While their approach to customer service and providing an enjoyable shopping experience may be anything but traditional, Stew Leonard’s has a tried-and-true motto: “The customer is always right!”
As reported in a recent SupermarketNews article, there are aisles filled with animatronic singing poultry and vegetables, stuffed creatures that flip, and a selfie station where customers can pose for pictures with Clover the cow in a replica of Stew’s milk truck.
Yesterday & Today
For those who have been customers over the years, these “extras” are common place. Ever since the first Stew Leonard’s opened in 1969 they’ve been tabbed as “the Disneyland of Dairy Stores.” Today the grocery still relishes the country-fair atmosphere.
But the zaniness has not compromised how vital customer service and product scouting are to the growing company. (There are now six Stew Leonard’s locations now in New York and Connecticut, with a seventh planned for New Jersey in the fall).
“Customers rule when it comes to choosing what products the stores sell,” says Stew Leonard, Jr., the president and CEO who took the business over from his dad in the 1990s. “You’ve got to listen to the customers really and hear what they have to say.”
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As Mother’s Day Approaches, a study showed that most moms prefer to shop at the supermarket versus online.
According to research recently completed by Valassis Communications, Inc., a Livonia, Michigan-based company that provides media and marketing services, when it comes to food purchases, 52% of moms do most or all of their shopping in-store, compared to 27% of dads. But when it comes to health and beauty care items (HBC), only 36% of moms opt for brick-and-mortar, compared to 24% of dads. Equally as revealing, the study showed that over half of moms want better solutions to save more time (53%) and money (58%).
A recent SupermarketNews article reported these findings, and also suggested three key strategies supermarket chains might consider in order to continue attracting “moms” to their brick-and-mortar locations:
- Provide a mix of savings and convenience. Over one in three moms are increasingly shopping via brick-and-mortar that offer the added convenience of delivery and pickup options. Just over half (51%) always or very often search online for coupons they can use during their shopping trips.
- Appeal to the evolving omni-channel shopper. As the digital and physical environments continue to blend, approximately one in five moms orders groceries online for delivery or in-store pickup. And as technology continues to integrate with the path to purchase, over one in four moms now use a smartphone app to scan barcodes as they shop, according to Valassis.
- Offer unique experiences. More than a third of moms (36%) have increased their shopping at stores that offer prepared foods/meals versus last year. The same percentage say they are doing more shopping at stores that focus on organic, natural and fresh products compared to last year.
A recent SupermarketNews article reported that Publix Super Markets Inc. plans to open three telehealth stations inside Publix stores in St. Johns County and a Publix Pharmacy at Flagler Hospital in St. Augustine Florida.
According to the article, the telehealth stations will be housed in a private room where patients can speak directly with a doctor via video-conferencing. The physician will be able to direct patients to use on-site diagnostic tools such as stethoscopes, blood pressure cuffs and high-definition cameras, and to make a diagnosis or write any necessary prescriptions. Publix Pharmacy support staff also will be on hand to assist patients.
The chain has partnered with Flagler Health+, a Florida-based health network, to provide these and related retail pharmacy and primary care services.
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Once again Wegmans has been recognized as one of the best places to work in the country, as they ranked #2 on Fortune’s 2018 list.
“Company loyalty runs deep at this more than century- old grocery chain, which spent $50 million on employee development last year (plus $5 million in scholarships) and filled half of its open positions internally,” the Fortune web site states.
The piece went on to share that staffers say “fulfilling” work gives them a “sense of purpose,” thanks to Wegmans’ mission of “helping people live healthier, better lives through food.” The civic spirit helps too: The chain reclaims millions of pounds of food every year to feed the hungry.
Salesforce was listed atop the list, which, according to the company’s website, measures companies on the following characteristics:
- Executive team effectiveness
- People-focused programs
- “Great Place to Work For All”
In a Great Place to Work For All, employees report high levels of trust, credible and respectful leadership, pride in the work, and camaraderie.
More than 315,000 employees provided feedback to determine the winners of the 2018 list. To be considered, companies needed to have at least 1,000 employees and receive enough survey responses to achieve a 95% confidence level with no more than a 5% margin of error.
While New Year predictions are typically made closer to year-end, The Kroger Company recently shared their insights as reported in a Food Business News article.
They first named eating styles as a trend, citing the various diets and lifestyles consumers are adopting in pursuit of improved health and wellness.
