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The Differentiator

By Brian Woolf
June 14, 2011

Differentiation is a critical element of effective strategy, whether we are talking about a corporation or a loyalty program, and Big Y does it best...

As you know, differentiation is a critical element of effective strategy, whether we are talking about a corporation or a loyalty program. When we talk of the latter, Big Y does it best: Big Y is The Differentiator. It has been different right from its loyalty program's launch in 1991.

So it was no surprise to learn that in March it introduced yet another major differentiation. The surprise is always learning what this creative food retailer adds to its free-membership Big Y Express Savings Club program. This year's surprise was the launch of a second loyalty card, the Big Y Silver Savings Club - with a $20-year annual fee - a first for any major food retailer anywhere in the world. Of course, the Silver Savings Club card offers additional benefits and additional simplicity. And, of course, once the program settled down, I had to go and see it in action. I came away convinced that The Differentiator had, indeed, widened - and deepened - its competitive moat.

Big Y today has 60 large attractive supermarkets, spread across Massachusetts and Connecticut. To understand its new card launch we should view it in the context of its loyalty history. When its Express Savings Club program was launched 20 years ago it clearly differed from its competitors - it made shopping easier! At the time, New England was awash in a sea of coupons. Retailers loaded their weekly ads and circulars with numerous great-value coupons that customers had to clip and present when shopping. Big Y's new Express Savings Card was launched with a simple message - you'll never have to clip another coupon at Big Y! Instead, customers were told they could buy up to 5 of each coupon item in the weekly ad at the coupon price just by presenting its new Express card! Big Y dubbed the program clipless coupons!

Ever since, Big Y has avoided copying competitors' programs. [Don't mimic - mystify!] That attitude is reflected in the six meetings each year its top executives have that discusses one simple question: How can we make our program better by differentiating it even more? Some of the major pioneering changes that have flowed from these meetings include:

Now, as a loyalty strategist, what do you think Big Y's next surprise might be? You can be sure it will be different. For many years, this company has impressed me as having the world's most creative (and unique) loyalty program. That's why I call Big Y The Differentiator.

Copyright © 2011 - 2022 Brian Woolf

About the author...

Brian Woolf is a global leader in loyalty marketing and has written three definitive works on the subject, Measured Marketing: A Tool to Shape Food Store Strategy, Customer Specific Marketing, and Loyalty Marketing: The Second Act. He devotes his time to helping retailers develop, critique and strengthen their loyalty programs.

The techniques and metrics Brian Woolf has developed have become guiding principles for those operating some of the world's most successful programs. He is the President of the Retail Strategy Center, and has consulted, and spoken at conferences, in the US, Europe, Japan, and Australasia.

Prior to his total commitment to loyalty marketing, his corporate roles included Deputy Managing Director of Progressive Enterprises, a major New Zealand retailer; and Chief Financial Officer of Food Lion, a leading US food retailer. He has an M.Com. (Economics) from the University of Auckland, New Zealand, and an MBA from the Harvard Business School.

Copyright © 2022 Brian Woolf