BrainTrust Query: Living at Wegmans
By Bill Hanifin
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion
is a summary of a current article from the Hanifin Loyalty blog.
Josh Stevens is the Groupawn, striving to live off Groupons for one year.
If he’s successful, Groupon gains additional publicity in extreme fashion,
all for the cost of $100,000 — the carrot in front of Josh until May 2011.
neither a “WegPawn” or eligible for any incentive from Wegmans, but I am considering
moving in for the summer.
Having just toured the East Coast of the U.S., I’ve had the opportunity
to experience the merchandising approach of several grocery chains including
Publix, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Harris Teeter, and a few other smaller
players. In my opinion, Wegmans sits above them all in creating grocery loyalty,
with beautifully organized stores, reasonable prices, a fantastic array of
prepared foods, and a comfortable coffee shop and dining loft where customers
can relax over a meal or pound away on their laptops using the free wireless
The Western New York grocery chain is not treating customer loyalty
as a fad and begins with staffing. It has landed on the “Best Companies
to Work For” list every year since it began in 1998. The company’s
mission statement outlines three beliefs that define their viewpoint on what
it takes to build customer loyalty and increase intrinsic business value over
time. Some excerpts:
- “We believe that good people, working toward a common goal, can accomplish
anything they set out to do.”
- “We set our goal to be the very best at serving the needs of our
customers. Every action we take should be made with this in mind.”
- “We also believe that we can achieve our goal only if we fulfill
the needs of our own people. To our customers and our people we pledge continuous
improvement, and we make the commitment: ‘Every Day You Get Our Best.’ “
One significant difference from other general supermarkets is that rewards
programs don’t drive customer loyalty.
Wegmans discontinued a punch-card style
Coffee Club in 2007 (but still offers refills for $.50) and has de-emphasized
its Shoppers Club, at least in practice. Jo Natale, director of media relations,
shared that Shoppers Club “is still
very much active,” but “since we moved to consistent, low prices
several years ago (in place of short-term sales), there are fewer discounts
overall, because our prices don’t fluctuate as they once did.”
I a Wegman family member? No.
Is Wegmans perfect? No.
Could Wegmans be more creative in collecting and using
customer data to go beyond two-tier customer clubs? Yes.
Despite areas of potential
improvement, is Wegmans the best example I have seen of a grocery chain delivering
on its brand promise and creating grocery
loyalty through merchandising and store design? Yes!
Am I really moving in this
summer? No, I really like my family and will save Wegmans visits for those
on-the-fly email check ups and when I want some really great food!
Discussion Questions: What do you think of Wegmans’ efforts to create customer
loyalty through an enterprise approach that values its customers and employees,
but downplays an explicit rewards offer? What’s the cost of missing any customer
data coming from a more aggressive rewards program?