Next-Gen Giving

Legal Sea Foods uses app to combine charitable acts with e-commerce.

By Len Lewis (Published in Stores Magazine - Dec 2014)

One of the most important words in the retail lexicon these days is "connectivity" — bringing together retailers, consumers, vendors and other groups on a multitude of devices.

But it's not just another operational buzzword. It could also represent a vehicle to connect retailers and consumers with the causes they want to support while providing an effective rewards program through a new e-commerce platform.

This is the idea behind WeWIN, which has developed the first application programming interface that combines e-commerce, mobile technology and social media. WeWIN uses a flexible and scalable platform that interfaces with a company’s mobile website, multiple applications and operating systems.

"We have been involved with reward programs like American Express where we had national exposure. But that was for business. This program is strictly for charitable giving," says Roger Berkowitz, president and CEO of Boston-based Legal Sea Foods, noting that the restaurant chain's partnership with the American Red Cross blood donor app has surpassed expectations.

The blood donor app enables users to schedule and track blood donations, earn rewards and invite friends to join them in donating. It was first used at the Day of Remembrance at Boston's Fenway Park in honor of those who died and were injured during the Boston Marathon bombing and the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Hundreds of people who donated blood at the ballpark received a cup of Legal Sea Foods' clam chowder.

EMBRACING THE TECHNOLOGY

"Social media interaction is paramount," says Grant Hansen, director of digital product management for the Red Cross. "We recognize that in order to engage a wide range of blood donors, we have to embrace mobile and social technology. We also recognize that consumers are accustomed to receiving offers, incentives and discounts via their mobile devices.

"In developing the blood donor app we sought to collaborate with companies like WeWIN that could deliver the tools and technology to help us reach and solicit a broad cross-section of blood donors and reward them accordingly."

Legal Sea Foods has partnered with many institutions close to its head-quarters in the greater Boston area, including a long-time partnership with the Boston Children's Hospital. Projects at that facility are funded, in part, by a portion of the gift certificates sold by Legal Sea Foods.

"We have always believed that we have a responsibility to participate in the communities we're in," says Berkowitz. "It's part of our DNA.

"In the past we've done many things on a more regional basis. Today we have a retail/wholesale division that makes products like chowder available on a national basis to retailers like Costco, BJ's or Sam's [Club], as well as to customers through our online catalog. By putting more products out there we're developing a national reach, and from a strategic standpoint we hope to cover the country," he says.

Legal's first effort with WeWIN and the Red Cross is the latest incarnation of a relationship that has been going on for many years. "I started giving blood personally in the late 1960s. I’ve always been a strong proponent of the blood program and we’ve been working with the Red Cross Boston region to coordinate programs. This included either running our own blood drive or participating in a pro-gram like the one with the Red Sox," says Berkowitz.

"WeWIN came to us because they thought we would be a suitable partner for the project."

FINDING SYNERGY

Donna Morrissey, director of national partnerships for the American Red Cross, thought so too. "I’m a third-generation Bostonian and customer of Legal Sea Foods. We’ve seen the reach of their charitable endeavors and their support of the community. For years, Roger Berkowitz and the company have set a real example by hosting numerous blood drives and donating thousands of gallons of clam chowder to those who have so generously come in to roll up their sleeves," she says.

When Morrissey first saw the WeWIN donor app rewards program, it made sense to partner with a technology pioneer like Legal Sea Foods. "When you think of the national footprint … its ability to bring meals across the country and our ability to send expressions of gratitude to donors through the new app made for a perfect match."

Implementation of the program was relatively painless, according to Berkowitz. "Our IT department worked very closely with WeWIN and the Red Cross and it all came together reasonably quickly. Everyone was on board with it and wanted to see it done."

The program started on September 5 and saw 120,000 downloads in the first two weeks. "This just surpassed our goal," Morrissey says. "It puts the power to save lives in people’s hands."