Loyalty cards supermarket shop

Points make prizes. For the best part of 30 years that has been as true of loyalty schemes as it has of game shows. But the thinking is becoming increasingly passé. With the cost of living crisis biting hard, the rigmarole of building up cash pots in exchange for coupons and completing in-app ‘missions’ to boost rewards (see Asda Rewards) seems cruelly long-winded. Accumulating thousands of ephemeral points that can be exchanged for cinema tickets (see Nectar) offers scant help when hungry.

And the trend of gamification and scratchcard stylings in loyalty schemes (see Morrisons’ ‘swipe to bag a bonus’ app feature) is beginning to feel out of touch. What scheme members now want is savings there and then, in the aisles.

So Morrisons this week launched loyalty-card-only discounts across a raft of branded products. On the shelf edge, and on the shop floor – literally – My Morrisons prices and offers are shown alongside regular pricing. Superdrug and Boots have also adopted this approach recently.

They’re following in the footsteps of Tesco, which relaunched Clubcard Prices in 2020, with incredible results. Three million active Clubcard-holding households have joined the scheme in the past year alone. The app has 10 million users in the UK. And Clubcards are used for 75% of sales across all Tesco UK stores. Members still get points – and prizes – but the additional ‘instant win’ thrill of linking promotions to using Clubcard has turned the loyalty scheme around.

The irony is, as often as not, these loyalty-card-linked promos at best only end up making these retailers as competitive as rivals. And where once they would have been offered as a matter of course, now invaluable customer data is attached to these items, along with the rest of the basket.

On the other hand, the link is not without its dangers. For some shoppers loyalty sign-up is an additional hurdle. Poor connectivity and technical hitches in store are a further barrier. Aldi – which overtook Morrisons last month – doesn’t have a loyalty scheme at all. Its stance is the ultimate in fuss-free loyalty: for every shopper, whoever you are: The Price Is Right.