Customer Satisfaction

What We Learned from the Grocery Edition of the 2020 Retailer Preference Index

What We Learned from the Grocery Edition of the 2020 Retailer Preference Index 1280 720 Natalie Tatum

In the third annual Retailer Preference Index (RPI) for the U.S. grocery stores, Dunhumby  looks at the $700 billion grocery industry to answer what drives customer preference for grocery retailers, which retailers are winning and losing and why, and what grocery retailers can do to improve performance and win more trips.

Dunhumby provides a new perspective on the emotional connection behind what customers think and feel and why they shop at certain stores, all with the goals of understanding how these perceptions affect financial performance and helping retailers better understand their customers. 

Here are the most impactful things we learned from the 2020 Grocery Edition of the Retailer Preference Index. 

Customer Needs: 

While a few pillars of retail move spots in customers hearts and wallets, the price pillar is undoubtedly the most important pillar for shoppers of almost all incomes. Behind price comes the quality of product freshness and accessibility to private brands, prepared goods, product variety, the store experience, customer service, and the look and feel of the store. 

After price and quality comes digital, with easy ways to shop online or with a mobile app and the usefulness of the information provided. Operations follows with managing out of stocks, price consistency, stocking the right products and providing clean stores. 

Convenience, coming fifth in order of importance, represents having the right variety of products and convenient locations that allow shoppers to buy everything they need at one store. Speed both in efficiency of shopping and checkout comes in sixth place, and discounts and rewards including the ease of redeeming discounts comes last in seventh place.  

Top Grocery Stores:

The following grocers have a value core that is most aligned to their customer’s needs, delivering them in a way that is most relevant to their emotional connection and financial situations:

  1. H-E-B 
  2. Trader Joes 
  3. Amazon
  4. Market Basket 
  5. Wegmans 
  6. Costco
  7. Aldi 
  8. Sam’s Club 
  9. Walmart 
  10. Publix 
  11. WinCo Foods 
  12. Fresh Thyme 
  13. Sprouts 
  14. ShopRite

When asked what word came to mind when these retailers were mentioned, customers said convenient, cheaper, fresh, good, bulk, and great. 

Changing Value Consciousness: 

Following the last recession in the late 2010’s, consumers based their purchase decisions on price more than any other pillar of retail. Shoppers bought more sale items and got used to buying at lower prices. Shoppers also spent less on food, not only by seeking lower prices, but by buying less food.  

Shoppers also ate out less and cooked more meals at home and made bigger strides in curbing their impulse purchasing tendencies. They brought more private label brands, leading to an increase of shopping at more club warehouses, super centers, dollar stores and limited assortment stores. 

The “Fun” Factor:

With the hype of micro-experiences only on the rise, it’s no surprise that more shoppers are embracing the “fun” factor of getting their groceries. Leaders in the fun factor include Trader Joe’s, Fresh Thyme, and The Fresh Market. 

The “Fun” Factor is typically associated with grocers who capture a low share of their customer’s grocery wallet and  who provide a limited set of categories and products. Their limited categories allow them to deliver a well-aligned value core and focused innovation, but limit how much the customer will and can buy at a given location. 

How Traditional Retailers Can Win:

With big box stores and retailers topping the list of favorite grocers, how can traditional, regional retailers win? The equation is simple. 

Strong private brand + highly relevant assortment + highly relevant promotions = success

Quality is driven not so much in store experience, but more so through an assortment that meets their needs and allows shoppers to get all of the right products at a convenient location. While Walmart, Aldi and Dollar General have strong competitive advantages in price perception, private brands give traditional, regional grocers a resource to compete with. 

While they tend to trail in price advantage, traditional, regional grocers have a clear competitive advantage in promotion, information, and assortment relevance. When surveyed, discounts and rewards scored most important for those in late retirement and those that are empty nesters, but the numbers were high all across the board with little variation segment to segment. 

The Retailer Preference Index provides sixty pages of valuable information for grocers, retailers, and shoppers alike. To download the report, visit here.

What the Grocery Industry Can Learn from Nordstrom About Customer Service

What the Grocery Industry Can Learn from Nordstrom About Customer Service 453 299 Natalie Tatum

It’s no secret that Nordstrom is synonymous with customer service. We’ve all heard the age-old story of a customer returning tires to a Nordstrom and getting a refund even though the high-end fashion retailer doesn’t sell tires. Whether it’s an urban legend or a lesson on the legacy that a good customer service story can leave on our minds, Nordstrom’s customer service can teach more than the fashion industry something about customer care and satisfaction.

Nordstrom’s famous customer service can be broken down into two categories: their detailed care of the customer from the moment they walk into the door to days after their purchase, and the way they empower their employees.

