Walmart abandons Savings Catcher, consumers still seek cash reward programs

by Kim Souza (ksouza@talkbusiness.net) 1,391 views 

In 2014 and 2015 when Walmart unveiled and expanded its Savings Catcher program to customers guaranteeing to match sales prices among competitors the noise around the program quickly rose. In 2014, Walmart said it would add general merchandise to the 80,000 grocery item price comparisons. Private brands were ineligible, but produce was allowed.

Walmart tweaked the program in 2017 telling customers their savings rewards would automatically be transferred into an eGift card each time they were earned, alleviating the need to manually redeem the savings. In early 2017, Walmart also scrapped the option for customers to redeem their savings into a BlueBird card which allowed them to spend the money outside of Walmart.

Walmart also quit matching competitor store prices at checkout in 2017 and the Savings Catcher app was the only way for customers to get the sale prices offered by nearby competitors. When the ad-match program was abandoned in late 2017, that meant consumers could no longer use the app or ad match to compare against deep discounters like Aldi or Trader Joes. The program never expanded to cover general merchandise beyond a few categories.

Walmart told Talk Business & Politics in 2017 that stores near Aldi’s and other deep discounters have the option to feature promotions that compete directly with stores nearby. For instance, the Walmart supercenter in Bentonville will sometimes feature the same weekly promotions as the new Aldi which opened just a few blocks away.

Then in late 2018, Walmart announced customers would no longer be able to scan a paper receipt, forcing shoppers to use Walmart Pay, a mobile payment app that provides emailed receipts and can directly upload to the Savings Catcher program.

The world has changed since 2014 and there are roughly a dozen apps like Ibotta to help consumers earn cash for shopping. Checkout 51 works like Ibotta which offers hundreds of coupons within the app. The consumer selects the offer, makes the purchase and uploads the receipt to receive the cash back. Checkout 51 allows shoppers to make the purchases at multiple retailers, whereas Ibotta has the consumer choose the retailer to see the specific cashback offers for that retailer. Ebates is another app that also allows for cash back specific to purchases at grocery retailers such as Walmart, Sam’s Clubs and Safeway.

Research from marketing group Valsis indicates consumers are still interested in using coupons or mobile apps to earn cash rewards when grocery shopping. Roughly 93% of those surveyed by Valasis said they use coupons or promotional offers when buying groceries. This compared to just 68% who used them for dining in restaurants and 62% who seek savings on healthcare items. One-third of respondents said they use coupons and promotions for travel and 20% do so when buying prescription drugs with apps such as GoodRx

The Valasis Purse String report also found 32% of consumers were interested in receiving coupons and discounts via their mobile devices. Millennials indexed higher at 48%, while parents and busy moms indexed at 42%. Being able to use coupons is a big reason why 65% said they choose to shop in stores, rather than online. The value-conscious shoppers are most loyal to stores they shop when there are rewards and personalized offers.

Walmart U.S. CEO Greg Foran said recently the retailer will continue to invest – sell products at lower margins – in lower prices for its customers, though the retailer has never given the exact investment on this initiative saying merely “billions of dollars in lower prices.”

Walmart made the announcement to customers in an email this week about the plans to abandon the Savings Catcher program effective May 14. The retailer said Savings Catcher has lowered prices on thousands of items and will continue to offer features and services that deliver on its promise to save consumers time and money.

“Walmart’s prices win most often when you submit your receipts, which tells us that the program’s intent has been met … . That’s why we have decided to discontinue the Savings Catcher receipt submission, effective May 14, 2019. After May 14, you will no longer be able to submit your Walmart Pay eReceipts to Savings Catcher. But don’t worry, the money you have on your Savings Catcher eGift Card will remain yours to spend until you’re ready to use it.”

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