Why Isn’t CVS Digitizing ‘Extra Bucks’?

The transfer of reward points and offers from print receipts and clipped newspaper pages to the cloud is expected to be a big part of promotional media’s next wave. But some merchants seem to be deliberately dragging their feet. CVS, for instance.

The giant drugstore chain, which has 67 million cardholders, has been repeatedly taken to task by LA Times columnist David Lazarus for endlessly delaying the switchover of its “Extra Bucks” Rewards Points from printed receipts to a digital record on its key chain cards.

CVS’ PR people have hemmed and hawed with Lazarus on the subject. They note that customers can already download coupons using their rewards numbers. But they also pointed to research showing that half its customers carry their receipts around with them from purchase to purchase and that its redemption rates were substantially higher than the industry redemption rate, which is about 3 percent. Customers need to “feel excited” about their rewards and seeing their earning level on a printed receipt is better than a digital card, they told Lazarus.

That assertion, however, doesn’t pass Lazarus’ smell test. He’s personally hovered around several CVS stores and couldn’t find a single person who said he or she wanted rewards on the big, bulky receipts. One customer put it like this: “This is a cheap way for a corporation to claim that they offer customer rewards while making it so inconvenient for the customer that the company doesn’t actually have to provide those rewards.” (Why do corporations try to browbeat people with nonsensical research?)

The irony is that CVS is definitely pushing the envelope with digital offers. Consumers can check a box online and get coupons sent directly to their cards. But they haven’t yet followed through with the Extra Bucks program.

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