Waitrose’s My Waitrose offers free coffee to members and the UK Prime Minister David Cameron sees no problem with it
In our piece on how retailers need to change their loyalty offering, I looked at how Waitrose had cottoned onto a great idea in rewarding its readers with a free coffee or newspaper when they shop in store with their My Waitrose card – Waitrose’s reward system.
“Giving free coffee or free newspapers is disruptive to the market, but I think that is what customers want, I don’t think they want a point,” said Waitrose managing director Mark Price when asked about how Waitrose free coffee incentive was disrupting the market. “I mean, what is a point? I think it’s meaningless. It doesn’t have the richness, it doesn’t have the affinity you can gauge if you engage with your customers in a different way.
“It is about what do consumers value today, not what did they value historically. So green shield stamps, or points, were a response to what happened post-war . . . I just don’t think that is where the world is now.”
Yet, still, people complain and Waitrose’s own customers – who, admittedly, sound incredibly snooty – say that it’s bringing the “wrong type” of shopper into the store.
It’s even gotten to the point where the Office of Fair Trading was asked to get involved as many believed that Waitrose’s free coffee incentive was damaging independent businesses around the supermarket. Naturally, they didn’t see any reason to take action against the food retailer.
While this all happened a little while ago, concerns have been renewed when the Labour party raised concerns about how it could be hurting local traders nearby. But, as this is always a battle of the parties, Conservative leader and Prime Minister David Cameron said that he didn’t see anything wrong with a bit of free coffee.
“I don’t collect the cards… otherwise I would have too many different cards,” said Cameron, when asked about his shopping habits on a visit to the Cheadle Royal John Lewis.
“I have spent money in your shops. I have not yet enjoyed the free coffee…. Honestly, what are people complaining about? What is wrong with a free cup of coffee?”, he added.
And it’s true. What is wrong with a free cup of coffee?
The fact that such a topic has managed to gain such publicity, had a positive effect on sales, and shaken up the retail rewards world enough to make people think, it’s clear that Mark Price is right. The world needs change, and loyalty points are no longer the answer.