Retail enterprises, including discount stores, grapple with a significant dilemma — customer spending is diminishing owing to the surge in the cost of living. Consequently, these companies are actively pursuing inventive pricing tactics as a means to reinvigorate their operations. Among the strategies under consideration, one noteworthy option is the implementation of a membership pricing strategy.


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The implementation of membership pricing in retail stores presents several challenges, including the need to effectively communicate the value of the membership to customers, manage the logistics of membership programs, and strike a balance between offering attractive perks and maintaining profitability. Retailers also face the task of collecting and analysing customer data to personalise offers and experiences, all while ensuring that non-members still feel valued. Additionally, there’s the challenge of the potential for backlash if the membership fees or benefits don’t align with customer expectations, making successful execution a complex endeavour.


In this article, we will explore the optimal methods for retailers to integrate a membership-based pricing strategy. To begin, we’ll establish what a membership pricing strategy entails and scrutinise its recent implementation by Big W. We’ll delve into the potential pros and cons of their approach. Following this, we will provide a detailed roadmap for businesses to harness the advantages while mitigating the drawbacks. We argue that an ineffective membership pricing strategy can result in reduced profit margins, operational supply chain challenges, and the risk of customer dissatisfaction.


At Taylor Wells, we believe that the effectiveness of membership-based pricing in retail firms hinges on achieving a harmonious equilibrium between value propositions and profitability. By the end, you will be well-equipped to reshape your operations and business approach should you opt to embrace a membership pricing strategy.



Assessing The Membership Pricing Strategy Of Big W


The membership pricing strategy, widely adopted by retailers and department stores, entails offering customers the chance to become members by paying a recurring fee in exchange for exclusive benefits. For instance, Amazon Prime is an example in the retail world. Subscribers get fast shipping, access to streaming content, and exclusive discounts. This strategy effectively cultivates customer loyalty and recurrent revenue streams.


The advantages of this approach are numerous. It fosters loyalty, encouraging repeat business. For instance, Costco’s membership model provides customers with access to bulk discounts, enticing them to return for their shopping needs. It also offers retailers valuable customer data, allowing for personalised marketing and tailored product recommendations. Moreover, members tend to spend more as they seek to maximise their benefits, increasing the average transaction value.


Nevertheless, there are drawbacks to consider. Not all customers see the value in becoming members, particularly if the fees are steep or the benefits don’t align with their needs. This can limit the strategy’s reach. Maintaining a membership program requires significant resources, from technology and personalised marketing to dedicated customer service.


Additionally, oversaturation in the market, where many retailers offer similar memberships, risks diluting their exclusivity. Striking a balance between benefits and profitability is crucial, as excessive discounts can impact margins. In sum, while the membership pricing strategy is a potent tool, its implementation requires careful planning and execution to ensure its success in the retail and department store sector.



Lately, Woolworths, the parent company of Big W, has introduced a fresh approach to its membership pricing strategy. Let’s delve into the details.


The Big W Membership Pricing Policy And Retail Promotion Strategy


Big W is an Australian chain of discount department stores, which was founded in regional New South Wales in 1964. The company is a division of the Woolworths Group. 


Big W has been integrated into the member pricing program of Woolworths. As part of this initiative, Everyday Rewards members can enjoy a 20% discount on kids and babywear clothing, excluding Halloween and party costumes and accessories, at Big W, available both in-store and online until October 4th.  What is the motivation driving this recent action?


With 14.5 million members by the end of FY23, this move is designed to attract and retain customers while addressing a slowdown in consumer spending at Big W, particularly in the fourth quarter of FY23.


Woolworths Group CEO Brad Banducci acknowledges the challenges faced by Big W in the latter half of FY23 due to changing consumer behaviour and increased competition in the retail sector. While Big W’s FY23 earnings exceeded the previous year’s, its H2 FY23 earnings fell below expectations. 


To counter these challenges, Woolworths is now offering additional benefits to Big W customers, such as the Everyday Extra for Team program, providing team members with extra discounts and rewards on their shopping at Woolworths and Big W.


The new pricing strategy offers potential advantages such as increased customer loyalty, higher foot traffic, and targeted promotions for families. However, it may impact profit margins, strain the supply chain, and potentially lead to customer dissatisfaction due to certain exclusions from the discount. Therefore, success depends on maintaining member engagement and adaptability to market changes.


Discussion On Utilising Membership Pricing Strategy To Achieve Customer Loyalty In Retail


Prioritising customer value is vital for discount department stores when implementing pricing strategies. Understanding customer needs and preferences is key, enabling stores to align pricing models with market demand. For example, market research can identify price-sensitive customer segments, allowing stores to tailor discounts to match their preferences.


