For growing numbers of consumers, shopping at their local grocery store has become less of a weekly chore and more a total sensory experience.
Thanks to the merging of technology and smart marketing, independent supermarkets and discount chains are creating environments that are not only faster and easier to navigate but filled with a smorgasbord of off-the-shelf extras like hot soups, health-food bars, tasting stations, discount aisles, and cooking videos and demonstrations. Stores also are featuring locally sourced products, dedicated sections of exotic fresh produce, and items targeting market niches such as Hispanic, kosher, halal, Asian and more. And they’re using online ordering, grab-and-go selections, and curbside and home delivery services to appeal to today’s relentlessly mobile consumer.
At the same time, the grocery market has become fragmented by stock-up, fill-in and quick-trip shopping, which means shoppers are visiting more than one store for their purchases. In addition, an estimated 88 percent of consumers plan shopping a day or more in advance, and 66 percent of smartphone and device owners use them to plan trips to their local grocery stores.
As a result, a key marketing push in the industry this fall is to highlight the shopping experience and promote one-stop shopping for all, according to the Progressive Grocer 85th Annual Report of the Grocery Industry.
As with so many other sectors of the economy, stores are using social media and smartphone apps to connect with consumers both before they head off to the store and once they’re back home in their kitchens. They’re also targeting experiential-focused marketing campaigns to distinct consumer groups and their tastes and needs.
Publix Super Markets, a Southeastern chain with over 1,200 locations, is promoting its view of consumers as family members rather than merely customers, and using social media, participation in community events and word-of-mouth recommendations to grow its customer base and solidify locations’ identities as “primary stores.” Publix also offers an array of online tools, including shopping lists, easy ordering, recipes and cooking classes.
That said, the familiar circulars and inserts in local newspapers announcing specials and discounts continue to draw customers. And the surefire ways to maintain and sustain relationships remain the steadfast standards: Service, cleanliness, quality products and competitive prices. These are qualities that technology can enhance but never replicate.