Minnie Wang
Aug 9, 2022

DFI Retail's Ronald Wong on how the Yuu loyalty app's marketing cut through the noise

The brand VP and marketing leader of Yuu, one of Hong Kong's leading loyalty and O2O retail platforms, shares how innovation, community and inclusion were key to its success.

(L) Ronald Wong, Vice President, Brand, Digital & Social Marketing, Yuu DFI Retail Group (R) Yuu to me campaign
(L) Ronald Wong, Vice President, Brand, Digital & Social Marketing, Yuu DFI Retail Group (R) Yuu to me campaign

Over the past two years, most people in Hong Kong will have been asked at some point: "Are you a Yuu member?" 

Initiated in the summer of 2020, Yuu Rewards Club was designed as a super customer loyalty programme across all retail brands under DFI Retail Group (formerly known as Dairy Farm). It quickly became a multiple-brand one-stop O2O customer app called 'Yuu to me', connecting them with deals and rewards from retailers like Wellcome, Market Place, Mannings, 7-Eleven, Ikea, KFC and Pizza Hut.

Now, Yuu is everywhere in the city. The programme has rapidly expanded into a platform integrating over 2,500 stores and restaurants with 4 million members or over 50% of Hong Kong's population. Thanks in part to savvy marketing with help from creative agency M&C Saatchi Spencer and media agency PHD, Yuu's success has been celebrated in Hong Kong's mainstream media as game-changing, as a “fresh take” on ecommerce.

Ronald Wong, vice president of brand, digital and social marketing at DFI Retail Group has been leading the digital transformation from 'Yuu Rewards Club' to 'Yuu to me', initially as marketing director since June 2019 before being named to his current role this past March.

Named to Campaign Asia’s latest Power List in June, Wong sees how digital media approaches have been shifting as we move toward a cookieless world. "Customer loyalty and engagement based on your own digital assets and first-party data become more important than ever," he says.

By leveraging customer insights internally with an external media buy, Yuu has become DFI's most significant CRM innovation, providing symbiosis for various brands, not just limited to DFI but other partners too, such as Livi Bank and Hang Seng Bank. 
 
Campaign spoke with Wong about his story of starting Yuu from scratch. He shared the brand's experiences around how to attract two million registrations within four weeks, how to involve millions of people in its charity scheme, and how to build a more sustainable, innovative and inclusive customer experience journey to unlock "the full O2O potential”, all amid the economic slowdown, pandemic lockdown and travel restrictions in Hong Kong.

How did you start Yuu Rewards Club two years ago? 

Ronald Wong: DFI Retail Group (Dairy Farm Group at the time) was on a digital transformation journey to unlock the business potential for its broad portfolio of mega retail brands in Hong Kong, ranging from grocery retail, convenience, health & beauty to food and much more. 

It was an amazing opportunity both for myself as well as the customers because a coalition loyalty programme of this scale doesn’t happen very often anywhere in the world. It requires a huge amount of resource investment and coordination between coalition partners for the programme itself to be successful. At its heart, it’s definitely a customer-centric move because the shoppers do get more for free and with ease.

I was lucky enough to be invited to join the project team, and I made the decision without any doubts. I have always been passionate about brand marketing and customer engagement, and my past experience is also a combination of integrated brand marketing and loyalty.

Yuu Rewards is just the perfect package you can get as a marketer – you get to create and build a brand from scratch and come up with a way to make it resonate with your audience. It’s at the same time a mega-scale CRM programme, so I got to also design the overall CRM communications approach, making use of customer insight, which is in itself another sizable project that impacts the daily lives of many. Not to mention that you get to work with amazing retail brands and the intensity of brand penetration into various customer touch points is just unprecedented in Hong Kong.

What are the key factors that attracted millions of members in such a short period of time?  

First up, the customer proposition is simple and highly relevant to the customers in HK. Yuu Rewards’ customer proposition is: “More Places, More Rewards, Faster”. Meaning that getting rewards for your everyday purchases that you’re already making is so effortless. There is a network of over 2,500 stores and restaurants in HK and it literally covers HK customers’ needs every single day. There is really nothing additional that we’re asking the customers to do to be rewarded, so why not?

We designed an ultra-effective big bang launch campaign to get the greatest cut-through in the shortest period of time. The creative message was single-minded and laser-sharp: “The biggest rewards club ever”. I think it’s the only marketing campaign in Hong Kong that ever truly delivered an O2O campaign experience. Our store team members were hugely supportive and excited by the launch of Yuu  and they’re all very happy to be part of such a big event, so they were all very proactive in helping to recruit members. I’m sure most Hong Kongers must have been asked, “Are you a Yuu member?” in one of our stores. 

