Last month, Beautycard, Superdrug's new loyalty card scheme, finally arrived on the UK high street. Superdrug is the second largest health and beauty retailer, behind Boots, operating 900 stores across the UK and Ireland, 200 of which also house pharmacies.
As a self-confessed beauty junkie, I'd always wondered why Superdrug had been so slow to launch a loyalty card for its shoppers. After all, its competitor, Boots, whose loyalty card scheme launched in 1997 and now has well over 16 million users, has left it well and truly behind. Boots’ reward scheme enables it to collect customer data to actively target shoppers with promotions and products that they are more interested in. It’s this valuable customer data that the Beautycard (with its mirror on the back) is trying to capture in order to market and sell Superdrug products to consumers.
I can't help but hope that Superdrug's delay to bring out its own loyalty card was because it wanted to own a scheme that truly differentiated it on something other than price. Perhaps it wanted to take customer loyalty to the next level, harnessing the technology of the digital age to bring its shoppers a rewards scheme that was intelligent, personal, and human. The initial signs are good.
Superdrug turned up the heat on Boots with the redesign of its in-store magazine in February. The magazine now uses digital watermarking technology to allow shoppers to buy products straight from the magazine using their smartphones; readers can also view video content and access exclusive news, tips, and offers by scanning barcodes embedded in the mag. Beautycard is also trying to drive customers to shop online, offering 10 points for every £1 spent on Superdrug.com versus 1 point per £1 in store. Boots has 2,500 stores across the UK so perhaps it’s online that Superdrug feels able to quickly beef up its size. I’d like to see Superdrug using gamification techniques to get consumers to "join" the brand rather than sending out an email into consumers’ already overloaded inboxes. Innovative ways of getting shoppers to engage with the Superdrug brand is how they can really set themselves apart from rivals.
However, with the launch of Boots extended Advantage Card offer, Treat Street, last autumn, cardholders can also collect advantage points at a range of other online retailers such as Lastminute.com, ASOS, eBay and notonthehighstreet.com. It seems that the battle for pounds in the UK beauty industry is going to get ugly.