Waitrose’s Pick Your Own Offers has been launched amidst much talk of game change and revolution. Does it live up to the hype?

Anyone who has worked within the world of retail loyalty schemes will have sat in meetings where similar proposals to Waitrose’s Pick Your Own Offers have been discussed. And for good reason, we know that giving customers extra rewards on the things they love pays dividends. But no one has actually done it – until now.

Waitrose’s managing director Mark Price said that it is the “right thing to do for our customers”, and I agree. It’s about control, something that customers like. Behemoth supermarkets don’t create a feeling of the customer being in the driving seat, which is part of Tesco’s recent spectacular fall from grace.

Waitrose have already employed the ‘in control’ insight with its charity scheme, where customers are given a chip at the till, and then choose which charity box to drop it in. So delivering the same principle, with a personal choice of offers, creates a positive emotional response.

Beautifully simple

We know that highly targeted coupons can drive astounding levels of incremental sales. And, whatever the success of Waitrose’s scheme, I don’t doubt that we’ll see ever more targeted offers, delivered at the right time, and in the right channel, delivering substantial profit.

“Sometimes we forget that simply asking customers to actually tell us themselves is actually an option”

Caroline Parkes, Lida

But to ask customers to choose is one of those beautifully simple ideas that could really work. In our world of big data, we are on the constant hunt for a combination of observed, inferred and transactional data, to deliver highly relevant communications and offers.

Sometimes we forget that simply asking customers to actually tell us themselves is actually an option.

A film promoting the scheme tells customers that “at Waitrose we think the best person to pick your offers is you”. And from a customer perspective, this feels good.

Waitrose needs to offer its customers more value. They don’t want to shop in Tesco, but they want to feel like they’re getting a reasonable deal, and Price Match alone doesn’t deliver that. There are too many products outside of the Price Match that pile on the shopping pounds.

Customer experience

So far so good, then. The trouble is, the customer experience when picking your 10 items online isn’t all it could be. There’s no search tool available and the list is fairly limited. I went hunting for Pampers, John Freida shampoo and Cravendale milk to no avail.

Clearly there is a price limit at play, which makes sense commercially, but antagonises the customer who’s started the journey with high hopes.

So will it work? And will other retailer schemes follow suit? The personalised coupons model is not one that’s fundamentally broken. In research groups I’ve heard women talking about getting on the phone to compare coupons on ‘mailing day’. Some customers love them.

But finding an additional way, to allow customers to get more of that control that they crave, is something that Nectar and Clubcard should (and will) be considering. Because, once they’ve heard about it in the playground or read about it in Mumsnet, they’ll be asking for it.

  • Caroline Parkes is strategy partner at marketing agency Lida, whose clients include retailers Boots and Ikea