In a battle over who needs whom the most, Kroger and manufacturer Procter & Gamble have come to an impasse and will part ways — in an Internet sense — at the end of the year, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has learned.
For consumers, it means that Kroger.com will no longer host the P&G eSavers electronic coupons on the grocery chain’s Web site and P&G digital coupons will no longer be valid on the Kroger Plus loyalty card. Makers of everything from Pampers to Pringles, P&G is a major player in the world of grocer goods. But Kroger, with 132 grocery stores in Atlanta and surrounding areas, was unable to persuade P&G to keep its coupons on the Kroger site without redirecting shoppers directly to the P&G site. So P&G will discontinue its eSaver program with Kroger after Dec. 31.
Kroger and metro Atlanta rival Publix will still accept paper coupons for the P&G products they carry.
The Kroger-P&G spat is a development about convenience — and control.
“Kroger is really focused on customer loyalty,” said Thomas Harpointner, CEO of Atlanta-based AIS Media, an Internet marketing strategy company. “They want to keep customers on their Web site, just as they would want to keep them in the supermarket. Your Web site is your business; it’s not a brochure. They don’t want you to have to leave the store and walk down the street to get a coupon.”
For about 18 months, customers have loaded coupons from P&G, AOL’s Shortcuts and Cellfire onto the Kroger Plus cards and applied the coupons at checkout. However, shoppers have had to leave Kroger’s site to get to the coupons. Beginning in January, customers will find digital coupons, including ones from News America, directly on Kroger.com. P&G, which notified its followers via e-mail this week, declined requests to comment about its relationship with Kroger.
“We have tested it with third parties, but are moving to offers exclusively on Kroger.com,” said Meghan Glynn, director of corporate communications for Kroger. “We have invited several vendors to join us.”
The grocer has lifted the lid on tussles between retailers and manufacturers in online marketing. In this case, the issue is whether the P&G brand is strong enough to allow it to stand without the partnership with Kroger, and how Kroger will respond in the long term to getting snubbed by one of its primary product suppliers. As interactive marketing grows 16 percent annually, expect increased jockeying for consumers’ loyalty.
“Retailers and manufacturers are fighting over the power in the channel,” said Ken Bernhardt, a marketing professor at Georgia State University. “Traditionally, the manufacturer had most of the power; in recent times, retailers, with access to information they’ve never had in the past, now have a great deal of the power.”
At the end of the day, it’s the shoppers who want the most control — of their money. Printable coupons still lead the way over electronic coupons, but digital technology is shifting the landscape.
“Online coupon users are pretty savvy, and it won’t take long for people who want them to access them,” said Marietta’s Stephanie Nelson, founder of CouponMom.com and author of the new book “The Coupon Mom’s Guide to Cutting Your Grocery Bills In Half.” “People who don’t know about the P&G eSaver coupons and go to Kroger to look at online weekly ads won’t be exposed to them.”
Follow me on Twitter @atlbargains