We’ve also thought long and hard on how we can bring along a happy vibe to the town, since it was a bit of a sensitive period in Hong Kong. We wanted the campaign to be memorable and at the same time uplifting to resonate with a broad spectrum of audience in Hong Kong, including expats and domestic helpers who are equally important to us as customers. That’s why we landed on the 'sing and dance' creative expression and also why we landed on adapting Billy Joel’s classic “Uptown Girl”, which George Lam and a number of younger generation singers did their cover versions.

What are the marketing ideas behind these successful campaigns? What strategies do you adopt to deliver the content to the target audience?

It’s been a lot of fun to work on Yuu’s marketing projects because there’s always something new to talk about. 

However, we need to constantly make sure that the creative executions tie-in closely with our key messages and that the messages are communicated in the simplest possible manner because we are talking to a very wide spectrum of audience. It sounds basic, but it is about the balance between creativity and communications effectiveness and clarity.

The George Lam campaign’s main objective is really to create an unforgettable brand with a fun personality and to cut through the noises in the mass consumer market. That’s why we crafted the Y-U-U identity and turned it into a sonic device, leveraging a very catchy melody. The campaign did a fantastic job in driving brand awareness, and we have 99% brand awareness in Hong Kong, which will obviously benefit us in many more years to come. 

The launch of Yuu to me is another key milestone of the Yuu brand’s transformation. We have followed through on the Yuu brand’s playful character, and this time, we wanted to focus more on the family audience in Hong Kong ,who have become much more digital and ecommerce savvy in recent years. The consumer insight tells us that ecommerce customers value convenience, and, at the same time, buying from trusted brands is also an important factor. So 'Yuu to me' provides them with the best of both worlds, and it’s like a platform that gives our customers “superpowers”. That’s why we have used that as a theme across the 'Yuu to me' campaign. Moses and Aimee are a huge hit for our customers! We have received overwhelmingly positive feedback on the creatives.

All our campaigns feature an array of brands and are usually supported by rich video stories. That’s why data plays a big role when it comes to content distribution to help us increase content relevancy for our audience. We reference our own first-party data and customer segmentation to inform our media selection decisions.

Did you and your team encounter any difficulties during the pandemic, especially when 'Yuu to me' was launched in May?

The Covid waves definitely gave us great challenges in deciding when to launch 'Yuu to me', and we actually shifted our plans a few times. The key reasons were not so different from many other industries. We’ve had team members and/or their family members affected by Covid and had to stay home or be under quarantine. We had to flex our campaign plan and put the health and safety of our team members and also our agency partners as the top priority. I think the production of the campaign alone took considerably longer because of this, so we’re all very grateful to everyone’s support in making this a success during this difficult time.

How do you support the Yuu Give Back charity programme? How did it attract more people to join and donate? 

We launched 'Yuu Give Back' as our anchor CSR initiative to give back to the society. We have partnered with two great charity partners – Foodlink Foundation and Helping Hand to relay our members’ charitable donations to the beneficiaries.

Yuu has over 4 million members now and is a great platform for us to encourage our members to support charity causes. We leverage our key festive campaigns of the year, such as our anniversary campaign and Christmas campaign, to promote charity donations. For example, we encouraged our members to donate with 20 times the charity points matching during those festive times. Over 642 million points were donated in 2022! It shows how supporting the Yuu members are towards those charity messages.

This mid-autumn festival, we are inviting our Yuu members and their families to do something extra fun and meaningful. They can use their Yuu points to redeem charity mooncakes and also redeem to take part in charity workshops to make traditional paper lanterns guided by a Hong Kong paper crafting master, Mr. Mo. It’s the perfect activity for a family reunion occasion, and all points donated will support the Foodlink Foundation’s beneficiaries.

The new 'Yuu to me' in 2022 is turning the app from a customer loyalty programme into an O2O digital shopping platform. The platform goes beyond DFI Retail Group, so what’s next?

Yes, indeed, we have completed two major digital transformation in a short period of time. But we are still a relatively young brand, and it is important that we keep up our promise to the customers, so the immediate focus is to further refine customer experiences for both 'Yuu to me' and 'Yuu Rewards'. We aspire to be the number one digital platform in Hong Kong in order to help customers eat better and live better.

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