You had me at, “Would you like a grande latte?”

My local Safeway isn’t what I would call a very modern store. And the employees are either high school kids bagging groceries and collecting carts or middle-aged cashiers, bakers and butchers. It was a big step forward a few years ago when I could sign for my credit card purchase on an electronic device.  I had just finished my transaction today when the store manager stepped up and said, “Mr. Taylor?”. I nodded my head slowly as I didn’t think he knew my name. I was even more surprised when he said, “My system tells me you’re one of our best customers. Would you like a grande latte? I’d like to offer you a grande sized drink of your choice at our Starbucks.”

I asked him how he knew.  He pointed to his smartphone and said, “It’s a new thing we are doing to show our appreciation.” Huh…my low-tech local grocery store has taken a big step up in having the right data, in the right hands, at the right moment, and with the right context. I wasted no time getting my latte and left the store with a big smile on my face.


But I have a secret…we really like shopping at Trader Joe’s. We go to Safeway because it is closer to my house and carries some things TJ’s doesn’t. Recently, we’ve begun gradually spending less at Safeway and more at the other store, probably something he didn’t know. The ‘personal’ touch he showed, however, is more than we get elsewhere and provides something to think about before we take our business a few miles away.

Now, I don’t think he really knows me personally, but his systems were smart enough to capture that a good customer just punched in their discount code at register 3 and provided him with the name. The elapsed time between identification of the client and the offer of a token of appreciation was probably less than ten seconds. To redeem my drink, I simply used my code again at the Starbucks register and watched the sale ring up as $0.00. Having that data just a minute later would have been too late as I would have left the store and the opportunity would have been lost.

But wait, there’s more

If that was where it ended, it would have been a nice story. The manager also offered a big discount on roses from the flower shop. I replied that I buy my flowers from somewhere else, and he said, “Yes, that’s why I’d like you to get them here.” He knew what I didn’t buy at his store. He was making an attempt to capture my business without selling against himself. I said that I couldn’t today but asked if it was good for next time, and he replied, “I’ll put the offer on your account through the 31st of December.” I loved it.

I probably will buy the flowers another time.

This story is likely to become something we all see happening at an increasing pace as more enterprises move toward better tracking of customer trends, improved availability of key data, and strategic use of mobile devices. It isn’t just about loyalty, either, as the rose offer showed…it is about expanding revenue by having the tools to increase revenue in creative new ways. When the ‘2 Second Advantage’ can happen at Safeway, it can happen anywhere we find ourselves.

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Categories: Data Analytics / Big Data, Featured, Future of work, Markets, Real-time, Retail, Tech Strategy

Author:Chris Taylor

Reimagining the way work is done through big data, analytics, and event processing. There's no end to what we can change and improve. I wear myself out...

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26 Comments on “You had me at, “Would you like a grande latte?””

  1. Catherine
    December 18, 2011 at 4:54 pm #

    Awesome! That is the kind of experience that reconciles you with the systems that track you down so easily now!

  2. bchen
    December 19, 2011 at 8:12 am #

    I wonder if the manager would approach a younger customer (mid 20’s). What if the younger customer was also a frequent shopper. Or a high school kid getting groceries for the family every week.

    • December 19, 2011 at 8:14 am #

      Hard to say, but the idea is the same!

  3. December 23, 2011 at 8:35 pm #

    Well put. “The right data, in the right hands, at the right moment, and with the right context”

  4. February 16, 2012 at 10:41 am #

    I really enjoyed your story. As more and more local businesses get into this sort of data collection it will be interesting to see 1. how savvy they are with the information and 2. whether or not it creeps out their regular customers. Targeted deals are great, but I’m sure a lot of customers just want to get in and out ASAP.

  5. George Brown
    February 16, 2012 at 1:17 pm #

    Very interesting and I thought the Target article was spooky and cool.
    Do you think the Safeway system realized you were shopping less and therefore kicked into action by trying to ‘buy back your love’?

