Can loyalty programmes lead to healthier habits?

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By: Wise Marketer Staff |

Posted on November 5, 2018

Tesco is a name recognised globally, a large international conglomerate, currently operating in 13 countries across the world. Like any large company, Tesco has a detailed and well thought through corporate responsibility scheme, and the forefront of this is trying to get the population to eat just that little bit healthier. With 25% of the UK technically obese, and the number tripling in the last 20 years, it’s not hard to see why this has long been part of Tesco’s commitment to the public; starting in 1984 with the introduction of their Healthy Living Range, and they were the first supermarket to introduce nutritional information on the front of pack, with one of the latest initiatives being free fruit for children while you are shopping, introduced in 2016.

However, what Tesco surely aims to do, is utilise the data they have and are continuing to collect to lead to healthier engagement and healthier habits through loyalty, specifically the use of their Clubcard programme. Clubcard launched back in 1995, gaining just under 5 million customers in its first year (Tesco Corporate). This led Tesco to overtake Sainsbury’s in market share for the first time.

Alessandra Bellini, Tesco’s Chief Customer Officer speaking at this year’s Festival of Marketing stated there are 5 main barriers to eating healthily, identified through research and data collected:

  1. Taste
  2. Cost
  3. Confusion
  4. Time
  5. Access & Visibility


To combat these challenges companies need to look at the data they have and analyse how customer behaviour can be modified or changed. The first challenge is taste, the majority have the perception that healthier foods don’t taste as good as junk food, that they will be bland and have no flavour – but Tesco are on a mission to change this.

The second is cost, when Tesco spoke to customers, the general perception is that healthier food is much more expensive, but introducing their “helpful little swaps” campaign in 2017 is starting to push this in the right direction. Bellini states that this has so far had good results and gave them the encouragement to carry on.

Confusion is the third barrier, the media play an integral role in this, with so many differences in opinions e.g. is butter good or bad for us? Customers find themselves confused and left unsure of what to purchase, sometimes unwittingly purchasing unhealthier products.

Time is also key to making a healthier purchase decision. There is a perception that junk food is quicker to cook and eat, and, with people leading increasingly busy lives, sometimes the convenience factor wins.

The final challenge is access and visibility, sometimes it is not always easy to see and find the healthiest products, again the “Helpful Little Swaps” are coming to Tesco’s aid, helping to point people in the right direction, often with the two different products situated next to each other.

Tesco Clubcard is evolving to help combat these challenges. Our recent study with YouGov, “what the British think of loyalty programmes” revealed that 65% of the British population are part of a supermarket loyalty programme. However, only 44% of the youngest group (18-24s) saying they are a member. This could be a sign that, when they started, these programmes had high appeal and registration, but their appeal has declined significantly over time. Clubcard has evolved to a place where, for the first time ever, recipe cards are linked to Clubcard. If you scan the barcode with your phone, it will download the recipe onto your device for safekeeping. The new recipes are all designed to cost between £1 - £1.50 per portion, and take between 15 – 30 minutes to prepare and cook, often the ingredients are all placed together near the recipe card for ease too. In turn the data collected helps give Tesco insight into trends and patterns of customer food shopping behaviour, leading to further understanding audiences and helping to overcome those barriers.

Brands and companies can also enlist the help of celebrities and / or influencers to help change perceptions of their brands, products or a subject. Tesco recently announced their new partnership with Jamie Oliver, with his background in working to make school lunches healthier for children, and his campaigning for the sugar tax, making him a perfect match for Tesco. Bellini stated that the partnership was one of aligning passion and purpose, and one of intent. Oliver said that he was “creating content to help the nation eat a little better”.

Another superb loyalty programme in the UK attempting to use loyalty to achieve healthier ambitions is Vitality. The Vitality programme allows you to track your activity using a variety of smartwatches and apps earning points as you go. The more Vitality points you earn, the higher your Vitality status. By completing your online Health Review and taking a Vitality Healthcheck, it could take you straight to Silver status. They have teamed up with several partner brands including Evans Cycles, to give you up to 50% cash back off a bike to encourage you to be active, and Sweatshop giving you up to 50% off a pair of sports shoes, again helping customers to access a healthy lifestyle easier.

Loyalty programmes can and should think bigger than short term commercial ambitions. The two case studies shared are clear demonstrations that, through well mastered approaches, brands can achieve more from their loyalty programmes. They can make a real difference to the brand, to customers, to the nation. Tesco Clubcard and Vitality are two great loyalty programmes working to making the nation healthier; loyalty marketers everywhere should ask themselves what more they can achieve.

Charlie Hills is Managing Director and Head of Strategy at Mando-Connect part of Mando.