by Jeff Delp
If you have ever volunteered or been to a food pantry, you’re probably familiar with the concept of limitations. Most food pantries have limitations like you can only visit one time a month or you can only get two of each item. These “rules” are put in place for good reason. There is a limited supply, and the food pantry wants to serve as many people as possible. In a broader sense, the food pantry also has the ultimate hope that one day you will stop coming, that you will no longer need their offering.
However, Carver Market is not a food pantry. We are a grocery store. But we serve a similar population as many food pantries. Yet we strive to be something completely different.
This month we launched our loyalty program. The loyalty program is designed to encourage our customers to visit more often and rewards them for their purchases. Every customer earns 3% off their bill when they sign up. As they spend more, they begin to save 5%, then 7%, and up to 10% off. It’s a great way to reward our most loyal customers, keep our prices competitive, and best of all, our customers love it!
The loyalty program concept is a complete 180 degree shift from the traditional charity paradigm. Instead of establishing limitations around our customers, we are encouraging them - and in fact, need them - to keep coming back. We don’t restrict how many of a certain item they can buy, but we find ways to encourage them to buy more of what they need. And rather than the program being designed only for those that financially qualify, all our customers benefit equally. Everyone who lives in South Atlanta, regardless of paycheck amount, can shop and enjoy the benefits of the Carver Market. In fact, we are most successful when everyone participates.
These shifts are part of what distinguishes us as a thriving business for a diverse customer base and not a local food pantry. Every successful business figures out a way to reward and keep loyal customers. It costs too much money to constantly obtain new customers for your business. In fact, one of the most common ways businesses measure success is by customer retention.
However, in traditional charity models success if often defined by the number of different people who receive or benefit from a service. And repeat appearance can be viewed as organizational failure, rather than success. This paradigm impacts how people in neighborhoods like ours can be viewed, and many are not familiar with being treated as valued customers.
Many of our shoppers may be the ones that would be limited in a traditional charity model, but in our model, they are welcomed and wanted. We believe that the difference in being desired and rewarded, instead of limited, is a huge step in transforming our community. As we launch our new loyalty program and track our stats, we will keep looking for more ways to reward and retain our most loyal customers at Carver Market.