How a Rewards Card Saved My Life

Stop & Shop Gets CRM Right

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Last week I purchased a bunch of alfalfa sprouts at Stop & Shop. Because I use the self-scanning tool when at the store, I had logged in with my rewards card. And as is customary, all of my purchases were recorded.

A few days later, I get a phone call from "unknown." Thinking it was a friend on Skype, I answer, and to my surprise, it's a pre-recorded message from Stop & Shop, alerting me to the fact that my alfalfa sprouts have been recalled due to a risk of e coli. Wow. They specifically targeted me due to my purchase of the actual alfalfa sprouts that were being recalled. And they alerted me to that fact, and promised a full refund when I returned to the store.

Plenty of retailers spam their customers with every little announcement, and as customers we've come to ignore most of this, assuming that the majority of these types of messages don't pertain to us. And for most retailers, this is true. But smart retailers like Stop & Shop are thinking differently. They're gathering information from their shoppers and using it to provide value to their customers.

This week, the very same grocer launched a mobile app that allows shoppers to scan their groceries using their own phones. No need for the germ ridden handheld scanner at the store. Scan on your phone, and pay from your phone. This is a retailer that 's taking a continuous look at its shoppers habits and asked "what can we do to improve their experience?"

We could learn a lot from Stop &Shop. It's our role as agencies and marketers to use the information that we gather wisely, and in a way that benefits rather than exploits our customers. It's no wonder that consumers fear privacy, and sharing information on social networks. Not everyone in our industry has treated this data with the care and responsibility that it deserves.

Agencies are quick to make sure that their campaigns and promotions meet their strategy deck requirements -- usually getting the product in front of consumers -- but so many marketers forget about what's actually good for the consumer. Or how their campaigns might provide actual value to that consumer. Our industry gathers more information about customers than ever before in retail history. The comfort level at which our customers share this data is directly dependent on how we as marketers use it.

It's ironic that one of the nation's oldest retail industries -- an industry that a few years ago some predicted might be replaced by the internet -- is leading the charge in CRM. You can be sure that retailers who follow suit will reap trustworthy, loyal customers. I know that I'll be logging my purchases this weekend...but staying away from the alfalfa sprouts.

Darryl Ohrt Darryl Ohrt is a former punk rocker and chief contributor to the greatest blog in all of the land, BrandFlakesForBreakfast. While his official title is president, his business card says he's "Prime Minister of Awesome" at Humongo, a Source Marketing company. Darryl knows just enough to be dangerous. He's on the internet right now, playing, investigating and exploring. Watch out.

Want to learn more about shopper marketing techniques? Check out the Shopper Marketing series from Ad Age Insights.

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