I was in my local Sainsburys the other day, doing my shopping (what else?). As I was at the checkout I noticed a few things.
First, you've probably noticed at the checkout gift cards for iTunes, or something similar, however what I'd noticed this time was what I want to call a "student food card". This is a two part card, one for topping up the account, one for using credit from the account. This is plainly aimed at the concerned parent who wants to make sure their kids are eating properly whilst at university. Those parents who do not want to put money into their kids account so they can spend it on nights out and pot noddles for dinner (though the flaw here being that Sainsburys sell booze too, but we'll brush over that). I did think though that this could be used the other way round too, what about someone with an aging parent or perhaps a lowly paid sibling. Wouldn't you want to make sure they were eating properly too?
So, I thought that was cool, but there was a little more to come.
Second, there were no bags at the checkout, I told the cashier who told me they'd stopped putting bags out. She pointed me to a sign which I'd ignored as an 'out of bags' sign, saying as much. Sainsburys in environmental awareness are trying to get their customers to reuse their bags, so you now have to ask for carrier bags. They've given store points away for ages for reusing bags but obviously isn't having the desired affect.
One of the things they're doing to help their customers is providing a free SMS reminder service. You send a message saying when you usually go shopping and it sends you a reminder a few hours before, saying not to forget your bags.
This could be a tentative first step, but I can see much more here. They're only providing this until the end of the year, but how about linking this to my store points card and instead of charging me for SMS, remove some of those points. Also, by combining your mobile to your store card just think of the data mining possibilities. You wouldn't have to tell them when you go shopping they have that data. Also, what better direct marketing would you like? Sainsburys have about ten years data on me, they have a pretty good idea what I buy and when and could send me special offers just for me, with some kind of code that a cashier could enter.
We'll see what happens. It's an odd combination of convenience and scariness.