Retail transactions done online afford customers, wholesalers, retailers and even the manufacturers, the luxury of conducting business anywhere at their own convenience. With speed and accuracy, operations can be carried out smoothly - one can therefore see the dilemma traditional independent grocers face. The concerns about falling traffic in your stores are very real as over 71% of consumers trust that they can find better prices online.
So how do you as a traditional retailer survive and most importantly thrive amidst the disruption and turbulence caused by ecommerce?
The first key to survival is to retain and increase foot traffic in your store. The good news is that 94% of retail sales are still conducted in brick and mortar stores. Even with the ease of ecommerce, people still prefer a physical experience, a relationship, an interaction with the product or the retailer. This is what defines us as humans - our desire to interact.
The Major Keys to Survival in this Volatile Retail Environment
One of the best strategies to boost number of customer visits in your stores is to leverage this human desire to interact and to discover new experiences. Try to re-imagine your store as an event space which your customers see as being a fun place to visit - not just the place they need to go for weekly provisioning. Promoting limited time price discounts (TPR) on popular and well known products only leads to erosion of margin.
“If consumers come to expect price cuts as the rule rather than the exception, then price promotions lose their ability to boost sales and become unprofitable. “
Consequently, one of the major keys to survival in this volatile retail environment is the creation of exceptional customer experience in your stores. Retail leaders realize that customers now have a plethora of choices available to them. Surely, the store that provides the best experience is certainly where the customers will throng to. In essence, the traditional grocers have the advantage over ecommerce giants in providing quality customer experience through in store demo and other event based marketing strategies.
According to a survey of 1,786 US grocery shoppers conducted by Food Marketing Institute.
“Among all regular food shoppers, brick-and-mortar supermarkets continue to enjoy a clear edge over online grocery retail in perceived performance on key evaluation criteria, especially in providing fresher produce (a top store-selection driver) and better customer service,”
According To a Survey
With the ever dynamic nature of retail today, there is no way you can talk about improving customer experience without including in store demos. This refined tactic helps to draw customers, boost sales of demonstrated products and also improve the sales of other products in that category. To withstand the barrage of online competitors, you have to think of an in-store demo as a network of events rather than one elaborate show. Knowing the right product to demo, duration of each demo and location for the demo are very crucial to your stores survival. In order to measure the impact of in store demos on your stores’ Sales Per Customer Transaction, you have to consider
Understanding return on investment for these promotional strategies can go a long way in attracting the sponsors for them. Analysis of data, collected effortlessly by your POS, holds the key to leveraging vendor’s promotional budgets for increasing foot traffic in your stores. Any quality in store demo agency or vendor’s field marketing organization collects valuable data specific to the demo events they conduct. Cross referencing POS with demo data can produce empirical evidence, that would entice vendors to demos in your stores all day long, and that will lift:
In retrospect, arming yourself with the right information and tactics will give you sufficient leverage in the unstable 'waters' of retail. Reaching out to your customers, giving them the very best and improving on your operations are essential tips for relieving the pressure of online competitors.
There are several write ups about Amazon acquisition of Whole Food Markets with everyone attempting to clearly state their own opinion. This is seen from different sectors including pundit specification from industries which is channeled towards an unavoidable disruption of the grocery industry. This is with the primary aim of having an analysis of the Whole Foods price reductions. Joining the choir was my own way of offering my opinion and observation from an industry ecosystem participant perspective.
Whole Foods Stores
Over the years, there have been a scale up in the traffic seen with Whole Foods stores. This was noticed only after the acquisition as well as lower pricing of some selected items. However, vendors, distributors and brokers have sent no reports showing that they are dissatisfied with the internal operational changes. Complaints about the availability and quality of organic produce on the store shelves are becoming quite disturbing and these complaints are received mainly from the Whole Foods shoppers.
Whole Foods Management
There is currently no evidence to indicate a positive change from the perspectives of shoppers or the grocery ecosystem. There are only indications to show that a hands off approach to Whole Foods management was adopted by Amazon as they continue with the implementation of operational initiatives even before acquisition takes place.
Major grocery retailers are already announcing their significant investments into technology. This is with the aim of combating Amazon’s scour for food to their territory. The likes of Kroger have already started to court smaller, regional product brands threatened by Whole Foods abandonment. This may be a good development for nonindustrial food manufacturers, when and if it materializes.
Analysis you would find are only focused on the impact of the Whole Foods changes on publicly traded companies. There are only few write ups about how the food brokers, independent groceries, demo agencies, small batch product manufacturers and merchandisers are affected by the changes. In fact, there are only evidence to show that there is lower foot traffic as well brand promotional activities on the store floors of the aforementioned. However, many grocers we spoke to are in denial that a small grocery eco-system will be materially affected. And that is a mistake.
Thanks to Jeff Bezos's relentless focus on the quality of customer experience, i.e. long term sustainability of Amazon business, everyone assumes that the acquisition will produce some magical result and force a major change in how we buy our food. So far this "earthquake" is yet to produce a tsunami of change. Amazon does not always succeed, but it succeeds most of the time. Change now. Before you have to.
The small and independent grocers can obviously not compete with bigger technological investments, rather they can mobilize partners within their ecosystem to provide a better and more personal experience to their shoppers. This should be their prime focus because Whole Foods sidelines their trade partners who helped them to become successful, independent grocers could use this opportunity to forge closer alliances to provide more engaging shopping experience in their stores.