ANALYSIS: Will Bass card points sell more pints? - Pubs are now following the example of retailers by introducing their own loyalty cards. But can a bonus scheme keep drinkers loyal to their locals? Harriet Marsh reports

For most pub-goers, the reward for popping down to their local has usually been a personal greeting from the bar staff and the pleasure of seeing a pint of the usual pulled as they walk through the door.

For most pub-goers, the reward for popping down to their local has

usually been a personal greeting from the bar staff and the pleasure of

seeing a pint of the usual pulled as they walk through the door.



But no longer. Last week, Bass Taverns introduced what it claims is the

first pub loyalty card across 100 of its community pubs. The scheme,

called CheckPoints, offers the obligatory plastic card and the chance to

collect one point for every pounds 1 spent, with 25 points equalling

pounds 1 off the next purchase of food or drink.



Customers can collect up to pounds 5 on the card from any purchase

between Sunday and Thursday, and can redeem the points in any

participating pubs.



After a test run in 20 pubs in Wolverhampton and Shrewsbury, Bass

Taverns is expecting around 80% of customers in participating pubs to

sign up.



’It brings us into relationship marketing and enables us to identify our

valuable consumers and treat them accordingly,’ says Bass Taverns’

customer loyalty manager, Jim Mercer.



However, the pattern of spending in a pub is very different from that

for other retail purchases, such as groceries, petrol or household

bills.



A pub visit typically involves at least two or three transactions, with

the card having to be topped up with points each time.



’The challenge is that the value of spend is quite low, so you have to

concentrate on the high-value customers and you have to use the data to

good effect to give people real benefit,’ says one relationship

marketing expert.



Bass Taverns is hoping to overcome customer inertia to the scheme by

introducing a pint glass graphic on the card which gradually fills up as

points are collected.



Bar banter



’In the trial we did come across one or two cynics, but they were

overcome once their friends had signed up,’ says Mercer. ’We are

encouraging our managers to positively sign people up, and we hope that

the graphic on the card will encourage the development of a dialogue

with the customer at the point of sale.’



However, lingering doubts remain. In a typical pub visit, each person

may buy a round for two or three friends, who then in turn each buy

their own round. It is a difficult environment in which to accurately

reflect each individual’s exact purchasing habits.



Marcus Evans, chairman of Bates Communications, says it is the

information collected through the scheme and not the level of reward

which makes or breaks it.



’Too many people focus on the reward,’ he says. ’The reward is

essentially the price the company pays for accurate communication, and

it is that which drives the programme. Otherwise, all you have is

discounting.’



But Bass’s scheme comes at the tail end of a period of intense activity

on the loyalty front by many companies. It is now over two years since

Tesco launched its Clubcard and a raft of companies have since jumped on

the loyalty bandwagon.



One too many?



There are an estimated 20 million loyalty cards in the UK - roughly one

for every household. When the effectiveness of current schemes has been

disputed, the question of whether there is a demand for yet another

loyalty card in people’s wallets is a valid one.



Recent research by NOP for Marketing shows that existing supermarket

loyalty cards have failed to make a major impact on customer

behaviour.



Of the 1000 people questioned, two-thirds said they did not visit that

store any more often than before.



While Bass Tavern’s Mercer remains confident the scheme is going to

boost sales, as Evans of Bates Communications says, the ultimate loyalty

programme is still: ’Hi Bob! Had a hard day? Pint of the usual?’



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