The FINANCIAL — Almost every other Georgian carries a savings card around in their wallet.
The well-known slogan Save and Get a Gift attracts thousands of customers. But are they really saving money, or just adding to the income of retailers? Savings cards are just a money trap, believes Eter Kharaishvili, Lecturer at Tbilisi State University. Companies offering loyalty, bonus and gift cards claim the opposite however.
“Savings cards are useful for supporting trade. This is an experienced and tried method,” said Eter Kharaishvili, Economist. “It is a psychological moment when the owner of the card unconsciously spends more than he/she would have done without it. In fact, the gift that customers choose with the help of their savings cards is not actually free for them. In any case, savings cards are more beneficial for the companies than for the client,” she added.
“I would distinguish two types of cards. One, when the company has its own savings card and the second, when there is a universal card for the various branches of retail sales,” said Tariel Zivzivadze, professional business trainer and consultant. “Savings cards are profitable for customers and companies at the same time. A company’s profit is in sales. It encourages customers to buy a product. Savings cards can do that job. The customer’s profit is that he/she can get a gift by saving bonuses. Bonuses attract lots of customers,” he added.
Merchant locations, shops, supermarkets, stores, pharmacies, cafes, restaurants, gas stations, bookshops, and almost every company are involved in this process.
“I use PSP, Aversi and GPC savings cards. I have Unicard and I use it very successfully as well. The reason why I have so many bonus cards is that I am trying to save money,” said Mari Kochlamazishvili, customer. “Before giving birth to my child I bought lots of things in pharmacies. I have saved enough bonuses to get Cicco production for free. I cannot pay money for certain products but can pay for them in bonuses. It gives me the patience to wait until I have saved enough bonuses. I hope I might win a car this year,” she added.
400,000 new customers joined Unicard in 2011 and more than 13,000 cards were given out this year already. About 800,000 gifts were presented in 2011 and 50,000 this year. In total Unicard gave out more than 900,000 cards and presented 1,026,388 gifts. The average monthly number of transactions reached a million. Unicard has about 200 partner companies nowadays.
“Unicard is free and open-ended. With the points accumulated on the card customers are able to choose a present from its gift catalogue. There are more than 1,500 gifts in the catalogue,” said Ana Koshadze, PR Manager of Unicard. “We cannot determine how much the customer can save with Unicard, because every partner company has individual bonuses. Together with our partner companies we offer doubled and tripled bonuses and special discounts for Unicard customers. In 2011 the number of our partner companies was unsteady. Some of them left our partnership and some of them joined us. Unicard is still in the process of improving,” she added.
In the PSP pharmacy network 400,000 customers save “smiles” bonuses on their My Family Card. Every month 78 percent of the total number of card owners are active users. In 2011 more than a million gifts were presented and five new cars were drawn.
“My Family Card is about additional discounts, benefits, interesting prizes, a chance to win a new car. My Family’s Card helps customers to save money by 5-10 percent in the PSP pharmacy network,” said Natia Khabeishvili, PR Manager at PSP. “Our offer makes the buying process more pleasant for the customers. They can buy medication, hygiene and cosmetic products and save money at the same time. With saved smiles, which are the bonuses on our card, customers can choose any product sold in our network and take it as a present, for free. Also customers are able to take part in our annual lottery and the chance to win expensive prizes, a tour package and a car,” she added.
Like PSP, other pharmacy networks also have their own savings cards, such as the “Zgharbi” card by GPC and “Mtredi” card by Aversi.
Another flexible way of saving money is Mobipay. Nowadays Mobipay has about 160,000 customers all over Georgia. “Exclusive discounts from our partner companies are the best ways of saving money,” said Natia Kukulidze, Marketing Communications Director at Mobipay. “Those people who apply for Mobipay get an additional 1 GEL for topping up their mobile phone airtime by 5 GEL. In general Mobipay is the most convenient way of paying the bills, paying at merchant locations, and sending money all with one’s mobile phone. Such offers give the possibility to clients to save money,” she added.
Having savings, bonus or discount cards encourage trade, but also save you money.
The system of savings cards is very developed throughout the world as well. One of the first savings cards, the “Spend and Save Card”, was created in Great Britain in 1982. In Germany customers use “PayBack”. The card was created in 2007 and nowadays 61 percent of the German population uses it. In Iran the “Zarrin” card has been operating since 1995. In Australia the “Flybuys” is a well-used loyalty programme. As for the USA, supermarkets have their own savings cards for their customers.