Price Chopper expands loyalty program with in-store coupons

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Price Chopper Supermarkets wants to bring incremental value to its loyalty card program with a new iSaveToday in-store coupon dispenser that prints offers based on cardholders' shopping history. The response so far is promising, with almost 200,000 coupons having been redeemed during the program's first two months.

Previously, the chain of 115 northeastern grocery stores' delivered coupons to its loyalty card members through the mail.

"This program, which is specific to Price Chopper, offers a much more direct opportunity to get savings opportunities to customers who want them and who will use them," said Mona Golub, vice president of public relations and consumer services at Price Chopper, Schenectady, NY.

So far, between 30 and 40 brands have signed up for iSaveToday.

Price Chopper began introducing the iSaveToday coupon dispenser in its stores in mid-January. The roll out finished in mid-March. Shoppers scan their AdvantEdge loyalty card at a dispenser located near the store's entrance. Within seconds they receive a sheet of up to eight offers based on their previous 64-week shopping history.

In addition to merchandise savings, the dispensers offer coupons for savings on tickets to events in the community. The units also feature video screens that broadcast information about health, wellness, food and specific products. There's even a space for the store's weekly circular.

Redemption rates for the iSaveToday coupons are more than 50 percent higher than they are for coupons that appear in periodicals or the coupons that shoppers receive at checkout, Ms. Golub said.

In a pilot test done by the dispenser's creator, Entry Point Communications LLC, redemption rates averaged 15 percent, said Jayne Mullen-Sampson, vice president of marketing at Entry Point, Hartford, CT.

The dispenser is also more likely to be used by consumers than other in-store kiosks, which require users to spend time picking and choosing which offers they would like, Ms. Mullen-Sampson said.

"People aren't going to spend that kind of time in-store," she said.

The dispenser uses software that is designed to offer consumers coupons for brands that they purchase regularly instead of offering them a coupon intended to entice them to switch brands.

The DealSense software uses proprietary tools to compare each shopper against others. The system analyzes category purchase history, purchase price history, purchase cycle for each category, category volumes and voids.

"The fact that these coupons are targeted based on personal shopping history, they are designed to be more attractive to consumers," Ms. Golub said.

Shoppers receive one set of offers per shopping trip for a maximum of two per week.

In addition, the dispenser recognizes, for example, that a particular shopper purchases coffee every four to five weeks. This enables it to distribute a coupon for the shopper's preferred coffee brand at the beginning of his or her shopping visit.

Manufacturers benefit from the program as well, Ms. Golub said.

"Dollars spent by manufacturers are better spent if they're targeted at consumers who will spend at a higher level than a general mailing that is less targeted," she said.

For example, the coupons could increase the frequency of purchase or encourage consumers to trade up to a larger size of a preferred product.

To introduce the dispenser to customers, Price Chopper has moved its product demonstrators near the front entrance so they can share information with shoppers who stop by their demo stations. In addition, the iSaveToday dispenser is featured on in-store signage and in the chain's weekly circular.

The units can be expanded to encompass a retailer or manufacturer's continuity programs or to deliver longer brand messages, Ms. Mullen-Sampson said.

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