Much has been made in recent time of the growing consumer pushback against technology seen as invading personal privacy. Often included in that category of technology is supermarket frequent-shopper cards.
Similarly, technology that can confer a benefit -- but that's now viewed with suspicious eyes -- includes Radio Frequency Identification tags, genetically modified crops, bovine growth hormones, irradiation and so on. Could it be, though, that if the story surrounding these technologies were framed differently, much of the suspicion would melt away? Sometimes, it seems, the story of these new technologies is focused on the heroic nature of the science. A better reception might be had by explaining them as the means to a valued end, such as convenience, better product or lower prices.
That's the implication of a major survey in this week's SN that details consumer reactions to promotional incentives of various sorts. You'll see results of the survey presented in the Brand Marketing section that begins on Page 17. The proprietary survey was conducted jointly by SN and Experian. It's weighted so as to represent the population of the entire country. Brand Marketing is a special report that appears on the first issue date of SN each month.
Of particular interest is the aspect of the survey results that shows how few shoppers actively avoid shopping in a store that tracks purchases by means of loyalty cards. The relevant part of the survey asked shoppers to agree or disagree with this statement: "I will only shop at retailers that don't use shopper cards so that my purchases aren't tracked." Just 5% of shoppers agreed with that statement. And, since no supermarket obliges shoppers to use a card to make purchases, it seems as though just not using the card would solve the perceived problem for the reluctant 5%.
The survey also asked the reverse side of that question to find out if shoppers objected to having their purchases overtly tracked, specifying that gathering purchasing data would result in lower prices. More than half of all shoppers -- 54% -- broached no objection to active purchase tracking under that circumstance. Moreover, 43% had no objection to being entered automatically in contests or sweepstakes based on loyalty card use.
Clearly, then, objections to even overt data tracking can be overcome if the story of loyalty cards is told as a positive benefit yielding lower prices or a chance to win a prize. The option to not participate should continue to exist, of course.
The survey findings are similar to what happened in a giant real-world test that occurred in New York City. Several years ago, the city started to transition away from bus and subway fare tokens to MetroCards -- stored-value cards that are swiped and debited at fare boxes and turnstiles. Many riders feared the ability to track movement that the MetroCard conferred on authorities and vowed to never give up tokens.
However, when it became widely known that bonus value was offered -- that, for instance, $24 worth of rides could be purchased for $20 -- objections started to evaporate. Tokens were discontinued this summer. No lamentation was heard.