What does loyalty mean for Waitrose?
One company that would not come top of mind if retail loyalty programmes were being discussed is Waitrose, but Alex Murray, head of web and multichannel for the upmarket retailer, insists that loyalty is at the core of everything they do.
For a start, there is the MyWaitrose loyalty card. This does not offer points, but it gives the card holder the opportunity to get a cup of good coffee when they visit the store and a free newspaper if they spend the required amount for that day of the week. Together with the John Lewis Partnership/Waitrose credit card, this provides useful data on behaviour amongst their most loyal customers across the stores.
But there is a great deal more to loyalty from the Waitrose point of view than this reward for spend. Murray (right) explained: “What we do is not always rational. Payment for example, is a hygiene factor, it is not what we focus on, so we try to make it as simple as possible, and fun. So the company is trialling Quickcheck, which uses a device currently for self-checkout, but could use the mobile phone in the future. It aims to get customers out the store as quickly as possible, which may be viewed as counter-intuitive.
“Then there is the credit card, for those who want to benefit from shopping across the whole estate, and there are a number of clubs such as the Waitrose wine club. Together with the Waitrose home delivery service, everything is pitched at providing as seamless as possible a service for the customer, however they choose to shop.”
In terms of investment, Murray admitted that there will be no more major investment on large infrastructure projects because Waitrose, like the other food retailers, is concentrating on smaller, satellite stores to provide fast shopping for busy people.
He said: “The expectations of the next generation are astoundingly different. There are a growing number of shoppers coming in for lunch and small top up shops. They are not there to linger. But we still have different audiences in different environments. We have those making small, fast purchases, and then the pensioners and those on a day out experience in the larger stores, and of course there is online shopping with home delivery. In terms of a roadmap, there is some nervousness. I think to myself, if I create this integration, will it be right in two to three years?”
Payment is a particular concern. Mobile payment is clearly a requirement, but with ten wallets on offer, plus a huge number of alternative payment systems in competition with the bank-favoured NFC/contactless, what should a retailer invest in?
“We will see rapid change providing the market doesn’t fragment even further. There is a hopspotch of mechanisms. The wonderful thing about chip and PIN was that it was ubiquitous. If payment types and models multiply, it will slow down the whole process to mobile payment.”
This has implications for the way retailers can evolve their customer loyalty programmes. Mobile enables a two-way conversation between business and customer, and payment, while not exciting in itself, opens the door to this conversation. If a customer logs on to pay, then it makes the connection.
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