Safeway Takes A Page Out Of Air Canada’s Book

Safeway is quietly rolling out its Safeway Club Elite program to reward its most valuable shoppers, which are defined as those who spent more than $125 per week over the past six months at Safeway.

According to a recent news article, members of Safeway Club Elite get extra perks over and above regular Safeway Club Card holders such as “an additional nickel-per-litre discount off gasoline, 10 per cent off roses and deli sandwiches, cash back up to $300, refunds without receipts and the store manager’s cellphone number.”

Store managers are approaching customers at the checkout to let them know that they qualify for Safeway Club Elite and member profiles will be updated every three months to identify new members of the Elite tier.

The approach taken by Safeway seems to be modeled somewhat on Canada’s most popular loyalty program, Air Canada’s Aeroplan. Even the name seems to be borrowed from Air Canada’s “Elite” status.

For those of you who are a member with Air Canada’s Aeroplan program, you will be familiar with the benefits of a frequent flyer who qualifies for their Prestige, Elite or Super Elite program based on how many miles you travel.

When you fly as a regular Aeroplan member you could be sitting in 29E (middle seat next to the toilet and galley), pay to check your second bag and have to wait in a 20 minute line up to check in (and board the plane for that matter).

As a Super Elite member (100,000 or more miles per year), who purchased an identical economy ticket you will have free access to prime bulkhead or emergency exit seats (or even be upgraded to business class), be allowed to check three pieces of baggage, check in at a dedicated line up, relax in the lounge prior to take off, earn extra Aeroplan points and if something goes wrong you can call a dedicated “concierge” who will help you get on your way again.

I think that Safeway Club Elite is a great marketing program that will help cement the loyalty of its best and most profitable clients through small perks that can make a big difference.

Safeway could take the program even further though. What about a dedicated checkout just for Safeway Club Elites (something I saw in a supermarket in Vietnam) or a personal shopper that would accept your grocery list by email and have your basket prepared for you when you arrive at the store?

Gas coupons and 10% floral and deli are nice to have, but to really get Safeway Elite shoppers into the mentality of an Air Canada Elite (who will pay more for their ticket and connect in Ottawa when flying from Toronto to Vancouver just to maintain their status) the rewards will have to be lucrative.

In order to shift my whole basket to Safeway, I need more than the manager’s phone number.

The Safeway Club Elite program is a great start that could help Safeway entrench their shoppers without resorting to margin destroying discounts. It will be interesting to see where this program evolves.

My only question is: “The Super Elite tag from Air Canada can be a badge of honor or a real curse (based on traveling so much). Could the Safeway Club Elite card be a similar blessing / curse based on Safeway’s premium pricing position in the market?”


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