“More consumers are purchasing better-for-you products and subscribing to different eating styles, from vegetarian to flexitarian to keto and paleo,” Kroger said in the article.
Gut-healthy foods is another trend expected to explode in the new year, the article said. Kroger expects to see the development of organic kombucha in flavors such as blueberry ginger and raspberry hibiscus, organic apple cider vinegar, Greek yogurt and probiotic low-fat milk, noting that consumers are seeking foods that support self-care and healthy immune systems.
Consumer demand for low sugar and natural sweeteners also is forecast to drive product development next year, and the article cited research that indicated nearly half of consumers say they want to eat less sugar.
Plant-based foods will continue to gain traction in 2019 as well, Kroger says, as more consumers opt to reduce meat and dairy intake.
This past December Forbes published an article suggesting we should expect to see more changes at the grocery store this year as the industry adapts to various competitive pressures and emerging shopping habits.
“The last year has been a trying one for supermarkets that face not only changing technology and consumer demands but heightened competition on price,” the article said.
The article predicted four key trends for 2018, which were:
- More online shopping options
- Mobile payment acceptance
- Meal kits
- In-store drinking and dining
At the half-way-or-so point, it seems these predictions are on track. And clearly all four predictions focus on improving processes as well as customer service and the shopping experience!
Guess we can all stay-tuned to see if these trends continue…
A recent Progressive Grocer’s article shared data from a new report from by KPMG LLP, which found that companies providing “the best personal, individualized experiences to customers” see higher revenue growth and improved brand standing and loyalty.
The “2018 U.S. Customer Experience Excellence Analysis” also ranked the top consumer “champion” brands according to customer experience delivered.
Among those that consumers ranked highest for customer service delivery were:
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According to a recent Business Briefs article, Martin’s Super Markets, a mid-west chain, is continuing to roll out of its online shopping service, which they call Groceries To Go, and which is now available at 12 of their 21 stores.
The Groceries-To-Go service costs $4.99 per order, the article explains. The process is also straightforward, as once users go online or download the app (on either iPhone or Android devices) and create an account they simply shop and choose a pickup time, and then pay. Someone at their chosen store then sends an email confirming receipt of the order, and then sends another email when the order is ready for pickup.
To pickup their order, customers simply park in designated areas and then text or call to announce their arrival. A “Personal Shopper” then brings the groceries and loads them into the customer’s vehicle.
Pharmacy prescriptions, alcohol and tobacco products are not available for online ordering, the article said. Log on to www.martinsgroceriestogo.com for more information.
The trend toward online shopping and an enhanced customer experience continues…
According to an article published on LInkedIn, Wal-Mart recently opened its first “smart store” supermarket in Xin’an Wu Road, Bao’an District, Shenzhen.
We first read about the “smart supermarket” concept in a piece published by AgThentic, a sustainability and innovation consulting firm focusing on the food industry. In a 2016 article, they referenced the increasing popularity of online grocery shopping and click-and-collect services, and predicted the model was set to change how consumers “will do their weekly shop.”
The article went on to say, “Incorporating predictive technologies into the online shopping experience will allow consumers to access discounts on their favorite brands or re-order the same essential items each week without having to individually add them to a cart. These features have huge implications for convenience… By using data collected from your previous purchases, retailers can understand what you buy and how often you buy it, and send you friendly reminders when you’re running low. Say goodbye to the days of getting halfway home and realizing you forgot to buy toothpaste.”
In addition to helping consumers shop with ease, these same practices are also beneficial to supermarkets as they look to manage inventory and reduce food waste. “Consumers expect to see an overstocked display of cosmetically attractive produce,” the article said. “To compensate, supermarkets throw out up to 40% of food before it even reaches store shelves.”
AgThentic predicted retailers of the future will use consumer data to understand how to market and sell ‘unattractive’ or ‘imperfect’ produce, citing examples in Australia that are already doing so.
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According to a recent Business Insider article, Kroger is once again taking a bold step forward in trying to enhance the customer shopping experience by “rolling out a new technology to nearly 200 stores,that could change grocery shopping as we know it.”
This new development, which is called Kroger Edge, will be installed on store shelves in place of paper price tags, and will digitally display pricing and nutritional information, and even show video ads and coupons for various products.
The technology will enable the chain to instantly change prices and activate promotions across its stores, thus freeing up employees who would otherwise change prices by hand.
In the future, the technology will communicate with customers’ smartphones to help them complete their shopping lists.