Tesco Clubcard, Nectar, Boots Advantage, Holland & Barrett, Waitrose ….. the list of store loyalty cards goes on and on and our purses and wallets probably don’t have enough room for another piece of plastic.
However, Marks and Spencer is trying to convince us that their new Sparks card is worth getting – by pitching it as less of a loyalty card and more of an unmissable members club. Today I want to try to discover if this is true or not.
This is not a supermarket card that converts collected points into vouchers with a cash value like Nectar and Clubcard. It is a club with four different levels of benefits and depending on your level of ‘sparks’ you can access varying rewards and experiences.
The first two levels of benefits give you priority access to the new seasons clothing preview (from 3,000 sparks) or early access to the online sale (from 5,000 sparks).
The higher two benefit levels are about events and experiences. From 14,000 sparks you will receive invitations to special shopping events and masterclasses and from 17,000+ sparks you will have the opportunity to access experiences such as all-expenses paid trips to a M&S vineyard.
Now this sounds like a lot of points to collect before you will receive anything worthwhile – and it is. However, from day one you will also receive money off vouchers according to your own shopping behaviour.
Every time you shop you receive 10 sparks for the transaction plus 10 sparks for every £1 you spend. You can also receive Sparks for writing online reviews and taking part in Shwop, Marks and Spencers collaboration with Oxfam where customers donate unwanted items of clothes when buying something new for Oxfam to resell or recycle.
To join the club you need to pick up a card in store, register it here online and connect it to your Marks and Spencer online account (if you don’t have one, you will need to create one). Whilst registering you can also choose a charity that will receive 1p for every £1 you spend in store.
It all sounds OK so far. However, here are some things I don’t like:
With the Sparks app you can check your Sparks balance and see personalised offers. However the app does not replace the Sparks card. This would have been a clever move in order to make the card more attractive to customers as you would not have to remember to bring the actual card to the shop to collect your points. At present, only some M&S stores are able to scan the card image displayed in the app.
You must ‘opt in’ to the personalised offers suggested to you via the app or the website – a similar model to Nectar. This requires a degree of commitment to the scheme which most busy people today simply don’t want to make.
Your points will expire. The website states:
“Your sparks will expire at end of your rewards year (one year from the date you joined sparks). From the start of your new year, your sparks balance will refresh, and start again from zero. Don’t worry though, we will maintain your level of benefits into the following year.”
This means that, if you earn 5,000 sparks in your first year which gets you early access to the online sale, you will retain that benefit for your entire 2nd year – even though your points will have reset to zero.
The ‘events and experiences’ appear to be allocated by prize draw. You cannot redeem (for example) 25,000 Sparks for a trip to a M&S vineyard. That is simply the minimum level of points required to enter a competition to win a place on a trip.
So far I am not truly convinced that Sparks has much sparkle. The comments I read online imply that it has yet to get much traction and that the Sparks card will need some tweaks for it to be considered a club worth joining.
The amount of sparks that need to be collected in order to access the appealing benefits like masterclasses and vineyard tours seem a bit out of reach – unless M&S is a store where you do your main supermarket shopping each week.
There is also much online grumbling about the ‘personalised discount vouchers’ which appear to be relatively random and low value – although many people received a ‘£10 off a £50 food and flower shop’ one this week. However, I do love the fact that you can support a chosen charity every time you shop.
If you are shopping a lot at Marks and Spencer it’s probably worth getting the card to pick up sparks along the way, help a charity and possibly eventually access some interesting rewards. If Marks and Spencers is not on the list of your ‘go to’ shops it probably isn’t worth the extra wear and tear on your wallet.
If you want to find out more about the Sparks card have a look at the FAQ page.
We would love to hear your thoughts on the Sparks card, especially if you think I have been unfairly critical – please give us your feedback below. The Sparks page on the M&S website is here.Want to earn more Clubcard or Nectar points? Click here to visit the Shopper Points home page for the latest news and offers. Come back every day for new deals or join our email list.
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