Get to Know Leaders in Loyalty | Fanatics, Doug Glazer | Q&A
Updated: May 11, 2022
Who’s on First?
(It’s Doug Glazer!)
Doug Glazer started his career in subscription marketing in the magazine industry - working for publishers including Time Inc. He then took that subscription and direct marketing experience to lead marketing for Amazon Prime in its very early days. "That was really my transition from selling subscriptions to managing memberships," he says. Glazer eventually ended up at Nordstrom, working on Nordstrom Rewards and launching program extensions including their first non-tender rewards. From Nordstrom, he landed where he has been for the past six and a half years - Fanatics.
From showing off your team spirit in those 50-yard-line seats to tossing on your favorite weekend t-shirt that represents your #1 athlete this season, Fanatics is
the one-stop-shop for showcasing your fandom across all sports. Doug Glazer, Sr. Director of Customer Loyalty and Gift Cards at Fanatics, is supporting sports fans across the enterprise by continuing to drive the operations and program design for Fanatics’ customer loyalty programs, which include FanCash Rewards, FanCash+, and the FanCash Rewards Card.
“Right now we’re very excited about FanCash+, which is a new program that we launched last fall that is like a frequent flier mileage shopping program through which our FanCash members can shop at other merchants and earn more FanCash to bring back to the site," says Glazer.
So, it's no surprise that with a background as decorated in customer loyalty as Glazer’s, we were excited to sit down with him to learn more about how Fanatics is setting itself up to deal with the demands of modern customers and where Glazer thinks the future of customer loyalty programs is heading.
It’s kickoff time, let's talk customer loyalty with Doug Glazer.
Run the Clock: It’s Q&A Time
Q: Talk to us about your business model (loyalty specific) and how it aligns with your business objectives for 2022.
A. "We have longer term and near-term objectives with our loyalty program. Over the long term, our goal is to drive engagement, retain, and acquire customers year over year. Pretty standard; more immediately, we use the rewards and tactics of the program to very successfully drive frequency and repeat.
As Fanatics has expanded from being just a licensed sports merchandise company to now building a full digital platform for sports fans, the business objective is to continue growing the 80 million-plus customer base that we’ve built. Six years ago the view of loyalty was - how do we use it to drive more purchases? Now, I think loyalty has a much more important strategic role to play in keeping customers active and driving retention, not just for the apparel business, but across the entire ecosystem as we're now involved in trading cards, collectibles, NFT’s, and much more in the future."
Q. When we talk to a lot of different Heads of Loyalty, and even Analysts, we hear a lot about the ‘holy grail’ of personalization to engage with members or customers. Where do you think you and your peers are on that journey?
A. "I think that Fanatics is getting better but it’s still early days. With personalization, we put a lot of effort into collecting and deriving data like team preference, sport preference, which are obviously huge drivers of interest, and we work hard to get communications right so that I'm seeing a Seahawks jersey in my email and you're seeing a Forty Niners jersey in yours. Getting that right for the individual customer is very important and we’ve gotten really good at doing it in email. Pulling that all the way through the shopping trip so the end-to-end experience is as personalized is still challenging for us, but we're getting there."
Q. One of the other things that comes up a lot when we talk to people around what loyalty leaders like yourself are facing, is either a data problem, a data science problem, or scale when it comes to getting personalization right. Which one do you think it is for Fanatics?
A. "For us, it's really more of applying the data that we have and building the services on our ecommerce platform to use it. So we have a lot of data, that’s not an issue; we’re a native ecommerce company. And I think we've solved a lot of issues that many retailers have of having disparate data sources; we have pretty clean customer records, we are just early days in building the mechanisms to pull it through the entire fan journey across our platform."
Q. What are the repercussions if the industry doesn't address the issues surrounding activating customer data - either the loyalty industry or the tech solutions around it, what are the long term impacts or repercussions?
A. "People talk so much about how the expectations of customers are changing. And I think the repercussion of not using the data well, whether it's through a service provider, or in our case, continuing to build out our own tech stack, is customers will turn you off - they will disengage. You don't have a whole lot of leeway that way and I think if someone's doing it better than you are, that's where they'll put their energy.
