Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Stay in Front of Trouble

A recent Vending Times posting reports that if you sell beverages in your store, odds are increasing your shoppers will see calorie counts right on the front of cans, bottles, packaging, and vending machine buttons. So far, this initiative from the “Clear on Calories” alliance covers products from Coca-Cola Co., PepsiCo, Dr Pepper, Snapple Group, Sunny Delight Beverages, NestlĂ© Waters North America, Cott Beverages, and Honest Tea.
     Consumer protection organizations and consumers themselves have increasingly accused beverage manufacturers of hiding calorie information. Such suspiciousness may cause trouble for the retailers who carry those beverages. The “Clear on Calories” initiative is a reminder of the value in literally staying up front about troublesome issues.
     A more direct retailing example is the tale of Safeway and Kroger. The Center for Science in the Public Interest is suing Safeway, Inc. for failing to use data from their frequent shopper program to notify people of any recalls of products the people have purchased.
     Last week’s response from Safeway to the legal action? Using their loyalty program data for this purpose would be unnecessarily cumbersome. But as one retailing guru has opined in criticizing the Safeway response, “If just one or two customers are hurt or killed—and there's a good chance some might be children—because of the lack of notice, the legal liabilities (not to mention the PR disaster) could be devastating. So why risk it?”
     What about The Kroger Co.? In late 2009, this grocery retailer announced they would be using their sales databases to notify each customer when an item the customer previously purchased is being recalled for safety reasons. Research had suggested many consumers would consider the program as showing a caring attitude and a social consciousness.
     There’s more to the story, though. About five years earlier, in 2004, a lawsuit had been filed against Kroger similar to the recent Safeway action. Kroger’s initial response also was to fight rather than get out in front and lead. In this, they missed an early learning opportunity. For instance, Kroger’s initial experiences with their 2009 program showed that some customers didn’t like to be reminded every purchase was being tracked.
     And as to knowing calorie counts, some shoppers don’t want to. Researchers at Washington State University and University of Texas-Austin call this phenomenon “willful ignorance.”
     Those out in front of such trouble can make adjustments, achieving a competitive advantage.

Click below for more:
Offer Frequent Shopper Benefits Beyond Discounts
Acknowledge Customers’ Willful Ignorance

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