In a 2014 Quora post, former Nordstrom employee Ambra Benjamin cited many examples of customer service excellence that helped Nordstrom stand out in the crowd, including that associates are encouraged to walk customers to the items they’re looking for instead of telling them where to find them, walking their purchase to the customer instead of handing it to them over the counter, and providing a one to one service model. These little details and experiences add a touch of luxury to the shopping experience and leave a lasting impression on the minds of the customers, even if they don’t realize it in the moment. If you’ve ever been to a Nordstrom, you’ll be able to recall the camaraderie of the shopping experience just as easily as you’ll be able to remember the purchase.

Sales associates are even known to go above and beyond outside of the store. One Black Friday, an intern passed out hot chocolate, coffee, and doughnuts to the growing crowd outside in an effort to keep them calm, comfortable, and congenial going into their mad-house shopping spree.

Shoppers aren’t the only ones being taken care of – Nordstrom has landed a spot on the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For for 20 consecutive years. Employees cite the extensive training and educational opportunities within the company as their top reasons for loving where they work. Nordstrom also does a great job of hiring employees they can trust, emphasizing their famous “use your best judgment” mantra that’s almost as well known as the tire story. The company is also passionate about embracing the “Nordstrom Family” mindset. In a 2018 Business Insider article with former employee Aaron Valentic, Valentic said one of his favorite parts of working at Nordstrom was the company morale and culture.

“Sales associates were regarded at times as higher than managers, and if you were a minority you were seen as an asset. As someone who was gay, I never once felt that I was not welcomed or not an important part of the ‘Nordstrom Family.'”

While Nordstrom leads the fashion industry in customer satisfaction, grocers can learn from Nordstrom’s examples to recreate that specialized, intimate experience with a food-focused spin.

While it isn’t always efficient for baggers to bring each bag around to the customer like Nordstrom does, grocery employees can still step up their game with how they assist the customer with their purchases. Like Publix, other grocers can implement initiatives for employees to walk customer’s purchases to their car and help them unload and return the cart. While it takes the customer the same amount of time and roughly the same amount of energy to walk to the car and get situated for their drive home, eliminating one round of the heavy-lifting adds a luxurious touch to their grocery shopping experience.

The grocery industry is no stranger to creating comfortable environments in-store. With coffee shops, banks, and even childcare being offered in some stores, grocers are personalizing micro-experiences to their shoppers and their needs. Micro-experiences, whether being a specialist in-store to educate shoppers about a new dish they can recreate in their home or events like shop n’ sip, ensure that time spent grocery shopping is eagerly anticipated and not dreaded. Especially with online ordering and delivery at its peak, creating a comfortable environment for shoppers should be at the forefront of customer service initiatives in order to get customers back through the door.

Beyond the customer, grocers can encourage their employees to provide top notch customer service by treating them with the same respect and care. In a 2019 Investopedia article about the best grocery companies to work for, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and Publix top the list because of their competitive salaries, enchanting work environments and stock opportunities for employees.

Even with automation at the forefront of grocery innovation, people will always need to get groceries and there will always be room to personalize the grocery-shopping experience. Enchanting shoppers with hyper-focused assistance and and  relaxing experiences, and providing employers with incentives to further their involvement in the company are just a few examples of what the grocery industry can learn from Nordstrom. With these tips, any grocer can become synonymous with customer service too!

 

 

 

 

How Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson is Prioritizing Human Interaction

How Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson is Prioritizing Human Interaction 764 458 Natalie Tatum

Kevin Johnson is the president and chief executive officer for Starbucks, passionately and proudly carrying on the Starbucks legacy of human connection in all of his initiatives as he leads over 330,000 Starbucks partners in more than 28,000 stores around the world. 

Since becoming the CEO in April of 2017, heightening human interaction beyond customer service has been at the forefront of Johnson’s projects, believing that shared experiences create common understandings, beliefs and languages. Because of this, those working at Starbucks are referred to as partners, not employees, citing that the term fosters a sense of equality and shared vision. 

At his featured Keynote at NRF 2020, Johnson said that “Starbucks has worked to create a special customer experience grounded in human connection” that “ comes together in a comfortable third place, a community different than home or work.” 

When asked about what inspires him to bring back human interaction in the height of commercial technology, Johnson mentioned his disdain of how this age of unparalleled digital connection has brought with it an age of unprecedented human disconnection.  

“While technology has done many wonderful things, it’s also changed behaviors in a way where people don’t interact with one another nearly as much, which is unhealthy and I think is contributing to a global epidemic of human loneliness. I realize that serving 100 million customers a week at Starbucks means we have at least that many opportunities to enhance human connections and perhaps create that sense of community and a place where people feel more connected face-to-face with other people.” 