    • February 16, 2012 at 1:19 pm #

      Perhaps, but that might be giving too much credit. The Forbes author asked me a few questions and I’m going to check with the store manager later today.

  6. datamineme
    February 16, 2012 at 2:40 pm #

    Like I said in the other article, I’m all for it. If you don’t want it done, pay with cash and no “loyalty” card (and thus pay the HIGHER price.. I wish they actually required ID to sign up for those cards).

  7. JC
    February 16, 2012 at 9:01 pm #

    Interesting and scary at the same time. I have not shopped at safeway in while and this week in the mail we got many many coupons from safeway. some for things we buy and some for things we do not. It seemed odd and now reading this story it is an example of data mining being used in the real world. Online we are targeted and it is evident that the ads on the side are just for us and not anyone else but in the real world we are starting to see evidence that our habits make us viable sources of data for businesses to use to their advantage. Granted some of the information we give willingly and some we do not even realize we share but I am sure ways to monetize this are being explored. I would like to throw off their targeting and see what happens. not sure how I will do it but I will try.

  8. February 17, 2012 at 6:36 am #

    There are over 100,000 of me in the Safeway Club Card database and several of us live at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Just saying…

    • February 17, 2012 at 5:20 pm #

      That’s one solution. I think we need to be aware of what’s happening and decide where it is in our interest to participate. There are benefits to having our merchants know our tastes. My drycleaner knows how I want my shirts to be done, and my cashier knows we never take plastic bags. In the age of the big box and online retailing, this is the next step in personalization.

  9. Danny van der Rijn
    August 10, 2012 at 2:27 pm #

    We’ve had this quandary for a long time.

    30 years ago, if a local grocer made that offer to me, it would have been awesome. Now it’s creepy.

    What’s the difference?

    30 years ago, the entire transaction history was with the same person. You bought groceries from the same grocer every week, and the owner may have been your cashier. Being a good businessman, he “just knew” what your tastes were over time, what “buttons” you might respond to, etc. He used those buttons some times to increase his margins, sometimes to increase his revenues, sometimes to increase your loyalty, sometimes just because he was a human being, interacting with another human being.

    10 years or so ago, when Safeway started their loyalty program, I was less creeped out than I was pissed off and jaded. My name isn’t the easiest to pronounce (unless you’re one of the 0.4% of the world population who speaks Dutch). So Chris Taylor got, “Thank you Mr. Taylor.” I got, “Thank you, Mister, uh, …” and a questioning stare that equated to “Can you pronounce your name for me please so I can thank you personally?” Which falls pretty flat. You just can’t fake that personal touch so easily.

    Tomorrow, when I get offered my grande drink (hmm. what will I choose?) and my discount offer on roses, we’re getting closer to personal again. So at least that’s a good direction. What’s still creepy is knowing that the nameless faceless Entity that is Safeway and its data dealers are collecting all this data on me. And are getting ready to use it against me in ways I’m not prepared for. And leaking it to a hacker. Etc. These were all distinct possibilities when my data was in the head of my local grocer. But for many reasons it wasn’t as big a possibility as it is now. To me, that’s the difference.

    Cue up 🙂

    • BillCastellano
      August 30, 2013 at 6:40 am #

      Let’s hope he asked how to say your name, put it in the system phonetically like “vahn der rain” and the next time it popped up for the clerk.

      Don’t forget we are at level “1” with all this stuff. As I always say “wait until people start gaming it”.

      Or he could just say “Hey guv’na, free latte. Word” and hand you the receipt.

  10. John Andrews
    August 10, 2012 at 3:33 pm #

    The balance between privacy and opportunity is very thin but when done right, with the a receptive audience (i.e. loyalty program members) then results can be tremendous. The key is making sure there is the opt-in.

    Just make sure my info isn’t sold or lost to vendors I don’t shop at.


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