As consumers, none of us really actively engage in everything that we potentially could. What’s the stat? On average we belong to 20 loyalty programs but use three or four? We had that in mind when creating our FanCash+ shopping/card-linked offering. FanCash+ isn’t going to be for everyone, but my expectation is that for our core customers, the value prop of earning FanCash at Home Depot or the grocery store will be more compelling than earning a couple dollars on their next credit card statement. I think the same is true for loyalty programs, big picture, right? You have to be the better loyalty program period or you’ll be in the three quarters that never get activated."
Q. How do you define loyalty at Fanatics?
A. "In the rewards world, as you know, the programmatic approach to showing our loyalty to customers is by giving back to them and continuing to earn their loyalty. But I like the way our Chairman and CEO Michael Rubin thinks about the business – if we can’t make it better for the fan, we shouldn’t be doing it. Whether that’s selling apparel, creating NFT’s, or reinventing trading cards, we’re working across the entire business to make it the best fan experience it can be."
Q. How do you see your role driving and defining loyalty for Fanatics?
A. "I approach everything we do from the customer perspective, and I bring that lens to the retail operation. I think with my work and the work of my colleagues in the CRM team, we are shifting the focus a bit from the next transaction to developing customer relationships that will be more durable."
Q. In addition to FanCash and FanCash+, what are the other components of your program for loyalty?
A. "The big pillars of our program right now are FanCash, FanCash Plus, and our private label credit card. The broad vision for FanCash is that it will be relevant to customers across this growing suite of businesses and it will be the connective tissue and a way to access all sorts of new fan oriented categories.
So that’s why FanCash, and not more coupons or discounts, are such a big focus for us. Apart from the core value of loyalty, and the psychology of earning that goes along with that, FanCash will be transferable across all our businesses. In the same way it’s already transferable among our commerce businesses [like] NFL shop, MLB shop, NBA store, you’ll be able to earn FanCash on NFTs and redeem it on gear; so it's tying all of the properties together."
Q. A lot of people say they want to make a deeper and more emotional connection with their customers. Analysts are saying offers are a key way of doing that. What's your opinion on offers as a vehicle to connect with Fanatics customers?
A. "I agree with that but I would add offers done right and offers that show the customer that you know them and value them. I think knowing them, to bring it back to personalization, is really important. Not just throwing dollars at a customer, that gets tired.
We use FanCash, for example, to celebrate wins. So your team just won the Super Bowl, hey, we know you're going to want a championship t-shirt, let's celebrate with some FanCash, let's make it easier for you to do that.
I have no problem focusing on the transactional nature of what we do but we want to make it feel great to the customer so that they enjoy shopping with us so that we're their destination and that they know they can count on us.
You know, year in and year out when your team is a winner, when your team's rebuilding, we will speak to you in an appropriate way."
Q. What's one thing that our listeners should remember when it comes to loyalty or what's gonna matter to consumers in 2022?
A. "I think it loops back to this idea of not just personalization, but speaking to your customer, as a person with a personal voice, even at scale is really important. Giving them a way to connect with you completely aside from great offers, great program design, and great levers for the business- just connecting as people I think is hugely important."
Q.What's one thing in the loyalty industry that you absolutely feel passionate about that needs to be solved? And how are you attacking that problem?
A. "I think keeping the focus on relevance, and understanding what the customer really wants from you, is important. I think we wasted a lot of time, when we started building out our program, focusing on things that didn't matter to customers. For example, winning the opportunity to go to a sporting event or to win tickets to an awards show sounds exciting but wasn’t to our fans - what they really want is a better shopping experience. I'd say that one thing I took away from my time at Nordstrom, is that a happy customer is the customer who is walking out with the item they want. Everything else is secondary.
So we've pulled back quite a bit from the experiences, in terms of, and are focused on building the features and benefits our customers have told us they want;. Doing a better job of connecting people with the gear they want by making it easy to get and saving them some money in the process. It sounds transactional, but I honestly think that over time, that's what matters the most."
Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
As Glazer explained, for Fanatics and other brands, focusing on creating an end-to-end personalized experience with customers is vital to customer loyalty program success and overall brand success. And as brands continue to adapt their strategies to modern customers, finding ways to build out their tech stacks in order to do so is a huge opportunity. Now that’s a winning combination!
“Really knowing what your customer wants, and giving it to them. If you keep that as your Northstar, at least you'll be heading in the right direction,” says Glazer.