FEATURE28 October 2019

Using data to create an emotional connection

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Features Impact Retail UK

Tim Mason launched the Tesco Clubcard in 1995 and re-wrote the rulebook on customer loyalty. Here, he writes about the evolution of the scheme and how it allowed the supermarket to understand far more about its shoppers


Tesco was by no means the first retailer to launch a loyalty scheme. But it was the first mass UK grocer to do so motivated by wanting to harness an emotional connection to customers.

Sir Jack Cohen, the founder of Tesco, signed up to the Green Shield Stamps sales promotion scheme in 1963. Customers collected stamps with every purchase that could be redeemed for gifts.

Indeed, many questioned the decision of his successor as Tesco chairman, Ian MacLaurin, to ditch the scheme in 1977. When I joined as a junior marketer in 1982, the business was focused on operational modernisation.

Tesco took nearly 13 years to reintroduce customer loyalty. It spent the intervening years putting its house in order, creating a better product range, centralising distribution, merchandising and pricing, and building more modern stores.

It may seem obvious, but Tesco would never have been able to embrace the ‘Every Little Helps’ strategy that subsequently spawned the Clubcard loyalty scheme had it not ensured it could first compete ...