Supermarket Shopping Experience Reinforced at “Supermarket Sense”

Continuing the “supermarket shopping experience” discussion from our previous post, a recustomerservicecent SupermarketNews article reported that it was aslso the theme at  Supermarket Sense, a food retail training conference that recently wrapped up just outside Atlanta.

“In today’s competitive environment, supermarkets can’t just sell food… they have to sell an experience,” the article said.

Sessions on saving the center store, reinventing the perimeter, tapping restaurant trends to drive supermarket sales and designing and merchandising delightful in-store spaces reflected grocers’ need to remain competitive amid unprecedented industry change.

Two data points offer a view of the challenges:

  • Online grocery sales in the U.S. grew 11% annually from 2011-2016, according to IBISWorld’s market research report. It’s now a $12 billion-a-year business.
  • Meanwhile, supermarket trip frequency decreased by 19 trips a year, on average, during that same period, according to global research firm Nielsen.

The solution, industry experts say, is engaging supermarket customers with an in-store experience that beats shopping online — or anywhere else!

Read the full article…

Supermarkets Enhance the Shopping Experience via Partnering

SupermarketNews recently reported that Publix Super Markets will be testing Starbucks cafes in select stores in an effort to enhance its shopping experience.

According to the article, the Lakeland, Fla.-based retailer said that stores in Tampa and Winter Park, Fla., and in Winston-Salem, N.C., will be adding Starbucks cafes shortly.

Of course co-located branded coffee stations have been common in supermarkets for more than a decade. Other “strategic partnerships” or co-location partnerships geared toward providing shoppers with added convenience include Citizens in-store branch banks at many of our local Hannaford Supermarkets, numerous Dunkin’ Donuts stores within convenience stores, and in-store Rite-Aid pharmacies at many Shaw’s Supermarkets.

All of which represent the continuing trend on the part of supermarket chains to put additional focus on customer service and the shopping experience as they strive to maintain competitive positions.

Possibly you might like to share additional examples?

Instacart Expands North from Boston: Helping the Elderly…

Instacart is expanding to 17 new ZIP codes in Massachusetts according to a recent Boston Globe article.

The San Francisco-based company, which allows users to order groceries online for delivery in as little as an hour, said this trend toward online shopping can help “aging residents navigate the necessities of hometown living.”

The article went on to say Instacart currently has 7,000 active users in the Boston region, and hopes to more than double that number in the next year. The company also has about 100 employees and some 300 delivery contractors in the Boston area, with plans to hire up to 50 more contractors for the new expansion.

Customers can opt to pay $5.99 per delivery or frequent shoppers can pay $150 per year to waive all delivery fees.

Read the full article…


Supermarket Customer Experience & Expired Products

frozenA recent article referenced a challenge faced by supermarkets as they strive to attract and retain customers by providing a positive shopping experience and outstanding service.

The issue-at-hand is product expiration.

At the corporate level, author   says, “expired product costs generally remain hidden. As a result of date management execution challenges, expired products end up in the hands of customers or on the back of the shelf rather than on the P&L.”

Krawczyk goes on to suggest that the true cost of customer satisfaction, or dissatisfaction in this case remains unseen as well, and cites research from Date Check Pro, the industry’s leading expiration date management software, which indicates the average supermarket has over 1,500 expired items on the shelf within the center store alone!

The article also suggests that while product expiration issues are a preventable problem,  they plague many supermarkets because of:

  • People management – are the right people spot-checking and re-stocking?
  • Setting the wrong priorities – more urgent perational demands result sacrificing the important task of effective spot checking and restocking
  • Trends toward offering a wider selection of products

Given the competitive nature of the industry and the opportunity to positively impact the shopping experience, it would seem that supermarket chains would be best-served by proactively improving these processes on a continuous basis.

Supermarket Events: An Innovative Way to Engage Customers!

Given the increase of online food shopping and the growing ability to buy groceries in non-supermarket stores, such as Walmart, it’s no surprise that the average number of “weekly stock-up” trips to the supermarket has declined.

However, data indicates people still prefer to go into a supermarket to buy certain items.

So the key for supermarket chains is to generate traffic by giving shoppers more good reasons to come into their stores.

According to a recent Progressive Shopper article, one of the best ways to connect with those shoppers more effectively is through the use of themed events.

“Gather a number of products that are complementary in some way and support a common theme, with the goal of driving increased shopper awareness, engagement and purchase behavior,” author Jeff Weidauer explains.

Weidauer goes on to suggest that most retailers are fairly-well experienced at putting on themed, in-store promotions, such as back-to-school, major holidays, Frozen Food Month, etc., and so on.

As the trend continues, the “themes” can be quite diverse.

For example, a recent SupermarketNews article reported the Marine Stewardship Council will teach New England consumers about sustainable seafood at events at Big Y and Whole Foods Market stores this month, the non-profit organization announced.

The events are part of a new campaign called “Good Catch!” MSC research has found that 58% of New England seafood consumers buy fresh fish at a seafood counter, compared with 40% of national consumers. At the same time, consumer awareness about sustainable offerings from regional seafood sellers is low. The Good Catch! campaign hopes to bridge that gap.

This more strategic use of events is also aligned with present-day marketing best practices. As noted in a recent Huffington Post article, retailers must “…build everything around the customer’s experience… they must understand the purchase journey.”

From a marketing perspective, it makes good sense to create ways of making a trip to the supermarket more value-added and more fun!

Events seem to be an excellent way of accomplishing both.



Can Great Customer Service Reduce Shrink?

We all know about shrink… the loss of product inventory.

But a recent article published on offered some interesting perspective for supermarkets on how they might reduce shrink.

