M&S trialling loyalty card scheme

Will offer treats, rather than points

manchester  uk   april 22 ...

Marks & Spencer is reportedly considering introducing a loyalty card scheme, provisionally called Sparks.

Unlike other schemes, which offer shoppers redeemable points based on the amount of money spent, the M&S version would reward customers with treats such as exclusive benefits and personalised offers.

It would operate across departments, covering clothing and general merchandise as well as groceries.

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If a trial goes well, a source told Reuters, the scheme could be rolled out this autumn. An official spokesperson refused to confirm the story, but said that being more in touch with customers was one of the company's biggest priorities for the year ahead.

It's not the first loyalty scheme for M&S - it already has a more traditional points-based scheme in place for its personal banking customers.

But the new plan would, it appears, be rather more about personal treats - perhaps something like the company's most recent Christmas campaign, which saw it offering one-off surprise gifts to people nominated by customers on social media.

Certainly, the name 'Sparks' has echoes of the campaign, which featured two fairies called Magic and Sparkle distributing surprise presents.

The scheme might also have similarities to the MyWaitrose card, which isn't points-based but which offers free coffee and newspapers to members, as well as savings on shopping.

Marks and Spencer is now in a better position than it was to offer personalised rewards, after moving its website from an Amazon platform to its own in-house version last year.

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This means it now has much more insight into its customers' shopping habits and can tailor offers to their previous spending habits and tastes.

Tesco pioneered the loyalty card in the UK in 1995 with its Clubcard scheme, and now offers one point for every £1 spent - essentially a 1% discount. Sainsbury's, however, recently halved the number of points it awards. Morrisons launched its own scheme last autumn, although points here are based on whether its prices are higher than competitors'.

Asda, Aldi and Lidl have avoided loyalty schemes altogether.

Nine out of ten of us now use loyalty cards - although most of us have half a dozen or more. While in some ways this rather defeats the object, they are still a massive resource for retailers, allowing them to gather detailed information on what their customers are buying.

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