Saturday, 22 June 2013

why shopping loyalty schemes don't work

I know there's those fortune teller types who can predict lifestyle from the contents of shopping trollies. Along the lines of 'Busy young family', 'Office worker lunch break', 'Single female' and so on, and that there's proper industry classifications for these demographic baskets.

There's also some fun mathematics and algorithms to predict missing items from shopping trollies - surely that will become one of the next things in checkout lines ('Would you like us to find you the maple syrup to go with those pancakes?' etc.)

The last century supermarket 'shopper loyalty' systems persist, but still have some very basic flaws in use. I'm suspicious that they want to appear to be being helpful whilst deliberately failing most of the time. An unspoken collusion of the programming and the store staff.

The merchants would deny this and cite the great case studies, heavy investment and use of micro-segmentation data mining to build loyalty, but it's still mainly a faff to use these things.

My recent examples (I should really have made this a Thursday Thirteen)

  • The 'Match' systems used to show that I've saved money at supermarket X, compared with the others. Sure. I get a voucher if I've been charged more than elsewhere. It's like an 'I lose' ticket. I just paid £3.47 more than if I'd shopped elsewhere. Thanks.
  • Refunding the same ticket on the next shop may allow me to get a saving. Goody. Except, at the end of the next shop I get another ticket saying I've just spent £2.49 more than if I shopped elsewhere. By now I'm thinking I need to be shopping at that other place.
  • Didn't need to visit the store for a couple of weeks? Oops the remaining ticket has now timed out, so the store has now retained my overspend in any case
  • What about those little barcodes on key rings? It's a pretty good way to collect the points without having to do much, so long as you don't mind carrying a permanent advert for the store(s) on the keyring. In my case I thought I'd use the iPhone ap instead, which also allows the barcode to be stored and swiped. Except, after an update to the iPhone, the system forgot my number. Inconveniently it wouldn't let me log on either.
  • Vouchers. Yes, I get given vouchers at the end of a shop. Sometimes for improbable purchases. I normally empty them into a bin at the first opportunity. I used to be amused by those electric machines they use in U.S. Stores that issue discount tickets at the point of decision (e.g. for shampoo). I suppose at least they are relevant to the shopping, although I suppose a sign with "Offer- $1 reduction" might work just as well.
  • Voucher redemption. I can't really be bothered to carry vouchers around and fiddle about trying to use them. I get sent a bundle every so often from whichever schemes I'm in, but they also go into the bin. I've seen other people with these at the checkout and it can take some time to get them processed. A kind of anti-loyalty scheme for the fast shopper caught behind someone using them in a checkout queue.
  • A few days ago one of those booklets arrived by post, just as I was heading to the store. Experiment time. I thought I'd see what happened. There were about twenty or so vouchers in the perforated booklet. Some were for common things, like milk and bakery products. I reached the checkout and triumphantly handed a few ostensibly relevant ones over. Even that was fiddly because of the multi page booklet and the need to tear out relevant individual squares. Epic fail. The milk I'd purchased was the wrong type. The bakery products I'd picked were excluded. The coffee voucher for two packs of coffee could only be used for one pack in a single shop. The double points vouchers were not valid until July. Yes, I had become the person in the line that everyone hates. Except there was no line of shoppers.

  • Disloyally, I threw the rest of the vouchers away when I returned home. I'd suspected all along it was all a waste of time.

I could go on, but I'm clearly not loyal enough for these schemes. Maybe I'm not the target market. My simple suggestion is that instead they just send me a large value money voucher each month to persuade me to shop in their store. More a transaction than a relationship, but a whole lot simpler and it might even work.


Lady Banana said...

The vouchers are quite annoying, I try to keep them in my purse with my Nectar card so I remember to use them.

I do love the points though, always have a nice spend at Christmas!

OldLady Of The Hills said...

I know here in the U.S. thy use coupons a lot and "specials"---some items reduced for a few days....OR, a two for one deal...OR, a price on one being reduced to make it worth your while to but two or three.
I know people who LIVE by the coupons and Indeed, it saves then a lot of money over a a years period of time.

Nikki-ann said...

I must admit, we had some vouchers in the post from a well known supermarket and they were actually for things we buy on a regular basis and actually neede in this weeks shop... Saved a tenner on a £70 shop, so it wasn't bad going!

I am always sceptical about so called "offers" though and always check the price for kilo or litre etc as it's often cheaper to get the ones which aren't on offer.