Emphasising customer value also offers a competitive edge. Implementing programs like loyalty schemes, providing exclusive discounts or early access to sales, helps stores stand out in the market and encourages repeat business.


membership pricing strategy


Furthermore, this customer-centric approach builds long-term relationships. By consistently delivering value through pricing and adjusting strategies based on customer feedback, stores can foster trust and loyalty, driving sustained success in the retail and department store sectors.


It is crucial for Woolworths, for instance, to carefully balance its new pricing strategy’s value offerings with profitability. Continuously monitor customer response and sales data to assess the impact, and be prepared to make adjustments as needed to optimise results.


How retail companies should implement a membership pricing strategy?


Retail companies can implement a membership pricing strategy that not only increases customer loyalty and foot traffic but also targets promotions effectively without compromising profit margins or straining the supply chain. Here are 5 steps to ensure customer satisfaction and long-term success:


1. Market Segmentation


Start by segmenting your customer base to understand their preferences. For instance, a department store could analyse purchase history to identify which products or categories are most popular among different customer groups. This enables targeted promotions that resonate with each segment, increasing the effectiveness of your membership pricing strategy.


2. Value-Added Perks


Develop a membership program that offers substantial value to customers beyond just discounts. For instance, a retail chain could provide members with exclusive access to in-store events or personalised shopping experiences. These perks enhance the overall customer experience and create a sense of exclusivity that encourages loyalty.


3. Pricing Optimisation


Carefully assess your pricing structure to strike a balance between attractive discounts and maintaining profitability. Use data analytics to set competitive membership fees while ensuring profit margins are sustainable. For example, if a retail company offers a membership program with a monthly fee, it should calculate the break-even point based on expected member spending.



4. Supply Chain Efficiency


To avoid straining the supply chain, retailers should plan and manage inventory effectively. Consider using predictive analytics to forecast demand accurately. For instance, a department store can use historical sales data and market trends to anticipate which products will be in high demand during specific seasons or promotions, thereby minimising supply chain disruptions.


5. Customer Engagement


Actively engage with members to gather feedback and address concerns promptly. This fosters a strong relationship and prevents customer dissatisfaction. Retailers could implement surveys or feedback forms, or even create member-only forums for discussions. Responding to customer input shows commitment to their satisfaction and can lead to continuous improvement in your membership pricing strategy.



Implications Of Membership Pricing Strategy In Retail


Retail companies, particularly discount department stores, can enhance their pricing capability through several strategic initiatives. Firstly, they should invest in advanced data analytics tools to gain a deep understanding of customer behaviour and market trends. For instance, tracking which products sell well during specific seasons can inform pricing decisions.


Secondly, internal initiatives like cross-functional collaboration are essential. Departments such as marketing, sales, and finance should work closely to align pricing strategies with overall business goals. This collaboration ensures that promotional pricing aligns with the product’s profitability and marketing strategy.


Our findings show that when a business builds and embeds commercial capability across the business; bolstering its internal pricing skills and capabilities to build a sustainable pricing system, it can generate at least 3-10% additional margin each year while protecting hard-earned revenue and volume. This is at least a 30-60% profit improvement straight to the bottom line.


Furthermore, establishing a high-performing pricing team is crucial. This team should have the skills to analyse data and make real-time pricing decisions. They should also keep abreast of industry trends, such as the rise of e-commerce, and adapt pricing strategies to remain competitive.


Our findings show that with the right set-up and pricing team in place, incremental earnings gains can begin to occur in less than 12 weeks. After 6 months, the team can capture at least 1.0-3.25% more margin using better price management processes. After 9-12 months, businesses often generate between 7-11% additional margin each year as they identify more complex and previously unrealised opportunities, efficiencies, and risks.


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Bottom Line


Membership pricing strategies offer a valuable means for retail and department stores to cultivate customer loyalty and drive profits. Achieving this, however, requires a delicate balance between benefits and profitability, personalised offerings, data-driven insights, and supply chain efficiency. To bolster pricing capabilities, investments in data analytics and the promotion of cross-functional collaboration are paramount.


Furthermore, a dedicated and high-performing pricing team, firmly integrated into the organisation’s commercial framework, plays a pivotal role in adapting to the ever-evolving retail landscape and maintaining a competitive edge.


Membership pricing, when executed effectively, can be a game-changer in the retail sector. By offering tailored benefits, optimising pricing strategies, and fostering a customer-centric approach, retailers can not only boost customer loyalty and foot traffic but also ensure sustainable profitability. To navigate this terrain successfully, retail companies should remain agile, data-driven, and focused on long-term customer relationships while continually refining their pricing strategies.


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