Friday, 30 May 2014

Tesco Bag-For-Life outlasts customer life time

Tescobag

What’s interesting about modern grocery shopping in the UK today is that the disposable plastic bag, so vilified by many, has been replaced with “lifetime” bags - thick plastic bags that last a long, long time.  

If you purchased one these bags you’d tend to be a regular customer because:-

  • a) You bought enough to warrant a big bag
  • b) You liked the brand enough to buy a “permanent” bag
  • c) The bag is re-usable so it probably means you intended to come back

What’s interesting though is that these bags also tell another story and they tell me that Tesco has a problem.

I don’t need to read a newspaper or their annual report to see this problem.  I don’t need to run customer research to see this problem.  I simply need to shop at Aldi and look at the bags that customers are carrying.

These bags may not literally last for a customers lifetime, but they do seem to have lasted longer than the customers lifetime with the grocer that sold them.

Coming out of my local Aldi, every other customer was carrying a rival supermarket bag.  What was more interesting was that 9 out of 10 of these was for Tesco.

Now this over-indexing of Tesco is probably due more to rival supermarket proximity than anything else, but it is indicative of a wider problem - previously loyal customers are shifting their loyalty.

It’s also closer to home for me personally - I was up until recently a highly loyal Tesco customer.  I saw the value in their loyalty programme and I received significant value back every year from the programme.  I used their supermarket, their home shopping, their insurance products, their fuel and their credit card.

Yet I left them to shop at Aldi.

I’m also not the only one judging by the bags people use, and more scientifically, based on the results of the latest Kantar survey.  This shows Tesco’s market share has dropped nearly 1 percentage point in the last year (down from 29.6% to 28.7%) and is down 3 percentage points from its peak of 31.8%.  Given each percentage point is worth around £1.27bn, that’s a lot of sales value.

This isn’t due to lower sales overall - the market grew by 2.2%.  It’s also not due to customers trading down - both Sainsburys and Waitrose held onto their market share.  For me, this is more of a customer experience issue than a pricing one.

Obviously there is no denying that Aldi are significantly cheaper on many products than Tesco and it isn’t hard to see that these real savings today add up to more than loyalty rewards later.

However, that’s not the reason I continue to shop at Aldi - I actually like shopping there more than I like shopping at Tesco and the reason for this is fourfold:-

  1. Store Format - At Tesco the stores are now just too big.  It’s great if I want something specific, but for a standard shop it just makes the trip take too long.  Walking down endless aisles past thousands of products I don’t want or need.  Aldi have smaller stores making the shop quick and simple.
  2. Paradox of Choice - When selecting products, there is too much choice.  While this can be a good thing, when presented with 10 different types of sliced bread there is a tendency to pick something you recognise to help expedite the process.  The net result of this is that you pick brands you’ve used before or heard of and brands have a premium.  At Aldi there is limited choice, very few branded goods and typically one option for each.
  3. Service - I’m not talking about customer service specifically, both brands have well trained, personable staff.  I’m talking about the way the tills work.  Aldi is specifically engineered for speed.  A whole shop is scanned at tremendous speed with packing done elsewhere at your leisure.  This means no real queues and no long waits.  Tesco checkout is just, well, slow.
  4. Gamified - This is price related and is a personal aspect, but I like to compare purchases and keep the shop under a defined value.  Given the shop is typically 50% cheaper than my previous comparative Tesco shop, there is a pleasure - almost like a game - in seeing the final till receipt value.

I've given up a number of things to shift to Aldi.  I’ve given up a loyalty programme; I’ve given up home delivery; I’ve given up choice.  Ironically though, I feel like I’ve gained time (due to the quick shop), gained satisfaction (in making a smart choice) and gained money in my wallet.

The fact that I then blow that extra cash on eating out that weekend in simply a bonus - There’s no waiting for me to spend the value I’ve accrued.  I don’t need to wait for a quarterly statement, or redeem for a voucher.

So what would make me go back to Tesco?

  • Better pricing/value exchange - that’s always a basic requirement.
  • Better store layout - Make my basic shop quicker
  • Better checkout experience - Speed up how the scanning/packing process

The number one thing though is to connect the satisfaction of shopping with the experience of shopping.  Tesco Clubcard doesn’t do that today for me - it’s not immediate enough, it’s not rich enough, it’s not connected enough.  Interestingly, Target Cartwheel which I’ve written about previously does seem to achieve many of these things.

Loyalty is still in the game and it still has a role to play - but at the moment for Tesco, it hasn’t kept pace with the market.  When your bags are lasting longer than your customers, you know there are issues to address. 

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Airlines show how tablets create loyalty ESP

BA ESP sml

There’s a lot of talk within loyalty about the increasing volume of customer interactions and how these are being enabled through mobile devices, wearables and the Internet of things.

Indeed, Microsoft consider it so important that they’ve apparently setup a special task force to develop it further.  Whether it's Smart watches, fitness wristbands or intelligent eye-wear, there’s a whole host of new consumer channels, devices and ultimately data heading our way.

However the real benefit may not be in getting consumers to don these products, but getting the employees to instead.

Giving employees access to real-time information on a customer may be the thing that gives a brand the edge over it’s rivals.

As ever, the airlines are at the forefront of this revolution with many enabling access to customer information to front line staff through a variety of devices.  Delta for example recently announced that it’s equipping it’s flight attendants with tablets, highlighting the benefits by saying:-

"In addition to its functionality as an in-flight sales device and replacement for the on-board manual [it will] enable flight attendants to [..] provide information for personalized service, including customers' frequent flyer status and potential need for special services during flight."

