Creativity, Not Coupons, Builds Consumer Trust

Tough times have made consumers reassess their priorities and what they value. Now consumer trust is more important than ever.Hard economic times have forced millions of consumers, even some in upper income brackets, to search for marketplace value. But value is not as simple to deliver as it may seem.

"Consumers are redefining value. It's more complex than giving away coupons," says Susan Henderson, a Rite Aid senior vice president.

Research indicates that consumers have been making a series of value adjustments. That might include continuing to eat at their favorite restaurant, but just not as often. It may mean scheduling a stay-cation instead of a long trip. Or it could involve shifting priorities, such as remodeling an existing house rather than buying a new one.

In the battle to deliver value to consumers, successful companies seek to build loyalty and trust.

Coupons may be part of the answer, especially to retain consumer awareness and attract repeat customers. However, real loyalty is built atop trust, which requires more creativity than coupons.

Henderson said consumer-redefined value in the drug store space pivots on convenience and empowerment. "In our Wellness Plus Card and loyalty program, we give anybody 24/7 online access to pharmacists," Henderson said. "They are getting rewarded as they spend more, but they also are becoming empowered to be well."

So while increasing same-store sales is a key metric for measuring Rite Aid's success, its business strategy is promoting wellness. That led Rite Aid to set up a clinic in the middle of Manhattan's bustling Grand Central Station to provide flu shots. A portion of the cost of the immunization went to 9/11 victim relief.

Doing more than the expected is a key to building consumer trust. Doing less than is expected is like commercial suicide.

Complicating the picture, all consumers are not alike. Rite Aid is focusing a lot of its attention on women, who they refer to as "guardians" of their own health and wellness. It takes extra pains to listen to women of all ages, including Millennials, to understand their evolving concerns and preferences.

"We try to figure out what makes them tick," Henderson says. "What will drive their purchasing decision? What will drive them to the action you want?"

She adds, "It's rarely about a product. It's more about the value they want when they experience that product."