Whole Foods Talks Up Its Mobile Promotions

We tend to look to brands like Whole Foods Market to be a harbinger of technology adoption. It was one of the first national stores to adopt Apple Pay, and it has an upscale, millennial-oriented demographic for digital, mobile marketing.

Left to its own devices, Whole Foods would probably just act cool and let customers come to it. But in recent years, it has been besieged in the organic grocery space by Kroger, Costco, Walmart and others. Its response? Ramp up advertising and other marketing, including digital coupon efforts such as card-linked-offers that are sent to consumers based on their purchase habits.

“We are ramping up our marketing behind digital coupons, in some markets stepping up mailings to people’s homes,” said CEO John Mackey during an analyst call covered by MediaPost. “That marketing is the next big step. We can lower prices here and there, but if people don’t know about them, we won’t get the full lift.”

We’ll be watching to see what percentage of its marketing budget is committed to coupons and card linked offers compared to other marketing efforts. It might be in the 5-10 percent range, which would put its spending at $4.5 million to $9 Million. As noted by MediaPost, the company spent nearly $90 Million on advertising related expenses in 2015.

We’d also note that some of its strategy is likely to shift with the recent arrival of Walmart veteran Sonya Gafsi Oblisk as Global VP of Marketing, covering marketing, advertising and brand development. But it seems like there could be a growing commitment to digital promotions.

Last February, Payments Marketing Director Marushka Bland told Cardlinx attendees that digital coupons was “about our customers and how they shop with us. Execution, targeting and attribution” are the keys to the program, with a target goal of 10 percent incremental spend. Bland noted that the company was historically “discount reluctant,” but intense competition has made it “much more open to worrying about its customers and eager to focus on things like loyalty.”