I’m not sure if it’s the same in the States, but here in the UK we have several different supermarkets all vying for our custom and willing to do all sorts of things to ensure that we come back week after week. Our biggest chains: Asda, Sainsburys, Tesco, Waitrose and Morrisons are in stiff competition with each other. Asda is the only grocery store that does not offer any kind of loyalty card but one assumes that this won’t be the case for much longer.
Grocery stores claim that ‘loyalty’ cards are there to reward the loyal custom of its regular shoppers by giving them points which can then be turned into monetary rewards. The real truth is that these ‘loyalty’ cards are simply a ruse to spy on shoppers and discover which items are most commonly purchased by them. I am sure that there are some geeky bods hidden in a bunker somewhere who correlate this data and use it to encourage us to buy things that we don’t necessarily need.
It’s long been practiced by grocery stores to offer you deals that seem too good to be true, and that’s because they usually are. These stores will record every item purchased with each swipe of your loyalty card and then send you coupons based upon what you’ve put in your basket/trolley. The idea behind this is to encourage you to buy more of what the supermarket wants you to buy and not what you actually need.
The lure of ‘money-off’ coupons and ‘two for one’ deals is enough to attract many unwitting shoppers into placing something in their basket or trolley that they don’t actually need and this isn’t the only trick that the big players use. Have you ever put much thought into how and why the shelves are stacked in your local store? They are laid out in such a way as to attract the human eye to exactly what the grocery store wants you to see, making it more likely that you will pick up an item that they want you to buy.
Perhaps the cruelest trick these stores play is the careful placement of quick treats and ‘sweets’ (candy bars etc. for my readers in the USA). Have you ever noticed how so many of them are placed either adjacent to the checkouts or actually on them? The major retailers have discovered that most of their shoppers buy their groceries on an empty stomach or with a gaggle of unruly young children along for the ride. Every kid knows how boring grocery shopping is, so what better way to shut them up than with a chocolate bar in their greasy mitt?
And that is exactly why such items are placed on or by the checkout tills, and do you know why?
Because it works.
But back to my original point: the grocery store coupon. It used to be common place to find ‘money off’ vouchers in weekly magazines to entice shoppers to try new products, but this seems to have been phased out over the last couple of years. With the rise in popularity of the loyalty card, many of the larger chains of grocery stores have stopped accepting any vouchers that were not produced or authorised by them, the biggest culprit of this being Tesco.
Well, Tesco is suffering from its smaller and cheaper competitors undercutting them and it is having a serious effect on their bottom line. The other major players have grown wise to Tesco’s games and have not only matched wits with them, but have actually beaten Tesco at their own game. Having been used to being ‘top dog’ for so long, Tesco is now finding itself lagging behind its competitors.
With so many chains all clambering for the custom of the Great British public, these stores are firmly entrenched in a price war with each other, often offering large loyalty point rewards for repeat customers and providing them with all sorts of incentives to keep them returning to their stores.
So what does this mean for the average shopper?
With the advent of ‘price matching’ between most major chains, it should encourage shoppers to remain loyal to whichever grocery store they choose. It all gets rather confusing when one chain only matches prices with one of their competitors and not all of them. This means that, in theory, a shopper could visit several different grocery stores and buy the products that are cheapest in each. That would also mean a great deal of driving here, there and everywhere and would more than likely negate the money saved on products.
All of these tricks and schemes seem to be having the opposite effect in driving customers away as they flock to the cheaper ‘European’ chains such as Aldi and Lidl. Yet what makes these lesser-known stores the front-runners when it comes to retaining their customer base? Well, they don’t use loyalty cards, money-off vouchers or any other gimmicks to get customers into their stores. Their offer good quality products at fair prices.
All of this goes to show that consumers don’t want to be bombarded with underhanded tactics and mind games, they just want their weekly grocery shop at a fair price. Maybe if the big chains took notice of this they wouldn’t find their customers flocking away in droves.