This sense of community can be seen not only in traditional Starbucks stores, but in their specialty-focused stores for military families and deaf communities as well. The Starbucks Signing Store and Military Families Stores aim to provide a hyper-welcoming environment for all customers, with particular recognition and support of the local military and deaf communities in the cities the stores are found in. The Starbucks Signing Store is located in Washington D.C., while the Military Family Stores can be found in Austin and El Paso, Texas, Clarksville, Tennessee, Newport, Rhode Island, and Bedford, Massachusetts, all located in military camp and base communities. 

Johnson isn’t only encouraging the creation of micro-communities in stores to heighten customer experience. Starbucks Deep Brew is a technology initiative working on a broad suite of tools to elevate almost every aspect of the business, eventually helping to automate many aspects of the store life. Primarily, it will act as an invisible, super-smart sidekick to baristas to elevate the Starbucks experience for the customer. It can help with tracking inventory, supply chain logistics and replenishment orders, allowing partners extra time to focus on fostering meaningful interactions with customers. With more time dedicated to perfecting customer interactions, Starbucks can create micro-communities in every neighborhood that feel personalized and prioritized. 

Behind every aspect of Johnson’s hopes for Starbucks to headline customer service is his tried and true rapid cycle plan of bringing ideas to implementation in 100 days. Off the bat, Johnson saw the need to perfect new ideas and initiatives for 31,000 stores. Instead of focusing on mass implementation, Johnson recommended working on advancements in levels, measuring success by what you learned at each individual step along the way and perfecting initiatives in one store, learning from the process, and taking that expertise to the next store. 

Johnson’s drive and passion for creating a community can be seen from a mile away. His excitement strengthens Starbucks’ legacy of connection from president to partner and continues to pave the way for the future of technology’s role in human interaction.

2020 Grocery Bonus Trend: Plant-Based Products

2020 Grocery Bonus Trend: Plant-Based Products 720 480 Andrew Hoeft

We’re a few weeks into 2020, and there are already clear indicators that many of the trends we predicted are coming to life. We’re spending the week at the National Retail Federation (NRF) Big Show, and these concepts are being mentioned again and again by top retail insiders in their industry-leading sessions. We’ll be bringing all of the latest information to you soon, but we couldn’t resist filling you in on one 2020 grocery trend that’s making waves already this year: plant-based products.

It’s no secret that plant-based products have been around for awhile – vegetarianism and even veganism have become expected dietary restrictions throughout the United States. Those who practice these diets are no longer in the minority, and grocery stores have needed to pay attention to their needs and desires while stocking their shelves in order to maintain their consumer base.

However, plant-based products have exploded over the past five or so years, and they’re poised to have an even bigger impact on the grocery space in 2020 and beyond.

 

What you need to know about plant-based products

Grocers have needed to cater to vegetarian and vegan customers in the past to avoid losing their business, but today plant-based products are more than just a “nice to have” in the grocery world. They’re a necessity for any grocer who wants to position themselves as forward thinking. They’re a growing category.

Plant-based products represent an entirely new opportunity for revenue in an industry with notoriously thin margins.

At this stage in the game, plant-based products have entered just about every category within a grocery store, from the dairy aisle and the meat counter to the seafood section. It’s no longer abnormal for a customer to see a package of plant-based burgers nestled in amongst typical beef patties.

In fact, plant-based meat alternatives may be the most popular form of plant-based products. Companies like Beyond Burger and Impossible Burger have entered the mainstream conversation due to partnerships with well known brands like Burger King and Qdoba. These fast food mainstays have tied their success to the plant-based movement, and are advertising these options heavily to consumers. They aren’t just targeting the vegetarian and vegan crowd either – they’re telling die-hard carnivores that their plant-based options taste just as good as their meat-focused menu items – and that they could be a healthier alternative for those who are looking to cut down on calories and cholesterol.

Tyson too is investing in plant-based protein. The poultry leader launched vegetarian nuggets in June.

These companies have good reason to believe that plant-based is the category of the future. “U.S. retail sales of plant-based foods grew 11.3% in the past year,” according to the Good Food Institute and the Plant Based Foods Association. Sales were up 31.3% overall between 2017 and 2019, to a grand total of nearly $4.5 billion in revenue.

Here’s one more stat to consider: $1.9 billion was spent on plant-based milks in the United States over the past year, which made milk the “top-selling plant-based category”. These milks include varieties like almond, soy, and oat milks, and may have been spurred by the popularity of using these plant-based, wellness-focused alternatives in beverages like coffee and tea. Grocers have started merchandising these items in the traditional dairy case, which gives shoppers who may not normally come into contact with plant-based products a chance to, in a fit of curiosity, add them to their cart.

