Marketing Advice from Waitrose

A few months back I bought some wine from Waitrose via the web. It was my first time using their delivery service, run by a company called Ocado. I bought this wine because I have visited the maker in France, it’s good, inexpensive, Waitrose were offering 20% off first time on-line orders and Ocado were offering another £15 off as well. It was too good to miss.

But I didn’t make a second online purchase. Why? Well, we already get a lot of supermarket stuff online from another well known outfit. Plus, I don’t mind going to the supermarket. Sometimes I find it quite inspiring…

But I was on Waitrose’s radar. They started to email me. They made me offer upon offer to make that second purchase. Money off this, money off that. To get me over the energy barrier that exists in switching from one supplier to another. I quite like Waitrose, I am predisposed to them. But the shop is a 15 minute drive and life’s too short. I didn’t buy for the second time. That elusive repeat purchase. I reckon they emailed me 3 times a week for 4 months. I didn’t unsubscribe. Because I was interested. I was an “A” prospect. So they persevered with their emails until they got me. Email number 39 turned me into a repeat customer. Now I buy half my stuff from them, and that proportion is growing.

What finally got me was their offer of unlimited deliveries for a year for £40. I bit their hand off. That’s about 100 deliveries. That’s 40p per delivery. Now that may not have turned your head. But that’s not the point. Some other offer would probably have worked for you, eventually.

Interestingly, one of my mentors was talking just the other day about a 40 email follow-up sequence….

What has all this (re)taught me?

  • When you have an “A” prospect, someone who has expressed a strong interest in what you do or has bought from you already, market to them ceaselessly until they buy or ask you to stop communicating with them.
  • It can take some time. So, don’t give up.
  • Don’t feel embarrassed about the constant contact– they are prospects and some of them will gladly become customers if presented with a compelling enough reason to do so. If the email “unsubscribes” you get from your CRM system upset you, don’t read them.
  • Don’t be afraid of irritating some prospects. That means they’re probably not “A” prospects.
  • Make many different offers. One will be right. Even if you have only one product, you can slice it up and repackage it in different ways for different people.
  • Email marketing is cheap. Someone in Waitrose wrote a 40-odd email follow-up sequence. Maybe it’s more, who knows? That’s a fair bit of work but it’s a damn site cheaper than a TV or newspaper advert. And in time Waitrose will learn which emails convert the most effectively, allowing them to shorten their lead time to conversion, and thereby sell more stuff more quickly.
  • Not all prospects are equal. One of my friends also gets the emails but has not been offered the deal I was offered. A year’s worth of deliveries for £40 will cost Waitrose a fair bit of money. So this deal isn’t offered to everyone. Maybe it’s only offered to people who are interested enough to open dozens of emails. Waitrose will be aware of these statistics and can act accordingly.

Email marketing…simple, effective, cheap. Great stuff.

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5 Responses to Marketing Advice from Waitrose

  1. Phil February 7, 2011 at 2:51 pm #


    Just a quick point.

    Ocado are not Waitrose’s delivery service. Ocado are an entirely separate company, who purchase and re-sell Waitrose branched products from Waitrose. There is no business connection between the companies, other than a small stakeholding of shares. In fact, the companies compete for delivery services in the UK.

    Waitrose have their own delivery service, Waitrose Deliver, which can be accessed from the website. Deliveries from do not charge any deliver costs, as opposed to Ocado.

    • Mark Nugent February 8, 2011 at 9:28 am #

      Thanks Phil, I take your point. However I think the email marketing lessons remain.

  2. Matt Chandler February 7, 2011 at 4:40 pm #

    Lessons from the masters! Nice work Mark, you write a succinct account of email marketing, perhaps you should package it as your own email marketing guide…..?!

    • Mark Nugent February 8, 2011 at 9:24 am #

      It’s coming Matt, it’s coming!


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