Price Chopper/Market 32, a strong regional supermarket chain in the Northeast, has long strived to have best-in-class marketing that inspires shoppers to select them as their primary store — and handsomely rewards them for shopping behavior. Their loyalty program attracts high participation, frequent engagement, and provides compelling redemption options. These statistics illustrate how their rewards program is an important differentiator and one of the primary reasons why a customer chooses to shop with them.
By: Ron Margulis
The Price Chopper AdvantEdge Card and loyalty program launched more than three decades ago, and has evolved considerably over the years. Their Fuel AdvantEdge program, which was introduced in 2006, offered a discount on gas at participating Sunoco stations. Today, the much expanded AdvantEdge Rewards program not only offers points that can be redeemed for fuel and grocery discounts, but also features multiple digital redemption options, and further entitles members redemption toward exclusive branded kitchenware.
“The AdvantEdge Rewards program is designed around choice and serves as a primary reason for customers to shop our stores,” said Sean Weiss, Director of Loyalty Marketing & Analytics at Price Chopper/Market 32.
The program’s enticing reward value drives engagement and participation. Meanwhile, basket-level promotions and targeted offers on items and categories create short-term incremental sales.
“AdvantEdge Rewards incentivizes not only bigger and more frequent baskets, but more importantly long-term loyalty and customer retention through exciting and enticing redemption options,” said Weiss, who added that the program also supports third-party partnerships, allowing customers to earn and redeem points outside the four walls of the grocery store.
To accomplish this, Price Chopper worked with loyalty program provider tcc Global to create a mobile-first digital platform that gives members additional choices as to how they can redeem their AdvantEdge Rewards points. tcc and Price Chopper collaborated to develop physical, digital, and experiential rewards accessible via any connected device. Specifically, consumers can use their points to donate to local schools and charities, pay down their student loans or the loans of loved ones, enter sweepstakes for a chance to win great prizes and experiences or redeem them for exclusive MasterChef branded kitchen items.
Recently, Price Chopper also added non-fungible tokens, better known as NFTs. Simply stated, an NFT is a digital asset that represents ownership of real-world items such as art, video clips, music and more. NFT digital data is stored in a blockchain, a form of distributed ledger.
“While we don’t know how NFTs will play out, we do know they are attracting a lot of attention right now, and we think grocery retailers can play a role for either their own brands or those of their CPG partners,” noted Weiss.
On behalf of Price Chopper, tcc Global developed new intellectual property, and minted their own NFT based on Price Chopper’s 90-year anniversary. It was promoted to consumers via the AdvantEdge Rewards platform in the form of a sweepstakes prize. The response surpassed all expectations.
“Our rewards strategy, including a trial with NFTs, anticipates where consumer interest is heading, both from a user experience and a content perspective,” explains Weiss. “Consumers are increasingly mobile-engaged, and are looking for experiences and digital connections to brands.”
The partnership with tcc Global brings two critical skill sets to Price Chopper/Market 32’s program: content and technology. On the content side, tcc Global is responsible for developing compelling rewards. While this function requires creativity and consumer understanding, it also necessitates business development work. Third parties that provide rewards content need to be identified, socialized to this new idea, then contracted and implemented. Much of this is not within the resident skill set of a supermarket, so it’s logical to outsource this to an experienced third party. tcc Global’s national scale is also an advantage as its model includes a platform that can extend content across the country and eventually, worldwide.
On the technical side, Price Chopper sought a partner who could integrate quickly, and take a modular approach which aligned to their roadmap.
“Our IT team is skilled in the technology needed to run our grocery business, but we quickly realized the need to selectively outsource the development of a consumer facing platform and myriad of connections to third parties involved in our rewards offering,” Weiss confirms.
Prior to launching with consumers, Price Chopper/Market 32 ran two pilots with teammates, which generated feedback on both content and user experience. This, in turn, helped pave the way for a smooth consumer launch in 2021.
Since then, Price Chopper/Market 32 has continued to make user experience (UX) improvements and introduce new content at regular intervals. As the retailer releases more ways to earn and redeem, it promotes them across all marketing channels to increase overall program awareness, engagement, and ultimately usage.
“Support for this strategic shift came from the very top of our organization,” states Weiss. “Listening to our customers and providing choice has made these changes very well-received across the company.”
Price Chopper/Market 32 conducts extensive ongoing brand research around more than a dozen factors, including ‘Best Loyalty Rewards’ to measure its loyalty program against its competitors. This survey data shows how shoppers rank various grocers’ loyalty programs and how that changes over time. Recent results show it is working.
“Our customers tell us they like the program and these AdvantEdge Rewards users are our best customers. They make more frequent trips and spend more per basket than those who do not engage. Furthermore, those using the platform have shown a considerable sales increase year over year versus our baseline customers,” concludes Weiss. “We’re also able to leverage these varied Rewards options to lower the overall cost of redemption, something important to the financial success of any loyalty program.”
Eager to improve its rewards opportunities, Price Chopper/Market 32 continues to evaluate and prioritize new concepts. In the coming year, it plans to introduce even more new ways to earn and redeem points, further personalize content, and continue making improvements for a seamless digital experience.
Ron Margulis is Managing Director of RAM Communications, a public relations firm based in Cranford, NJ. RAM Communications provides media relations counseling, trade marketing and editorial support to clients including S&H greenpoints, IGA, Ecolab, RW3 Technologies, NCR Teradata, and Inter-IKEA. Ron is a prolific writer on the subject of customer loyalty and grocery marketing. He’s an accomplished trainer and a member of the the Retail Wire BrainTrust.