Our Brand Partnerships Manager, Darren Harsley, takes a look at how Waitrose are adapting to new consumer behaviours as a result of the pandemic, including new strategies for customer retention and a partnership with Deliveroo.

Whisper it quietly, but I think we’re almost there. Almost finally back to normality…but are we? Thing is, what was previously normal isn’t normal anymore.

I can’t remember the last time I physically went into a supermarket and did a ‘big-shop’. Retail shopping habits have changed forever, and brands are constantly having to adapt. Waitrose sales are up 8% in the wake of the pandemic, but it has not been without its challenges.

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Footfall During The Pandemic 


Research released this week has revealed that Waitrose has taken a bigger hit to passing footfall than any other major supermarket thanks to a change in shopping habits during the pandemic.

Data analysts CACI used mobile phone location data to track average weekly footfall in the area immediately surrounding stores throughout the pandemic and compared the numbers to pre-Covid footfall. It found pandemic footfall near Waitrose stores, excluding their Little Waitrose convenience format, was 85% of the pre-Covid level. Little Waitrose came out worse still, at 64% of the pre-pandemic level. Together, the Waitrose formats took last and second-to-last place in a footfall table covering the 11 biggest grocers.

By contrast, pandemic footfall near Co-Op stores was 110% of pre-Covid levels. Tesco, excluding their Express stores, was second at 103%, followed by Lidl at 101%.


Waitrose’s affluent shoppers are a potential explanation for the stats, as they are more likely than other customers to change shopping habits during the pandemic. Separate research has identified Waitrose’s “key shopper types” as consisting of “affluent family groups”, and “younger affluent professionals” who were more likely to work from home and shop around including online.

Read: The Most Impactful Ad Campaigns of January


The Rise Of Rapid Delivery


Alongside the challenges regarding changes in shopper behaviour, q-commerce and rapid delivery grocers are now prominent in the market, meaning that customer acquisition strategies must change to reflect this.

Brands such as Gorillas, Getir, Jiffy, Zapp, Weezy and gopuff have received significant investment, spent large amounts on marketing strategies, and are now focused on achieving profitability.

Waitrose are being innovative by embracing the changes we’ve seen in shopping behaviour over the last 2 years, and are trialling ‘Deliveroo Hop’ rapid delivery service! The store will give on-demand access to Waitrose products for customer delivery in as little as 10 minutes, which Waitrose says is “in line with the current quickest delivery time within the rapid food delivery market.” 


Waitrose & Partners said that the trial will launch with a delivery-only store opening in Bermondsey, London, in February. An existing partnership with Deliveroo to deliver food from 150 Waitrose shops across Britain in already in place which launched in April last year.


“It’s important that we continue to evolve along with shopping behaviour to give our customers more options for how and when they want to shop with us,” said Waitrose & Partners executive director James Bailey.

“Deliveroo has given us more flexibility in meeting customers’ needs and expanding our successful partnership to trial ‘Hop’ gives us an exciting opportunity to introduce more new customers to the excellent food and drink we offer.”


Deliveroo’s Chief Business Officer for UK&I, Carlo Mocci, said, “We are delighted to announce that Waitrose will trial Deliveroo Hop.”

“It complements our existing on-demand grocery service and will build on our successful partnership with Waitrose & Partners, improving the consumer experience and bringing a wide range of groceries and household products to consumers’ doors in as little as 10 minutes.”


Customer Retention And Loyalty Programmes


Waitrose are also focussing on customer retention and happiness by adapting their loyalty programme to offer a more personalised experience and rewards for shoppers.

The supermarket is relaunching its ‘MyWaitrose’ scheme on 23rd February to give members weekly and monthly personalised offers and discounts, including a 20% offer across the cheese, meat, fish and deli counters for the first month. The revamped programme is set to increase the savings customers can make by 112% compared with the previous scheme, the company said.

Also, Waitrose’s parent company, the John Lewis Partnership, has recently announced the appointment of a pan-partnership customer director, Charlotte Lock, to drive a new loyalty strategy across both brands. According to the company, the new role will help the business “grow and deepen” its customer relationships and build value for the Partnership. The business embarked on a five-year turnaround strategy in 2020, including a ‘Better Together’ scheme to better align the John Lewis and Waitrose brands.

The initial results are positive. The business had managed to cut its losses over the first six months of 2021 to £29m. Waitrose’ Executive Director, James Bailey, claimed one-in-five customers said they will shop more with Waitrose as a result of the tie-up.


The business also claimed sales in stores with John Lewis inserts were higher over the period, with sales of John Lewis products showing approximately 20% growth year-on-year compared to the previous ranges sold through Waitrose stores.


In May last year, John Lewis’s Clare Pointon told Marketing Week that the John Lewis and Waitrose marketing teams were working more closely together than they ever have done previously. However, she said there was no intention to blend the two brands as one, adding: “We are distinctive brands and that’s really important.”

That point was reinforced by their fantastic Christmas advert by adam&eveDBB featuring Ashley Jensen (of Afterlife and Extras fame). For the first time since 2018, Waitrose and John Lewis ran separate marketing campaigns.


Credit to Waitrose for the way they are adapting to the ‘new normal’. Shopping habits have changed and are here to stay. How the larger grocer brands continue to adapt and embrace the challenges will be key.


Credit to Steve Farrell and Maria Goncalves at The Grocer, Michaela Jefferson at Marketing Week and Stephen Soraka for the information. If you need help with a data & research project, or would like to know more about how GO! works, you can get in touch here.

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