultimately need to have control. Not only that…you want control of your redemption program. This need created variables we didn’t anticipate when we launched the automated program. And, as a purpose-driven company, we found that trying to pull off something like what merchINSIGHTS meant to accomplish ultimately was in stark contrast to who we strive to be as a company. There were many other reasons — some big, some small. The conclusion?

Order automation isn’t really automation. It’s more like Wizard of Oz. There’s someone (or a whole team) behind the curtain, pulling the levers. Why? Because there is really no software available on the market, no matter how clever the marketing is, that can accommodate for the following 3 variables and reasons for why automation doesn’t quite cut it for a redemption program.

1 | Automation is an “If, Then, And” equation. Redemption…not so much. I have been helping clients create automation strategies for over 5 years and each client had to work within an “If, Then” world.

For example, in email marketing, IF a subscriber opens an email AND clicks on a link to a website, THEN they are triggered to get a series of related emails or product suggestions. These emails and products can be a pre-programmed cycle that occurs in loops.

In redemption, however, that’s not the case. It boils down to SKU count, correct scan-outs, and daily traffic variables. Automation doesn’t take into account things like Spring Break, teachers in an entire state being on strike, a school trip to your center, or a crazy busy weekend of birthday parties.

In other words; automation isn’t predictive. Several of our customers told us merchINSIGHTS put them in a difficult position because “the system” has them on a weekly schedule that doesn’t consider these random events.

2 | Scan-outs of the wrong product. Scanbooks are something Redemption Plus is working on minimizing for our customers because the sheer bulk of a scanbook leads to mistakes in scanning out the right product.

We’ve seen it first-hand. A kid redeems tickets for a toy and instead of trying to find it in the scanbook the employee finds a ticket value that matches the toy and scans it. Thus, preventing the kid and his parents from waiting too long and becoming impatient.

Over time, this leads to inventory issues. If this happens multiple times a night on busy weekends, we can guarantee your next week’s order will be wrong. Customers need to have the ability to review what’s going to be sent to them before it’s sent.

3 | Automation keeps your employees from knowing how to do their jobs. Because orders are “out of control” of your employees, so is everything else that occurs in your redemption area. We realized the best employees want to know how to order redemption. They want to have a hand in it, to make it their own…for better or worse.

If you take away the ordering aspect of redemption, you actually make an employee worse at their job. You need someone who cares about running that aspect of your business. If you take away the ability to make decisions about what product is in the room, based on real-life experiences, then you essentially create disengagement. We all know how much turn-over costs. It truly is profitable to have your employees fully empowered to make decisions. (More on that here…)

Only Automating Where It Makes Sense

That’s not to say that we are ditching all our automated features. But instead of trying to do everything, we’re only going to automate what makes sense. The time-consuming tasks that take time away from your staff can and should be automated, but we want to empower your staff and hand over the controls to you. After all, it’s your money.

We have been moving our merchINSIGHTS customers to Rapid Reorder. In the last couple weeks, I visited customers who confused merchINSIGHTS and Rapid Reorder, so let’s set the record straight.

Rapid Reorder is a software solution that pulls items that have been scanned out past their par levels into a shopping cart. It removes the step of searching for the products that you need to re-order and simply places them in your cart. This allows you, Customer, to ultimately make the calls and click the buy button.

This solution has been fully vetted with EMBED and Intercard systems. The variances we have found in making them work for our customers are typically small but require your card reader provider to work with us and you in setting up Rapid Reorder and testing it to ensure accuracy.

You don’t have to be a merchINSIGHTS subscriber to be put on Rapid Reorder, either! Simply reach out to your Account Manager to get things rolling. We provide end-to-end solutions for your redemption program and anything we can provide that saves you and your staff time, we’re all ears.

In a few short weeks, we will be rolling out an updated service model. This is the way we do business, modernized, to better support our customers and growth of our industry. Our à la carte service add-ons, paired with tiered stages will allow Redemption Plus to help you no matter where you’re at with your business and its development.

This model will enable you to opt-in to design, merchandising, and data-driven product curation that empowers your staff, instead of keeping them in the dark. We’re excited to be doing what we do the best instead of trying to “cover the bases” with a program that creates disengagement, excess and irrelevant product delivery, and variation in your centers. Stay tuned…

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Our proprietary Storyboards are a series of pre-designed merchandising layouts, backed by analytics. They’re created with a specific theme or category in mind to engage your guests and make finding the perfect prize a piece of cake.