MONTVALE, N.J. -- A&P here is moving forward with an Internet-based coupon program that transmits data directly to the retailer's point-of-sale system, according to a source familiar with the project.
Approximately 500 stores under all of A&P's banners will be able to receive the electronic discounts at the POS by the end of the year, the source said. Currently, about 120 Super Fresh and Waldbaum's stores can process the on-line discounts.
While A&P officials would not comment specifically on the details of the program's rollout, they did confirm that the two-month pilot, which was slated to end May 16, has not been discontinued.
"We believe the Internet as a whole is an underutilized method of communicating and offering value to consumers," said Ellen Evans, director of consumer marketing services for A&P. "We're getting a lot of positive feedback on the program. While some of the questions people are e-mailing are technically oriented, they are also saying they like the program and find it easy to use. We're taking all of this into account," Evans said.
The program is currently offered on two A&P sites -- www.waldbaums.com and www.superfreshfood.com. In addition, the program will be expanded to A&P's Web sites for its other store formats, including www.farmerjack.com and www.thefoodemporium.com, according to the source.
Faced with the high cost of processing traditional paper coupons, supermarkets are looking for ways to increase the use of electronic discounts.
In addition, unlike paper coupons, on-line offers can be linked to a specific shopper, providing retailers and manufacturers with the opportunity to target offers to specific customers based on their buying habits and coupon use.
The A&P on-line coupon program requires users to enter their frequent-shopper card number. The shopper is then presented with a list of offers from which he or she can choose any number of discounts. The list of accepted offers is then transmitted to the POS system at the store the customer has chosen to shop. The shopper then receives the discounts by presenting the card and purchasing the selected items.
The discounts are only available at the store which they chose when selecting the discounts.
At the store, customers can scan their frequent-shopper cards at a kiosk to choose the same discounts as are offered on-line. The on-line discounts and those offered at the kiosk are maintained in the same database, prohibiting customers from choosing the same discounts at the kiosk that they have already chosen through the Internet.
In addition to this program, from InterAct, Norwalk, Conn., A&P offers other electronic discounts. With another program, customers choose their discounts on-line and then print out a list with a bar code at the bottom. When a customer presents the page at the POS, a certificate is printed reflecting the savings, which can be used during the customer's next shopping trip.
A&P officials declined to comment on the future of this on-line program. However, in an interview earlier this year (SN, Feb. 15, 1999) an A&P official told SN that the retailer planned to continue using both methods of on-line discounts.