Customer loyalty is hot right now.
Despite the chaos of 2020, a handful of top supermarket chains managed to roll out new or update their existing loyalty programs in innovative and clever ways. The best programs are attracting legions of customers in a highly competitive industry.
Sales figures from last year show that these revamped loyalty programs—both paid and free—are helping large grocers differentiate themselves from rivals and garner repeat business in a protean retail landscape. Chief among these rivals are Amazon, whose Amazon Prime program offers free home delivery and access to digital music and movies for $99 annually, and Walmart, whose Walmart+ membership program provides a range of benefits and discounts for $98 per year.
CB4 has kept an eye on the most innovative programs launched by top supermarket chains over the past year. For CB4’s Annual Grocery Store Loyalty Awards, we recognize the grocers behind the industry’s most successful developments.
Best Premium Loyalty Program — HyVee Plus
Des Moines, Iowa-based Hy-Vee launched a premium membership program with perks such free delivery and personal concierge service. For $99 a year, Hy-Vee Plus includes express pickup service, fuel savings, and monthly discounts on groceries, footwear and apparel.
The program also offers Hy-Vee’s “Red Line” concierge service that lets customers phone for help via a dedicated customer assistance line and provides a personal shopping service. Last year, the grocer upgraded members of its pre-existing Aisles Online e-commerce program to the premium service at no additional cost.
Hy-Vee Plus provides members with:
- Free grocery delivery on orders of $30 or more
- Free 2-hour express pickup
- Savings on fuel with each purchase
- Exclusive monthly perks from lines such as HyVee HealthMarket, HyVee Healthy Habits Menu program, and HyVee Mealtime To Go
- “Red Line” access
- Personal shopper service
Fastest Growing Loyalty Program — Albertsons’ Just 4 U
Albertsons, the nation’s second-largest supermarket retailer, saw a robust uptick in business after rolling out its Just 4 U customer loyalty program across more geographic regions. In July, Albertsons CEO Vivek Sankaran said that the Boise, Idaho-based retailer gained “several million” new customers early last year, with loyalty signups rising 27% during the first quarter of 2020, to more than 22 million members.
The number of members who redeemed perks also rose 32% year-over-year, with 40% are claiming more perks through the personalized program. Just 4 U customers spend several times more than non-registered customers, according to Sankaran.
The grocer also operates its Unlimited Delivery Club, which is available for $99 a year or $15 a month, that provides free home delivery on orders of $30 or more.
Albertsons’ Just 4 U provides customers with:
- The ability to earn points on purchases that can be redeemed for discounts on gas or groceries
- Digital coupons
- Free grocery items
- Personalized deals
Best “Dollars Off” Loyalty Program — Giant Eagle’s myPerks
Pittsburgh-based grocery, fuel and pharmacy retailer Giant Eagle announced last year the launch of the “first multi-tier loyalty program introduced by a major U.S. supermarket.” The myPerks program developed by the grocery chain, which operates more than 470 stores in the mid-Atlantic and Midwest, enables customers to earn rewards on purchases that can be redeemed at its Giant Eagle and Market District supermarkets and GetGo gas and convenience stores.
The myPerks program expands upon Giant Eagle’s pre-existing fuelperks+ program by allowing customers more opportunities to earn rewards and extending the redemption period to at least 90 days. Customers who earn 2,500 points within six months unlock the myPerks Pro tier, which enables them to earn additional perks on groceries and gasoline, as well as on gift cards, pharmacy prescriptions, and other categories.
Giant Eagle myPerks members receive:
- Perks on purchases that can be redeemed for discounts on groceries, gas, gift cards, and pharmacy prescriptions
- More time to redeem points
- Personalized savings
- Bonuses for birthdays and shopping challenges
Best Personalized Loyalty Offerings — Club Publix
Publix Super Markets is leveraging personalized marketing to deepen engagement with customers. Club Publix, the Lakeland, Fla.-based retailer’s no-fee club membership program, provides members with exclusive savings, access to digital shopping tools, advance notice of deals and discounts, and personalized content. The program also offers customers the ability to scan the Publix app to pay and receive e-receipts.
In turn, the retailer, which operates more than 1,200 stores across the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic, can collect reams of data to track consumer habits and create more tailored offers. In the grocery industry, personalized recommendations can help retain customers and encourage repeat visits.
With Club Publix, customers receive:
- Digital coupons
- Early notifications on upcoming sales and “buy one, get one free” events
- Early access to weekly ads
- The ability to pay and receive e-receipts via the Publix mobile app
- Personalized shopping lists and recommendations
Most Flexible Loyalty Program — Giant’s Flexible Rewards
Washington, D.C.-based Giant expanded its loyalty program in 2020 to include more ways for customers to redeem points. The retailer, which operates 163 stores in Virginia, Maryland and Delaware and Washington, D.C., allows Flexible Rewards members to redeem points on groceries and on fuel purchases at Giant or participating Shell stations.
Giant’s program also allows customers to earn extra points for shopping online or using Giant’s mobile app. Shoppers are more likely to join a loyalty program if they can access their points digitally and if they have a variety of ways to redeem them, according to a Blackhawk Network survey. Nearly 60% said they’d like to pay for products in-store with a smartphone using loyalty points they’ve earned.
Under the Flexible Rewards program, shoppers can:
- Earn points on purchases and redeem them for discounts on groceries and gasoline at participating gas stations
- Earn extra points for shopping online or through the Giant mobile app
- Receive free products and other rewards
Luring with Loyalty at Top Supermarket Chains
In the grocery industry, creating a customer loyalty program that rewards members for shopping goes a long way toward keeping their business. Top supermarket chains that can anticipate the types of perks customers desire and then deliver it will continue to win the grocery game in 2021.
Initial sales data from 2020 show that these versatile loyalty programs—both paid and free—help large grocers differentiate themselves from each other as well as from heavyweights such as Amazon and Walmart. The best programs cater to both in-store and online shoppers by offering benefits across a variety of areas, from discounts on groceries and gasoline to free unlimited home delivery.
The five savvy top supermarket chains honored here for revamping their loyalty programs during the COVID-19 pandemic have a strong chance of thriving in a rapidly shifting retail landscape while building a foundation for future growth.