Publix to Test Digital Coupons Sans Loyalty Card

Discussion
Apr 26, 2012

It’s becoming more commonplace for retailers to offer consumers the option of going online to have coupons loaded on their reward cards. But what about those retailers that don’t have card programs?

According to a Tampa Tribune report, Publix, which doesn’t have a loyalty card, is now testing a program where its shoppers can go online to set up an account where they can digitally clip coupons. When the customer goes shopping at one of the chain’s stores, they enter a phone number in the payment terminal and discounts are automatically applied.

"Coupons are very important to many of our customers and are gaining popularity every day," Shannon Patten, media & community relations manager for Publix, said in a statement. "Therefore we are exploring options that will enable our customers to continue saving money while making it more convenient to do so."

There’s no guarantee that Publix will go beyond a test to roll the digital coupon program out to its 1,000+ stores in the Southeast. As the Tribune article pointed out, Publix has a history of taking "a lengthy, deliberative approach" to new initiatives that it sometimes abandons for failing to meet goals.

Publix is also no stranger, despite its upscale image, to making news on the saving consumers money front. The chain’s BOGO strategy, particularly as a means to induce trial of its store brands, is well established. Last year, it went public with its policy, with caveats, of accepting competitors’ coupons.

Discussion Questions: Will the Publix digital coupon test program be a success? What will be the effect on loyalty card programs if the Publix test proves successful?

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16 Comments on "Publix to Test Digital Coupons Sans Loyalty Card"


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Richard J. George, Ph.D.
Guest
10 years 5 months ago

I believe Publix will have a winner here. My position, stated previously in this venue, is that these cards should not be called loyalty cards. They are simply continuity of purchase programs.

Publix appears to be simplifying its customers’ lives by making it easier to take advantage of coupons. Publix generates loyalty in a host of other non-card ways, as noted in their #3 ranking of the supermarkets by Consumer Reports in its May 2012 edition.

Steve Montgomery
Guest
10 years 5 months ago

Great idea from the consumer’s point of view. The only technology required is internet access and your phone number. Means the consumer doesn’t have to add yet another card to their wallet or key chain and/or carry paper coupons to the store. My question is, does Publix plan on capturing the phone numbers so they can begin to track purchases?

Joe Nassour
Guest
Joe Nassour
10 years 5 months ago

It is a good step to get the shopping habits and engage the consumer. There are many ways to use online to engage the consumer beyond coupons.

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
10 years 5 months ago

Publix doesn’t have a loyalty card program because it doesn’t need one. Publix has a developed a high level of customer loyalty with their programs and service. Not many other food retailers can claim that today. But many of their loyal customers would benefit and appreciate more coupons. Thus by offering digital coupons, Publix is extending its already-accepted services.

Publix’s test will be successful … for Publix. Other chains don’t have same extent of the customer-loyalty that Publix does … so it’s most likely that they will have to maintain their loyalty programs and offer digital coupons too.

Mark Heckman
Guest
10 years 5 months ago

Publix is very smart to get into the game with digital coupons. Using a phone number or other alternate ID can work as long as the right database conventions are in place to prevent duplication of numbers, etc. The onus on Publix and their content partners now is to provide meaningful offers that elevate this new way to save to a viable option for their shoppers.

Publix is also savvy enough to know that they will likely need to augment the brand offer pool with private label and local offers to make the program immediately compelling. Further, once a household is identified by their unique number and linked to their transactions, Publix will find that the opportunities for learning and target marketing will be irresistible.

Kudos to Publix!

Look for other non-card program supermarkets to follow.

Paula Rosenblum
Guest
10 years 5 months ago

It’s great for Publix, as the company doesn’t have a loyalty card, and yet has very loyal customers. A digital coupon is far more egalitarian than loyalty cards or paper coupons, which discriminate against those of us who don’t like to sit and clip!

Plus, maybe with this offer, Publix mobile site will start to make sense. So far, it’s a real non-starter.

Cathy Hotka
Guest
10 years 5 months ago

Coupons are a gimmick, a way to force customers to waste time to get a supposed discount on a product. They’re time consuming and minimally rewarding. Did Publix talk to customers before deciding this?

Ed Dunn
Guest
10 years 5 months ago

One benefit I see here is the ability to forecast demand. If a swarm of customers are suddenly putting a product into their digital coupons purse, Publix can use this data to their benefit.

David Livingston
Guest
10 years 5 months ago

One thing I have noticed is that supermarkets without loyalty cards have higher sales per square foot performances than those that do have loyalty cards. Do the math.

While I like the data that can be extracted from loyalty cards, let’s face it, loyalty cards are basically used by retailers that are getting their butts kicked by Walmart and they are trying to use them as a distraction from the fact they are not price competitive. So they tie gimmicks and games to their card like discounts and fuel programs to confuse the customer. What Publix is doing really has nothing to do with loyalty cards and I do think it will impact competitors’ use of the cards. Will it be a success? I don’t know but since it’s Publix, odds are it will.

Anne Howe
Guest
10 years 5 months ago

It’s smart of Publix from the data collection and analysis point of view. But why are they just focused on couponing? They should use the digital portal to inform the shoppers who sign up about ALL the elements of value that their myriad shopper marketing programs offer. Retailers and brands collaborate to offer shoppers than just cents off. I hate that Publix is joining the ranks of retailers chasing only the discount while thinking this actually will increase loyalty. It will erode margins for sure. And by not informing shoppers of any other kind of value in the shopping experience beyond price, it will erode the Publix brand over time.

If they truly want to capture shopper conversion data on more than just a price discount transaction, they might just want to have a card.

Zel Bianco
Guest
10 years 5 months ago

This is a good step or “bridge” to when this will all be avilable on your phone and that’s all you need. Actually, why not go directly to mobile?

Michelle Fenstermaker
Guest
Michelle Fenstermaker
10 years 5 months ago

If Publix’s goal is to become more relevant to the next generation of grocery shoppers (i.e. Millennials), then they are definitely right on with this strategy. They describe themselves as frugal, digitally savvy, anti-loyalty cards, strong desire for savings “pushed to them” — I’d say yes to this being a success.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
10 years 5 months ago

Publix has a tremendously loyal customer base. (I have already been there once today.) This will be a winner for them. Their BOGO is already a fan favorite. It will be interesting to watch the results of this test.

s sarkauskas
Guest
10 years 5 months ago

FYI, Meijer has been doing digital coupons for almost a year, and it does not have a loyalty card either.

Joshua Tretakoff
Guest
Joshua Tretakoff
10 years 5 months ago

While I am a passionate advocate for digital replacing paper coupons, I applaud Publix for testing this. While smartphones are definitely the fastest growing version of the category, we often forget that the demographics of the coupon clipper don’t always match well to the mobile iFolks. My hunch is the test will prove what we all suspect: these coupons will result in greater average purchase sizes and specific driven customer behavior, and Publix will embrace a full rollout, but nothing like having those assumptions well-tested.

Anne Bieler
Guest
Anne Bieler
10 years 5 months ago

Digital coupons are a right next step for Publix. They really work to understand the needs of their shoppers, experiment and listen to feedback as they go forward. Thinking of the large cohort of senior shoppers in Florida, I think they are smart to go this way rather than with smartphone apps right now. Understanding the attractiveness of “deals” on some products to their current shopper base who also want the more upscale products and high quality fresh items keeps Publix in a leading position.

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