Up to 150 coffees a month for £20 – but what’s in it for Pret? With the same allure as the all-you-can-eat Pizza Hut buffet, the YourPret membership seems like a no brainer for coffee-lovers (or even just coffee-likers). But what are Pret and its customer really getting in this trade off, and how will competitors react?
The most transparent motivation behind this launch could be a (slightly desperate) way to win back some of reported 50% drop in customers since this time last year. Pret’s expansive London real estate relies on the busy office workers who grab and go for breakfast lunch and dinner, and people who care more about a fuss-free caffeine hit than how much of their paycheck goes into Pret’s pocket.
However over the past 6 months we’ve been gaining consumer insight on the Covid-19 experience and one theme rises to the top: just how healthy our bank balances could look if we only changed a few habits – and a penchant for expensive takeaway coffee is a repeat offender. So while Pret can’t be blamed for luring customers in with a shiny new deal, it may show a deeper awareness of how consumer spending is shifting as a result of Covid-19, and in fact be a prescient plan to ensure that Pret remains the go-to for out and about sipping.
But even if we forget about Covid-19 for a moment (wouldn’t that be nice?), YourPret also hits on the growing desire to move to digital purchase channels, as well as highlighting the power of a good, old fashioned loyalty scheme done well. While I love my stamp card for the local office coffee truck, it’s a relic of a far simpler loyalty landscape of times gone by. While some loyalty schemes that have taken the digital route can feel too complicated to make it worth your while (apps, complex point systems… Nero, I’m looking at you), Pret might be getting all the benefit without the barriers: a single download of a simple QR code with no app needed.
And customers aren’t the only ones benefitting from it being so easy - Pret could get access to a steady and reliable stream of consumer coffee-drinking data, just like the legendary Tesco Clubcard. Who knows, by creating a digital connection with customers, Pret might be able to later expand into a digital payment system beyond coffees and thereby expand this consumer knowledgebase too.
It’s still difficult for consumers to know how to feel about data sharing, but when the deal is as good as YourPret, the good will felt towards the brand and the tangible benefits help to make this a comfortable value exchange. And let’s not forget the old-fashioned benefits of a coffee loyalty scheme that Pret will likely capitalize on: chances are, the smugness of yet another ‘free’ coffee will make us more willing to splash out on a croissant or cookie while we’re there, and stop us going to Nero or Costa (god forbid).
While this is the first subscription launched by a coffee retailer, which could in itself start ripples in the category, it also flips the narrative on coffee pricing. For years, £2.50 for costs 2p for Pret to make has been the pinnacle of millennial cash-splashing. But the YourPret subscription could never be accused of being expensive, so how will Pret’s franchise and independent competitors react? McDonald’s has long congratulated itself for its reasonably-priced and delicious coffee, but this offer from Pret is making the coffee landscape fiercely price-competitive, and has the potential to aggressively turn customers away from other alternatives, however good value they are.
Built on the now unreliable London commuter, the brand has been forced to innovate and risk-take, or indeed turbo-charge plans that otherwise could have taken years to launch. This seems to be the first move in a total strategy rejigg, as the brand moves towards digital at speed and plans to distance itself from the capital.
We’re excited to see what more Pret has up its sleeve. When it comes to YourPret, we’ll be watching to see if it’s enough to drive footfall over the coming months, and whether the deal really is too good to be true.