British Airways was one of the first carriers to issue a mobile device to staff with the intention of improving customer service and interactions.  Called the Enhanced Service Platform or ESP for short, the naming of the device seems indicate their intention for staff to be empowered with what customers might perceive as an almost psychic capability. Their platform, developed in house,  is reported to allow staff to access details on key high spending customers including their previous travel arrangements, where they are seated, who they are travelling with and their loyalty status.  It can also be used to lodge customer complaints immediately.  

The service would seem to be valued by both the staff and customers with a flight attendant quoted as saying:-

“I’m ahead of myself in knowing where our corporate and high-value customers are sitting, and who needs help,” Kaur, a cabin-service director, BA’s highest rank of flight attendant, said in London following a flight from Istanbul. “They look at you and say ‘have you been on a special course?’”

It would also appear to get some great results with customer satisfaction for Gold members reportedly up 14% since the original rollout initiative.

Never happy to be a follower, Virgin Atlantic has gone one better by looking to equip it’s First Class concierge staff with wearables including the Sony SmartWatch and Google Glass to provide them with personalised information on the passenger they are interacting with.  One of the key aspects was the personal touch that the technology enabled, removing the barrier between the staff member and the customer.  Virgin reported that:-

“The trial helped reduce the number of times that a Virgin Atlantic agent had to go behind a desk to look something up for a passenger, which would break eye contact – apparently vital to ensuring a “VIP customer experience” [and] also negated the need for any radio communications between staff, as all the information needed for each passenger was available through the unit."

This is not just limited to airlines however.  

Retailers are also looking to equip staff with mobile technologies to enhance customer service.  In the UK for example, fashion retailer Monsoon has started equipping staff with an iPad that allows them access to the complete product range and stock, so they can help a customer locate an item wherever it may be.

AT&T in the US plans to go further and completely remove their traditional POS cash registers. Instead, AT&T store employees will be equipped with tablets and mobile POS systems to facilitate the purchase at the point of experience - when the customer is looking at and playing with the product.  AT&T Chief Marketing Officer David Christopher is quoted as saying:-

"It's a pretty radical departure from what we've done in the past, [..] We want people to try, play with and ultimately buy our products...If [shopping] was just transaction based, customers could do it on the web."

There does seem to be a difference however between how retailers and airlines are using tablets with staff.  

Whilst for the airline it is predominantly to improve the customer experience and to personalise the service, for retailers it seems to be to make the purchase process more streamlined and ensure they can get what the customer wants.  

For retailers however there doesn’t appear to be a desire to use previous customer purchase behaviour and preferences to actually personalise the shopping experience.  This would seem to be a missing piece of the puzzle as this is where loyalty data really comes into it’s own and would truly deliver on that retail loyalty promise of the “cornershop experience”.  A little of the BA ESP for retailers would probably go a long way.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Amazon - A dash for loyalty

Amazon Dash

Dash, the latest technical innovation from Amazon threatens to totally change the whole shopping experience… and retail loyalty.  

Using a combination of voice recognition and bar code scanning, the standalone “wand” allows anyone in the household to add to the shopping list when an item is running low, has run out or is simply needed.  Either by scanning the item that is about to be consumed or just saying what item is required, the dash adds it to your shopping list for later fulfilment.

Interestingly the idea is nothing new.  

Apps like Shopper Pro allow you to maintain a shopping list and scan items onto it. Back in 2000, LG launched one of the first connected devices with the Smart Fridge that incorporated a modem (remember those) and a touch screen to allow items to be inventoried, managed and re-ordered.

What Amazon have done though is different.

Whilst consumers have been happy to collapse many different gadgets into their smartphone such as a camera, videophone, GPS, fitness tracking or video games, they don’t always fit into every scenario.  When I’m in the middle of cooking, with dirty hands, liquids and a hot stove, getting my smartphone out and navigating the security and app selection is not going to be high on the agenda... Sometimes a specific, dedicated, connected device can be a much better user experience.

By creating a single-purpose device, Amazon have been able to hone the user experience to be exactly what’s needed.  

  • It had to recognise that a household is made up of many individuals, so a mobile app wouldn’t have shared well 
  • It had to recognise that not everything has a bar code - fresh produce for example, or an item not yet purchased which is required for a recipe - so voice input closed this gap
  • It had to recognise that the device would have to function within a busy kitchen environment so it’s wipe clean and includes a hanging loop so it can sit right alongside other utensils.

User experience would have been key to the product design.

Amazon also had another advantage though and that is the closed loop ordering.  As a supplier of the goods through AmazonFresh, the dash connects the consumer from the moment of need to the moment of purchase seamlessly.

This is the real benefit of the dash - frictionless shopping and the loyalty effect this creates.

One of the main aims of loyalty marketing is to use knowledge about a customer and their purchase habits to reduce friction in the relationship to make it easier for them to do business with you.  In that respect, the dash is a fantastic loyalty play.

It provides the consumer with utility - a useful product/service.  It reduces friction in the purchase process by streamlining the process of shopping.  It provides stickiness as I’m unlikely to build my shopping list in AmazonFresh and then go and order it from competitor.

Like the Evian “smart object” launched back in 2012 to enable product re-ordering at  the point of consumption, the dash cuts through decision making and in the process is likely to increase loyalty, reduce price sensitivity and reduce the paradox of choice.

Whilst AmazonFresh is fairly niche at present, it will be interesting to see if dash will create competitor offerings from other retailers, all fighting for that newly created “front of kitchen draw” position.