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Quantitative Marketing and Economics

, Volume 1, Issue 2, pp 179–202 | Cite as

The Impact of Frequent Shopper Programs in Grocery Retailing

  • Rajiv LalEmail author
  • David E. Bell
Article

Abstract

Frequent shopper programs are becoming ubiquitous in retailing. Retailers seem unsure however about whether these programs are leading to higher loyalty, or to higher profits. In this paper we analyze data from a U.S. supermarket chain that has used a number of frequent shopper rewards to improve sales and profitability. We find that while these programs are profitable, this is only because substantial incremental sales to casual shoppers (cherry pickers) offset subsidies to already loyal customers. In this way our findings are inconsistent with existing theories about how frequent shopper programs are supposed to work. We construct our own Hotelling-like model that explicitly models cherry picking behavior and show that its predictions match the data quite closely. We further test the predictions of our model by characterizing the impact of such programs on trip frequency and basket size. We then use the model to examine more complex scenarios. For example, our analysis suggests that frequent shopper programs may be unprofitable if they eliminate all cherry picking. This may explain why some retailers seem dissatisfied with their programs. We end by proposing a solution that retains the benefits of the frequent shopper programs and yet continues to let supermarkets benefit from price discrimination.

frequent shopper programs loyalty programs grocery retailing game theory 

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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Harvard Business SchoolBoston

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