Why firms like Waitrose need to do more to support savers

When Waitrose announced it was changing its MyWaitrose loyalty scheme last month, most of the anger was around the end of free newspapers.

And when it finally launched, offering bespoke discounts to customers each week, the general reaction was muted.

It’s OK, if a little complicated, for those who regularly spend at the supermarket, and it’s not going to attract anyone new.

But when I looked closer in an analysis for my blog, it quickly became apparent that the new scheme was going to cause problems for a small but significant demographic – those without a smartphone.

The new vouchers can be chosen online each week but to actually use them in-store you need to scan barcodes on your phone at the till.

There’s no way to print them at home, and there’s no way to even access them if you don’t have a computer. The comments on my article are all from people furious about being excluded from the promotion.

The good news is that Waitrose will be changing this. Their spokesperson told me: ‘Our new rewards have been launched as digital first offers.

However, digital first does not mean digital only and, now that we have a better idea of which customers are engaging using smartphones, we can see members’ preferred ways to receive their offers, including print-at-home, vouchers in the post and coupons printed at till.’

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So everyone should be able to get the discounts, though whether they will is another question. But elsewhere, not having access to a computer or smartphone often means more than missing out on small supermarket savings.

The most recent figures from the ONS revealed 7.8% of UK adults hadn’t used the internet in the last three months, if ever.

This is largely made up by those over 75 or disabled, but poverty plays a part, too – with some unable to afford regular access or the latest devices. And this means millions could be missing out on the best prices and rates.

Take savings accounts. The highest paying accounts are usually dominated by app or online only banks. Or bank switching, where some of the cash incentives require an online application.

Getting the best deal on your utilities might be possible on a phone call but it’s certainly a lot easier via a comparison site. And even with everyday purchases, often the cheapest prices can only be found online.

Worse are barriers to apply for certain benefits or extra charges levied if you have to call a helpline. The responsibility really needs to sit with the banks and businesses to ensure digital exclusion doesn’t get bigger, but it’s something we should all bear in mind.

So, if you have family or friends with limited or no internet access, and you’re able, I’m sure it would be very welcome if you helped them get the best prices, discounts and deals.

You could sit with them and help them navigate the internet (if it’s an alien world for them), or you could take it entirely off their hands and do the search yourself, reporting back to them on what you’ve found.

Of course, in an ideal world, banks and businesses would remember their customers who aren’t part of the digital world – either by choice or otherwise – but as that seems to be unlikely, a helping hand from someone they trust could make all the difference.

Andy Webb is an award-winning blogger and podcaster from Be Clever With Your Cash. Follow Andy on Twitter, YouTube and Instagram via @andyclevercash

If you want more tips and tricks on saving money, as well as chat about cash and alerts on deals and discounts, join our Facebook Group, Money Pot.

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