Managing Loyalty During COVID-19: Grocery Industry Trends

April 20, 2020 | AppCard Team

With the COVID-19 pandemic well underway, grocery stores across the U.S. have been overwhelmed with additional business as shoppers flock to their local stores to stock up on everything they expect they will need during this indefinite period of sheltering at home. Shoppers are experiencing longer lines as they enter these stores and are greeted by hard-working employees who are repeatedly filling shelves with once-abundant items like toilet paper, bleach, vitamins, water and the like.  It is a situation that is without precedent in our lifetimes.


Thankfully, the grocery industry is a highly resilient and competitive environment. That being the case, many grocers continue to use loyalty reward programs, even in times like these, to entice shoppers to remain loyal to their stores, ensure repeat visits and strengthen relationships with their shoppers by offering points, discounts, digital coupons and continuity offers, while also increasing vital relationship-building one-to-one digital communications with their valued shoppers using text messaging, email campaigns and in-lane print messages.


During this atypical coronavirus situation, the grocery industry has initiated some new and creative ways to inform and serve their valued shoppers during this challenging time by showing compassion and assistance to others. At AppCard, we used the previous weeks to analyze these innovative promotions and campaigns that have been delivered to the millions of shoppers on the AppCard network and have summarized these trends in the following executive brief.


Some of the actions we have seen from our partners include:

  • Notifying shoppers via SMS or email when in-demand (and frequently out of stock items) become available again.
  • Offering special store hours for the elderly, disabled, first responders and medical workers, who might not be able to conveniently shop while a store is busy or during shortened business hours of operation.
  • Informing shoppers of clearance items that may be more affordable to those recently unemployed.
  • Dedicating a check-out lane for seniors, first responders, law enforcement and medical workers.
  • Offering special discounts or bonus points for seniors, first responders, law enforcement and medical workers.
  • Rewarding their employees for their additional work and personal sacrifices.
  • Informing shoppers of any new store policies instituted in light of the pandemic (new hours, social distancing practices, sanitation changes, etc.)
  • Targeting messages and incentives to new and former shoppers who may have returned to a store after a long absence or split their shopping habits with competitors.
  • Maintaining a special reserve of staple items for seniors, law enforcement and medical workers.
  • Using SMS, email or in-lane print to contact the elderly or those who are shut-in to see if they need help with their shopping or a grocery delivery.
  • Rewarding shoppers with an act of kindness or “above and beyond” service, like a simple text message or phone call to a first responder to see if they need help.  
  • Identifying and contacting shoppers with specific dietary needs (for health or religious reasons) to help them obtain these unique items in this time of dwindling supply.
  • Informing shoppers about their online shopping, delivery and pick-up services and rewarding shoppers for using these services to prevent store overcrowding and unnecessary social contact.
  • Creating an opportunity for food donations to local Food Banks or similar charities and matching a portion of those donations.
  • Contacting at risk shoppers or others that may have not visited the store for a period of time and offer assistance. 
  • Creating collaborations with local restaurants in the community and informing shoppers of these local business support initiatives. 

Rewards, loyalty and digital coupons are mission critical offerings that require the most reliable solution for your day to day promotions and pricing solution. The AppCard JBrain, powered by Intel’s CPU and WiFi helps put your data to work with intelligence from Edge to the Cloud across our IOT architecture.

On a personal note, I would like to extend my sincerest thanks and gratitude to the people in the grocery industry for their amazing work and service to our communities.  Without your commitment and altruistic sacrifices for your shoppers, families and neighbors, these uncertain times would be far less bearable. We are humbled by your courageous efforts and are proud to stand alongside you.

Lance Recker author of this article is the Head of the Promotion Services Team at AppCard, a marketing technology leader who helps retailers capture purchase data to help analyze and target shoppers with relevant offers. These offers are presented to the shopper in a variety of ways including:  text messaging, emails, in-lane prints and more


AppCard is a Member of the Intel IoT Solutions Alliance. A global ecosystem of more than 800 industry leaders, the Alliance offers its Members unique access to Intel technology, expertise, and go-to-market support, accelerating the deployment of best-in-class solutions. Powered by Intel CPU, AppCard J-brain ensures data is captured at the EDGE and transferred to the cloud where we run our machine learning and AI to guarantee that offers, rewards and campaigns are all personalized to shoppers and employees.


About AppCard Team