On Fridays we usually bring you the weekly round up of retail news and point of sale reviews. This week as I was going through the various top news stories nothing stood as out as “Important Retail News” (a good thing?) so instead I decided to write an opinion as a consumer from my point of view.
Why should my opinion count and why should you listen to me as a consumer? The reason being, I shop for a family of four (which was 6 at one point in time), we are on a strict budget as many families throughout the country. Through the years it’s been coupons, discounts and only buying what is on sale. I also favor the local small retailers in my small town and luckily they are all very generous and friendly businesses.
About three months ago I started shopping at more “Big Box” stores such as Walmart and Meijer because the only stores we have in our small town consists of an independently owned very small Kroger grocery store and a Rite Aid Pharmacy. I assumed I would get better value and cheaper prices going to the larger stores…that was UNTIL both my small town Kroger and Rite Aid started ramping up their customer rewards programs.
Kroger has had a long time running customer card that allows for discounted groceries when shopping and presenting the cashier with your “card” at the POS. If you don’t have the “card” you’re in big trouble because you are going to pay extremely over inflated prices. For years we have joked about how Kroger only uses the customer loyalty card to bring people in with great sale prices only to find out they don’t get a discount if they don’t have their card. You always here the all to familiar saying in the checkout line “do you mind if I borrow your Kroger card?” The company did get smart at one point and offered for customers to enter their phone number in the point of sale, if registered with your card it will bring up your reward information.
The last few months Kroger has gone above and beyond my satisfaction as a loyal customer. The Kroger Rewards program now tracks my purchases and sends me specialized coupons at the end of the month for products I actually buy. They also have a fuel rewards program now that allows you to save a certain amount of money off a gallon of gas depending on the amount of money you spent in the store last month.
The specialized coupons (which they double up to $1) combined with the fuel rewards for discounted gas has me shopping at Kroger every week like clockwork. The friendly home town atmosphere combined with the helpful staff and super savings makes for an overall happy shopping experience.
Rite Aid has also implemented a new customer rewards program in which I was not so keen on joining and let me tell you why. For one, who needs another plastic card to add to their key chain you to have find and pull out at the point of sale? Second, Rite Aid named their card “The Wellness Card”, I don’t get my prescriptions there (we have an excellent small town pharmacist that we use) and most of the over the counter medication I purchase at Kroger with double coupons.
The other day, the courteous sale person pointed out to me that the card was valid to give you discounts throughout the store on a number of various items not just “Wellness” items. I told her, they needed to change the name. Regardless, I joined the program and am I excited. The company runs promotions like if you buy this product “x” you will receive the discount price as well as a coupon on your receipt for money off your next purchase in the store. That’s how it works…so I bought a few discounted items and received my coupon for $4 off my next purchase, wow that’s a great deal!
My complaint (a relatively small one to the manager) was that I always forget to bring the coupons back in and use them. Guess what he said….be a smart shopper and buy the things you need on sale, check out get the coupon and go back through the store and purchase the items that weren’t on sale using your coupon immediately for instant satisfaction! Well I’ll be, a nice, generous manager that puts his customer’s needs before the corporations, what a sigh of relief.
The point I’m trying to make is as a small retail business you need to do everything possible to retain and gain the customers of your local area. Every one knows that customer service goes a long way in the retail world and adopting a loyalty program is a sure fire way to get those customers shopping.
As a small business establishment you have many options when it comes to customer rewards or loyalty programs. Companies such as Repeat Rewards will help you implement a fast and easy loyalty program or have a free giveaway day at your store. There are a number of ways you could reward your customers by using your imagination and putting your self in their shoes to bring grand ideas to your store.
Small retailers can start small, print your loyalty card as a business card and stamp it each time the customer makes a purchase then offer them a discount when the card is full. An idea from our local small town pharmacist I mentioned earlier is to have a staff member clip coupons from the local newspaper and place them in a basket at the point of sale for customers to look through as they are checking out.
Start thinking of ways to gather local support from your customers while providing them with the ultimate shopping experience. Check out some simple to implement rewards programs.