Understanding The Third Dimension of Grocery Retail: Defining The Customer Journey
Running a retail grocery store has long been done in two dimensions. Sales and savings were achieved through vertical integration, and through horizontal expansion. The business was the business of getting as many products out there at the best price and getting the most people to buy them. But that’s not where retail lives anymore. Retail lives in the third dimension: the customer journey.
You can no longer count on people coming to your store just because they live close or because you have the best prices, the best selection, the best anything. Because there’s not “one best,” only the best for that particular customer. The customer journey begins with their own lifestyle. It includes everything from their transportation options to their diet, their family size to their budget. Things like being gluten-free, wanting to buy locally produced products, having a kid-friendly environment or offering unusual gourmet or imported items could be the reason someone would choose one grocery store over another.
Far fewer shoppers these days have a primary grocery store, and most will drive past one store to get to the one that has what they’re looking for according to the Food Marketing Institute. But what they’re looking for isn’t just something to eat or clean the kitchen counters with—it’s something that makes the life they want easier to get. That might mean setting up weekly home delivery of staples or it might mean an app that tells people on a Paleo diet which related items are on sale when they walk in the store. It might mean having a variety of pre-prepared meal choices ranging from the very hearty to the very healthy. Or it might mean being the place where your customers can quickly buy an interest selection of foods for entertaining and wine that’s paired with it. It means you provide solutions for customers’ lifestyles.
Not A Product Business: A People Business
Some of the most successful grocers these days don’t think of themselves as providers of products but as a company that helps its customers live the lives they want to live. One important aspect of people living the best lives, for example, is to help them use their time effectively. While shoppers may be happy to spend a lot of time in a store looking at interesting offerings or eating a gourmet meal, they will feel frustrated if they have to spend more than five or ten minutes in a checkout line. Conversely, there are some shoppers who know they’re going to take longer—because they’re anxious, have cognitive struggles, a hundred coupons, or a bunch of kids. And a Washington Post story related how one grocery store in Scotland actually created a slower checkout line for those folks so they wouldn’t feel the pressure of people behind them wanting them to speed it up. Thinking about the forgotten shoppers is a great example of operating in the third dimension.
The third dimension, the customer journey, begins with what people’s lives are about and how a grocery company can help them get it. Then you have to market to them where they are—whether that’s through social media, a campaign to help the community in some way, or partnerships with other companies that are likely to serve their lifestyles. Finally, the promise that you’ll make life better, easier, more interesting or more affordable has to be shared by everyone who works in your organization. Life in the third dimension is a bit more of a challenge, but it’s the only way to reach the right customer base and help your sales and profits grow.