PC Plus Points and the Grocery Shopping Experience

A few months ago, President’s Choice/Loblaw launched its newest rewards/loyalty program called PC Plus.

They describe the program as a “smart rewards program” that tailors rewards according to your own shopping preferences and behaviour.

pc-plus-cardNow, I admit, I’m a rewards program junkie.  I have every card that I could possibly have and make a lot of purchase decisions based on what points/rewards I can collect.

I used to be all about Air Miles.  I have stopped using that program since I don’t feel I get enough value from the program.  When I lived in Calgary, I would grocery shop at Safeway and I would rack up hundreds of Air Miles a month.  Since moving back to Ontario and living near a Loblaws store, I don’t go out of my way to rack up Air Miles anymore.  It means I am less likely to buy gas at Shell (Air Miles) or use the online Air Miles shop.

More recently, I have shifted into an Aeroplan fanatic.  I’ve been travelling quite a bit more and my fiancee lives overseas so travel rewards are far more valuable to me than they used to be.

We know from our research that Millennials are loyalty/rewards obsessed, as are Canadians in general.  But in recent years we have seen a shift in the types of programs available and the incentives built into the programs meant to drive behaviour and collect data for the respective retailer or brand.

Here’s my review of the PC Plus program as a regular user and as a market researcher.

PC Plus: Making Grocery Shopping an Experience

Brief Summary of the Program

The PC Plus program is quite simple.  You sign up for the program using a pre-existing PC Points membership or sign up new online or in store.  The program is best if you download the app to your smart phone or tablet.

Each Friday, the consumer is given new “offers” which need to be loaded into the app.  These offers give the consumer points based on their purchases. For example, this week, I can get 1,200 points for buying PC Shredded Cheese or I get 200 points for every dollar I spend on oranges.

You can also collect points from buying products in store that have an offer attached to them.  In my local Loblaws, the points are displayed on either white tickets below the product or in the bottom right hand corner of sale tickets.

To collect the points, you have to provide your card or smart phone with the app loaded up when you are paying for your purchases.

When it comes to the reward points themselves, consumers are able to redeem their points when they have collected 20,000 or more.  20,000 points is equivalent to $20.  So, every 100 points is worth 10 cents.

According to our own tracking of rewards programs in Canada, 12% of Canadians we surveyed had collected PC Points/PC Plus Points in the past three months making the program the 10th most used reward program in Canada.  You can see all the results here.

The Incentive Structure

The incentive structure of the program is different from other rewards programs in that is not based on your total purchase.

You don’t collect any points if you don’t purchase products without offers attached to them.  This is different from Air Miles or even the standard PC Points program linked to the PC Mastercard.

This means the program has the ability to drive purchase decisions on certain products and the “smart” part of the program is that it supposedly offers you points based on your past behaviour.

It also means that if I buy a certain brand of cereal and I get 500 points along with the purchase, I am in essence saving 50 cents on that purchase.

The potential genius of the program though is that it offers points on staples such as eggs, produce, and fresh meat.  So instead of viewing the points as “savings” on the products the points are attached to, I see them as “savings” on other products I  don’t consider as staples.  I can also use the points for anything in the store including house wears, magazines, cleaning products, and personal hygiene products.

For example, this week I had an offer to receive 200 points for every $1 I spent on fresh sausages.  So if I want to collect points (and I do!) than I will shift my eating habits and meal planning to include sausages.

My Weekly Loblaws Amazing Race

I really enjoy the program because I love grocery shopping and I have turned the program into a weekly game.  Each week, I get my offers and head into my local Loblaws on the weekend and set out to amass as many points as a can.

Two weeks ago, blackberries were on offer (600 points for each pint I buy) so I bought 4 pints and ate blackberries all week.

Last week, there was an offer of 5,000 points for every $25 spent on Joe Fresh apparel.  So, I stocked up on new socks and underwear. Awesome!  After paying for my groceries and clothes, I had earned 15,450 points, the most since I started using the program in May.

As a Canadian Business magazine article writes, the PC Plus program is really a game in disguise.

And it is one well targetted at Millennials.


Well, I compare the amount of points I earned with friends and we challenge each other to amass as many as possible. It’s also a weekly competition with myself to see if I can outperform my last week’s point collection count.

Does it mean I’ll be eating a lot of sausages and blackberries one week?  Sure.  But what I especially like about the program is that it fits my preference for fresh food and doesn’t force me to buy a lot of processed food.

As the CB article notes, “PC Plus merges social media and a loyalty program into a super-gamified system that they hope will keep customers coming back for more.”

I think it will work as long as they keep offering me points for the things I like to eat and uses the data I am giving them to make smart suggestions on other products I would enjoy but don’t know about yet.  Give me some points to try something new and I probably will.

Since I started collecting points at the end of May, I have collected 67,800 points ($67.80 worth), redeemed $60 on total purchases of $693.00.  That’s about a 10% return – not bad for a rewards program.

This rewards program goes beyond building loyalty and has the ability to engage the consumer to have a deeper relationship with the retailer.

Keep the offers coming!

David Coletto is CEO of Abacus Data and leads its Public Affairs research practice. He has a PhD from the University of Calgary and is an adjunct professor at Carleton University.  He’s an avid road cyclist.

Contact David Coletto:

T: 613-232-2806 x. 248

E: david@abacusdata.ca

W: http://www.abacusdata.ca

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