Challenges in Rollout
Dietz described “two buckets” of challenges during the rollout — making sure that customers had the “right experience” while using Just for U, and making sure the technology was functioning properly to support the program.
“We really worked on understanding how to make it as simple and intuitive as possible for the customer, and that was one part of what we were trying to learn as we launched the program,” Dietz explained.
“We also worked on the technical support, to make sure that things were working on the back end, to handle surges online, and handle the complexities involved.
“As we got into rolling it out, we really learned in both areas, but those were the two buckets we spent the most time on.”
While the process has been smoothed out over time to meet those challenges, Dietz noted that the company was still making improvements.
“We always you learn as we go, and we want to continue to refine and improve as we go,” she said. “We are constantly looking for ways to improve that experience for our customers.”
Overall, Dietz said Safeway has received a “very positive response” from consumers about using Just for U.
“Along the way we had some bumps in the road, and we had some technical issues, and some things that we had to deal with, and that helped us [improve] and make it a very good experience for our shoppers. It’s very simple, and it’s very easy to use.”
Dietz was quick to credit her whole team — which spans several departments and disciplines — with the success the company has had.
Safeway recruited help in promoting Just for U by introducing it to local bloggers in various markets as the program rolled out. The bloggers, she noted, were particularly responsive to the rollout of the app for using Just for U on a mobile device.
“We went out there and looked for the people who were trying to save shoppers money,” Dietz explained. “Many shoppers look at these folks as experts in that area, so we brought them in to see how they used it, and we did shop-alongs to make sure everything was loaded and working correctly.”
In some markets, the local bloggers — identified by Safeway’s social media team — were invited to hotels to learn how the program worked so they could make the best use of it in the stores and better explain it to their readers.
“They have been a big help to us as we’ve rolled this out,” Dietz explained. “They had a lot of good things to say about it.”
Safeway has also supported the rollout with traditional media and in-store signs. It recently launched a TV campaign promoting Just for U as an opportunity to “move out of a paper world.”
“That’s the insight behind the TV marketing that’s running right now,” Dietz explained. “We would like to continue with that because it is simpler for consumers, and it is on the vector of sustainability.”
The reduction of paper coupons has been one of the primary drivers behind Just for U, Dietz explained.
“We knew going into this that cutting and counting coupons is not the ideal consumer experience,” she said. “Just for U changes that entire experience.
“Innovations are possible when you know what the current dissatisfiers are, and you focus on how to improve that experience. That’s one of the things we are focused on.”
Analysts report that Just for U appears to be driving sales and market share growth — noting that it has gained an increasing share of followers as it has rolled out to various markets during the last two years.
“Based on the encouraging results of our proprietary survey of about 700 Safeway customers, we believe both positive tonnage and operating profit growth could be within reach,” said Karen Short, a New York-based analyst with BMO Capital Markets, in a report issued in September.
She said the survey, which polled Just for U users in 10 major markets, found that almost half of Safeway customers were using Just for U.
“Early skepticism that customers would be reluctant to change their behavior — e.g., select coupons online that are relevant to the customer before the shop vs. previously having all discounts available at the store — is proved incorrect in our survey,” she noted. “The high penetration of customers using the program is impressive given the relatively short time frame that the company has promoted the program in the more recently rolled-out markets.”
Short’s survey found penetration rates ranging from 17% in Houston to 67% in Washington, D.C., with a total of 48% of Safeway customers registered.
About a third of those surveyed said they used Just for U before each of their last five visits.
Additionally, Short found that about 86% of survey participants found Just for U “easy” or “very easy” to use and 80% said they believe it saves them money.
“Lastly, 86% of the respondents would recommend Just for U to a family member or friend, a clear indication that Just for U is gaining traction,” Short concluded.
Andrew Wolf, a Richmond, Va.-based analyst with BB&T Capital Markets, said Just for U “should continue to boost market share” for Safeway, following the company’s third-quarter earnings report in October when it pointed out improving trends in identical-store sales growth.
“We anticipate that ID sales trends should improve as Just for U continues to mature,” Wolf said.
He noted after a meeting with company management that the Just for U plan was to boost sales per transaction by $8 to $11, and it has achieved double that for regular users.