The Secret to Becoming America’s Best Grocery Retailer…

Every year, Market Force Information proclaims one company as America’s Best Grocery Retailer. For four years it was Trader Joe’s. But all of a sudden last year Wegmans regional grocery, which hadn’t even made the list before, snuck up and took the crown. Publix has been in the number two spot for several years running. The verdict is based on surveys of more than 10,000 shoppers nationwide on several criteria including brand engagement, customer experience, and brand preference. With the 2017 report due out in April, we thought we’d take a look at what it takes to be the nation’s favorite grocer in terms of Community and Customer Service, Innovation, and Category Assortment. Starting with Community and Customer Service.

Happy Employees

One thing that Wegmans, Publix and Trader Joe’s all have in common is a stellar employee experience. All have been named best places to work on one benchmarking list or another, such as Glassdoor Employee Choice Award and Fortune’s 100 Best Places to Work.  Publix, for example, is employee owned, and employees are paid well, given stock, and earn dividends. Publix and Wegmans both offer tuition or scholarship programs for people seeking degrees. Trader Joe’s has leadership development programs. All of them cultivate a friendly, family feel among employees and have associates who have been there for decades. Plus, a lot of employees bring family members into the fold.

Spreading the Love

But the survey was for consumers, right? Yes, but when employees love their jobs and get good pay, they’re happy at work, which makes them a lot more likely to go the extra mile for customers. Publix calls it creating “Happy Ever Afters.” If employees are just there for the paycheck—and it’s an uninspiring paycheck at that—they’re going to be a lot less invested in making the checkout experience pleasant and quick, much less finding a crabby customer’s favorite brand of mustard.

Another advantage to having happy employees is that they live in the community. They talk about their job with their friends and family members. Every happy employee is an ambassador for the brand. And people are more likely to shop at the store and expect a positive experience if a friend or family member told them what a great company it was. They’re also more likely to be forgiving if all is not what they’d hoped in an isolated encounter.

Supporting The Community

All three retailers work to be great community members. Wegmans donates to local charities and food banks, works on sustainability initiatives including reducing emissions and waste in landfills and offering sustainably caught seafood. Publix has many similar programs and also recycles unsold compostable food items at local organic farms. They make giving personal rather than institutional.

Of course, being a great member of the community isn’t the only thing a grocery store has to do to be beloved by customers. There are other factors we’ll look at next. But since the connection between shoppers and the store is a relationship and leans heavily on customer experience, you can’t really be America’s Favorite Grocery Retailer without it.

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Seth Nagle, Senior Marketing Manager at RW3 Technologies understands the power of innovation but also its limitations. Attending Salve Regina in New England, starting his career in Silicon Valley, and now living in Austin, Texas; Seth provides a unique tech perspective to a complex CPG and Retail Grocery Industry that is in constant disruption.

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