Loyalty & Rewards

Whole Foods’ Take On Loyalty And Apple Pay

Retailers like Whole Foods are beginning to see that customer loyalty can deliver when it comes to the company’s bottom line.

That’s certainly the case with its own loyalty program that the company introduced for the first time last year, which helped Whole Foods achieve an all-time record sales of $4.7 billion, a 10 percent increase from the year prior, in its first-quarter earnings.

“We are pleased with the results of our 12-store affinity test, which shows high activation and registration rates and above-average basket sizes for participants,” Whole Foods CEO Walter Robb in the company’s earnings call with analysts last week (Feb. 11). “We are continuing to incorporate customer feedback as we upgrade and add new features to this program, and recently added some new talent to lead our efforts in this area. We’re excited to expand the pilot to our Washington, D.C., customers this spring, with hopes of having the program live in a majority of our stores for the 2015 holiday season.”

Between the addition of its fresh grocery delivery options through its 15-market partnership with Instacart that started in September of last year, Whole Foods reported its average weekly online delivery sales passed the $1 million mark. That’s helped the speciality food retailer grow its digital efforts while continuing to focus on its brick-and-mortar stores.

“We are exploring opportunities to extend this successful partnership, including expanding functionality to support our affinity program,” Robb said, which is in addition to Whole Foods’ mobile app that has 600,000 downloads. “We recognize the changing technology and growing demand for customization that fundamentally altered retailing forever. Customers now expect to connect with the brand whenever, wherever and however they choose. And it’s part of our broader digital roadmap we are rapidly building out an extended customer experience beyond the four walls of our stores.”

Although it wasn’t much of a mention in the earning call, Robb did indicate that Apple Pay continues to help sales across its store. In the company’s third-quarter earnings report, it said the mobile wallet processed more than 150,000 transactions. Apple Pay continues to be part of Whole Foods’ strategy to attract customers. He also gave the Apple Watch a brief shout-out.

With, the largest Apple Pay retailer in terms of both transactions and sales, further reinforcing the notion that our customer base wants to take advantage of the latest digital technologies. This payment option has grown quickly to 2 percent of sales which we expect will continue to increase especially after the Apple Watch launches this year,” Robb said. 

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