The phrase ‘Promiscuous Shoppers’ has emerged over the last few years as a way to describe the growing problem of brand loyalty. The issue has always been there, of course, but it’s been brought into sharper focus thanks to the need to tighten belts brought about by the recession and the cheap discount stores that have emerged to meet that need. So in this climate what can brands do to make sure customers are staying loyal to them and not having their heads turned by the offers and convenience of discount stores?
What is a Promiscuous Shopper?
First things first, it’s important to establish what we actually mean by the term ‘promiscuous shopper’. Very simply, a promiscuous shopper is someone who has no clear loyalty to one brand or retailer. So, for example, one week a Promiscuous Shopper may do their big weekly shop at Sainsbury’s, while another week they may do it at Tesco, and another week at ASDA. It all depends on what works best for them. Maybe ASDA has a specific product on discount, or Tesco is more convenient in that particular scenario. Loyalty is never a factor.
One of the most significant examples of promiscuous shopping came in 2013, when bakery chain Greggs claimed that a drop in sales was caused by the phenomenon. “Customers have become more promiscuous, looking for the best deal,” the company’s chief executive Roger Whiteside told The Guardian. “The economy has been bumping along the bottom and there has been a compounding effect which means people have to be very careful about the pound in their pocket.” The more careful the customer is, the argument goes, the more likely they are to shop around.
Are discounts the answer?
While helping the customer protect their pounds and pence is a viable way forward, it’s not worked for some of the country’s biggest retailers. Price freezes and discounts are a mainstay of the supermarket world, but Sainsbury’s and ASDA have both found their offerings struggle in recent months. In March 2016, Sainsbury’s revealed that it will be phasing out multi-buy promotions with an eye to removing them completely by the end of August. Likewise, ASDA announced in November 2015 that its famous Price Guarantee is under review due to problems.
The move came as part of an overall review of the business conducted by CEO Andy Clarke following a period of poor results. “Last month I launched Project Renewal, an 18-month programme designed to work parts of my five year strategy harder to return us to long-term, sustainable volume growth,” Clarke is quoted as saying in Marketing Magazine. “Increasing our focus on the core business means strengthening some areas, while pausing activity in others, will allow us to sharpen our customer offer and continue to improve operational efficiency”.
One of the biggest problems for supermarkets looking to offer discounts is that it’s difficult for them to succeed when other brands’ entire model is based around cheaper prices. This caught out Morrisons in 2015 when it had to scrap a discount scheme that was designed to take on Lidl and Aldi. “Our customers said that sometimes they were confused by the price matching scheme, where sometimes they got points and sometimes they didn’t,” a Morrison’s spokesman explained. “A lot of customers struggled with the fact that if their basket was cheapest, they didn’t get any points. Customers generally want more points, and a loyalty scheme should be a thank you for spending.”
Is convenience the way forward?
While Morrisons is right and customers do want more points and more discounts, they also want their lives to be made easier. They want the supermarkets to meet their needs and deliver a simple solution that merges with their busy day to day activities. As mobile technology has risen and offered new ways for customers to do their shop with minimum effort this has only become more important. And it hasn’t just manifested itself through online shopping and Click and Collect schemes, but digitising loyalty schemes and taking online activity in-store to enhance the bricks and mortar experience.
This is a key point of difference for stores. When everyone is offering big discounts do those discounts really have any value anymore? Probably not, and if that’s the case, how can stores gain recognition, help their customers, and ultimately sow the seeds of brand loyalty? Innovation is the best route, and by using technology in innovative ways to meet customers where they are and when they’re in moments of need, stores become more than just a place to do the big shop; they become an assistant, a helpful hand making their customers’ lives a little easier.
With digital technology becoming more integrated into the in-store experience, businesses need to take a leaf out of eCommerce shops’ books and optimise their offering. That means understanding the customer and making sure their needs can be met. The internet is all about being there, being quick, and being useful, and physical stores are no different. The interaction between customer and retailer is no longer a one-way street. It’s about building a relationship and making sure the retailer is giving a good deal – in more ways than one.
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