business news in context, analysis with attitude

Yesterday my FaceTime commentary suggested that retailers with so-called loyalty programs may have missed an opportunity during the roughest days of the pandemic - they could've used their data and reached out to best customers to offer access to products that often were in short supply.  To me, this would've been the very definition of proving loyalty to shoppers, as opposed to simply using their programs as electronic coupon systems.  (I asked people to correct me if I am wrong, and that there were retailers out there who did this.)

MNB reader Howard Schneider wrote:

I’ve been involved in loyalty and customer engagement programs since the 1980s. For years, I have been urging clients that the way to build customer loyalty is to demonstrate loyalty to your customers … You are right when you note that many programs, especially in retail, do not use the data they have built at such cost and effort to reach out to customers customize the way they deal with them, try to anticipate and solve customer problems.

Many companies, typically in service verticals rather than retail, do use customer data wisely, in ways that benefit both customer and marketer. But too often that is a best practice honored in the breach. Sadly, I cannot answer your challenge with examples from the supermarket industry.

One MNB reader wrote:

Brilliant analysis!! For never having actually worked in retail (right?), you always nail how retail can do many things better. I was in retail for 35+ years (Kroger and Walmart) and am inspired by your vision.

From another reader:

No, I was never contacted by a retailer that would demonstrate any type loyalty back to me as a consumer. What I did experience was the opportunity to bag my own groceries after spending $300/$400 dollars!!!

MNB reader Sarah Rivers wrote:

That was such a great point about retailers being loyal to their customers.  Should work both ways, right?!

And from another:

Can't agree with you more Kevin.  Many (but not all) retailers are using their "loyalty" programs backwards and always have been.  It has always been about the consumer proving how loyal they are and getting rewarded for that, when it could be so much more valuable to the retailer to prove their loyalty to the consumer.  The pandemic has proven that out with the missed opportunities.

And still another:

I agree that none of the big box retailers with whom I have an account did anything different in 2020 to reward me as a loyal customer (or maybe none have categorized me as a best customer).  I did have one small company Ellessco LLC - from whom I purchased some masks and filters early in March - send a few emails with a special link to purchase more masks or supplies before they went live on the general website.  I appreciated the opportunity to purchase more especially since they limited the quantities I could buy initially.

We took note yesterday of a New York Times story about how the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)  said it was proposing the revocation of its definition and standard of identity for French dressing — effectively erasing the government-sanctioned list of ingredients at the request of an industry group, the Association for Dressings & Sauces."

Prompting one MNB reader to write:

Just two things:  I am amazed that there is an Association for Dressings and Sauces with enough dues to pay a lobbyist.  I will no longer be buying French Dressing when it can be made at home.

I'm a little amazed that the FDA doesn't have more important stuff to do, but that's another story.  (I cannot remember the last time I had French dressing, if at all.)

I can't speak to the dues, but I can tell you that many years ago I had great fun giving a speech to a meeting held by the Association of Dressings and Sauces.  My memory is that it was in Vancouver, British Columbia, in a beautiful hotel overlooking the waterfront.

They also did one of the more interesting events I've ever seen at such a meeting - they brought in a chef who did a mass lesson in how to make a great omelette, with individual cooking stations set up all around a ballroom for the people in attendance.  It was theatrical, entertaining and educational - pretty much a win-win-win.

Finally … in apologizing yesterday for an email snafu that prevented most MNB Wake Up Call emails from going out on Friday, I wrote:

We've done a little investigating, and it seems that after hacking the nation's nuclear laboratories as well as the Pentagon, Treasury and Commerce Department systems, Russia wanted to go after other vital online assets.  Naturally, MNB was high on their priority list … reportedly because Putin is a big investor in Instacart, and got tired of all the negative coverage.  

MNB reader Alison Kenney Paul responded:

Thanks for making me laugh out loud Kevin …..another ‘2020 happening’ in a long list of ‘happenings’ this year – but glad we can still have chuckle of some!

And from another reader:

Best way to start a Monday…Putin, Instacart and hacking all in one….classic KC.

Thanks.  It always makes me happiest when an MNB reader tells me I made her or him laugh.

Which reminds me … there's an excellent piece in The New Yorker by the legendary Calvin Trillin, entitled "Some Notes on Funniness: Lessons in humor, from grade school to Johnny Carson."

You can read it here, and I heartily recommend it.