As you most likely are aware, shrink falls into two categories—operation management issues and theft. When shrink occurs in a supermarket, it differs from the retailers based on grocery items expiring. Supermarket shrinkage is usually higher than all retailers.

The article went on to cite a 2012 shrink study by The Retail Control Group, which indicated:

  • Operational factors contributed to around 2/3 of all retail shrink
  • Shoplifting accounted for 36 percent of all theft-related shrinkage
  • Cashiers account for 31 percent of theft and general employees another 25 percent
  • Vendor theft accounts for the remaining 8 percent of theft-related shrink


The article offered a few thoughts on reducing shrink.

  • Correcting ordering and receiving processes while maintaining an integrity driven inventory count, can help minimize losses from inventory problems
  • Minimizing damaged products by handling products carefully will add to the reduction of losses
  • The best ways to minimize theft is though great customer service, and by conducting thorough background checks when hiring employees
  • Train and compensate appropriately while maintaining positive working conditions (engagement!) to reduce internal theft by employees

For additional perspective on shrink and other common challenges faced by supermarkets, you might like to review this free whitepaper, “Supermarket Challenges & Opportunities” on our website.

Supermarket Shoppers Looking for “Customized” Solutions

Today’s consumers are looking for products that feel customized to their individual needs and wants, according to a recent SupermarketNews article.

The definition of “customized” may vary, according to a survey by Nielsen that is referenced in the article, and might include:

  • Convenience
  • Health and wellness
  • Package or portion size
  • Made-to-order deli meals

The bigger challenge for supermarket chains might be the simple fact that customer profiles can vary significantly from store-to-store, as noted by Jennifer Campuzano, director of fresh perishables at Nielsen.

“I think that to truly understand the personalization aspect, you need to understand the right products to carry by store. And to do that you need to understand who your customers are,” said Campuzano. “I don’t know that you can do this on a broad scale, because your customer base is going to change so much from store to store.”

It seems the trend of striving to meet customer preferences is continuing to grow, which we can only hope will lead to increasingly better levels of customer service and engagement.

Can the “Grocery Outlet” Concept Grow?

An interesting discussion about Grocery Outlet’s growth potential was shared recently on

As you may know, Grocery Outlet buys “opportunistically” — i.e., surpluses, seasonal closeouts, discontinued items, packaging changes, etc. — and offers these items at low cost. Each store is a local, independently-run business as well.

While the lure of low prices and the attraction for those among us who might be called “food adventurers” are assets, most people seem to think that buying “seconds” works better in the apparel market rather than the supermarket.

As one person suggested, “Wearing last season’s sweater isn’t the same thing as eating last week’s hot dog.”

In addition, since the focus is on low cost, others were concerned about the “shopping experience” and customer service (or the lack of it), and not being reasonably sure that the same items would be available week-after-week.

What are your thoughts? As the RetailWire article asks, do you think Grocery Outlet will become the TJX of groceries?

The “Customer of One” Approach to Supermarket Marketing

In a recent article posted on, Gary Hawkins, founder and CEO of Center for Advancing Retail & Technology (CART) shared some interesting perspective on current marketing trends used in supermarkets and other sectors of the consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry.

Comparing traditional marketing practices and costs with the newer “customer of one” approach, Hawkins paints an intriguing picture of how supermarkets, manufacturers (brands), and consumers might simultaneously enjoy the benefits of leveraging today’s technology.

“Let’s imagine you are a brand manufacturer and you have just one customer to focus on; let’s call him Joe,” he writes.

“You would want to learn all you could about Joe, but most importantly, you would want to know how often he purchases from your product category and your share of his category business. You would also want to understand Joe’s brand loyalty and discount propensity.

“Armed with this knowledge, you would then want to promote to Joe just before he’s due to make his next category purchase, aligning brand promotion activity to Joe’s purchasing cycle, ideally communicating the right offer (knowing Joe’s discount propensity) at the right time (easy to do in today’s digital world), and in the right place (including in the store as he’s approaching the category).

Over time, you would want to grow Joe’s value to your brand by increasing his purchase frequency, up-selling and cross-selling into larger package sizes, multiple units, and related products.”

The “customer of one” method enables the brand as well as the supermarket to enjoy more regular patronage and sales revenue while spending less of their marketing budget, while the customer enjoys the benefit of shopping with less effort and at lower cost.

And, as noted in various other posts, it seems the trend toward customer-driven decision-making continues…

More “E’s” Coming to SupErmarkEts?

A recent SupermarketNews article reported that Super Foods, an independent operator in southwest Alabama, is launching an online grocery program, which is scheduled to begin in mid-August, according to the e-commerce provider.

Said Lillian Wilson, the retailer’s HR director, “Our customers have been asking for online ordering, and we’re pleased to be able to give it to them.”

The online offering will make available Super Foods’ entire inventory, with online prices that will always match in-store prices and a choice of curbside pickup or home delivery for what it called “a small fee.”  The chain is also building a mobile shopping app that will sync with online ordering, including a built-in bar code scanner that will let shoppers scan any item to add instantly to their shopping cart.

Along similar lines, in a recent Viewpoints editorial author Andrew Levi suggests that supermarkets might “cash in” by making each trip to the store more fun and “engaging” via some type of app like “Pokémon Go.”

As you may well be aware, the game launched earlier this month and has become quite a phenomena!

“It’s no wonder that retailers, advertisers and marketers are already beginning to explore how to capitalize on this momentum by using lure modules on a “Pokéstop” in the game to attract more users to a certain area, such as a store location, so there are more Pokémon to catch,” said Levi.

Looks like the “E” trend in grocery shopping is continuing!