The numbers are convincing, and experts predict that the trend will only continue to grow in the coming decade. As a grocer, you can learn a few lessons about how to effectively integrate plant-based products into your inventory from your peers.

 

What is the best way to capitalize on the plant-based products trend in grocery?

The top technique for making plant-based products work in your store is to make them feel like they are an intentional addition to your offerings, not just an extra section in your store that is only shopped by those who have dietary restrictions or moral reasons for not eating meat or dairy products. To fully integrate these products, you need to place them near their meat and dairy counterparts

Grocery stores across the country are moving away from having a specific “organic” or “vegetarian” section. Instead, they are putting these alternative products directly in their cases, Beyond Burger next to ground chuck, and almond milk next to the 1% and chocolate cow milk.

The main impetus for this adjustment is that, instead of organizing a grocery store in a way that makes sense on the backend to a grocer (inventory categories placed next to each other in a very structured fashion), grocers are beginning to layout their stores to suit the customer. They are considering the way consumers shop, and placing items that go together in the customer’s mind next to each other in the store. If a customer has “milk” on their shopping lists for example, it doesn’t matter if they’re looking for soy milk or dairy milk – they should be able to go to the same spot and pick it up, not head to a separate vegetarian section for their shopping. Reducing the friction around these plant-based products makes them a more natural purchase for any shopper, not just those who adhere to a vegetarian or vegan diet.

Call this idea a trend within a trend: negating marketing material and labels that categorize a plant-based product as “vegan” or “vegetarian” normalizes it for the mainstream shopper. Instead of feeling like they can’t purchase a product because they don’t fall into one of those two categories, they may be able to tap into their curiosity or health-focused mindset and choose a new plant-based alternative. 

There are a number of grocery stores who are successfully implementing the tips above, but there are a few who are going above and beyond to actually create plant-based products for their in-store brands. Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods top the list, which may not be entirely surprising to based on their shopper demographics. Wegman’s is also leading the way in private label plant-based products, showing that the traditional grocery store can also get in on this 2020 trend.

 

Pros and cons of plant-based products in your store

Plant-based is a major 2020 trend, but it’s not magic – there may still be some roadblocks that can prevent these products from becoming a success in your store.

First and foremost, though big name brands are doing a lot of plant-based advertising for you there is still some hesitation with products such as plant-based cheese – and even those meat alternatives we mentioned earlier. Carrying plant-based products requires some education of your current shopper, informing them of what options are available and perhaps creating a few testing stations in your stores to introduce them to the product.

You’ll also be tasked with finding room in your limited inventory space for these new plant-based products. As we all know, there is a definite level of negotiation between grocers and brands when it comes to where products are merchandised, and adding in an entirely new category could cause some friction with brands who haven’t gone down this route yet.

Although there are challenges at stake, making an effort to carry and promote plant-based products in your store has some major benefits as well. The financial upsides of adding in a popular new category are just one reason why you should consider jumping on board with this trend.

When you carry meat and dairy alternatives in your store, you’re positioning yourself in a positive light. You are telling your shoppers that you are wellness-focused, that you understand the health benefits that plant-based products might bring. You also show that you are invested in your shoppers, no matter their dietary restrictions or eating habits. You want to offer them the food that they enjoy, that they feel good about eating, and you want to expose others to that same opportunity. Finally, you care about the environment. Plant-based products cut down on the carbon emissions caused by traditional dairy and meat processing, and shoppers are savvy about that fact. By promoting other options, you’re giving people a chance to exercise their moral compass, and feel good about what they’re purchasing.

This year, plant-based products are ruling the grocery aisles and the halls of NRF’s Big Show. We can’t get away from this topic, and the shopping data tells a clear story of why. To point your stores in the right direction, take a few tips from your peers, weigh your options, and then dive in feet first with a few plant-based offerings. Give your shoppers a chance to show you whether they are interested or not before writing off this trend entirely. You might just be surprised by which category has the largest impact on your P&L come 2021.

 

2020 Grocery Trends: Blockchain

2020 Grocery Trends: Blockchain 720 450 Andrew Hoeft

If you’ve been keeping up with business news over the past decade or so, you’re probably familiar with the term “blockchain”. Investors and CEOs alike have been interested in this technology for a variety of reasons, but it is only just beginning to become ubiquitous in the conversation surrounding retail.

Grocers in particular need to understand the way that blockchain works, where it comes from, and how it can help their customers and their bottom line in 2020.

Where did blockchain get started?

Blockchain was originally created in 2008 as the backbone technology used to manage bitcoin. This digital currency was the first of its kind, and the foundational technology behind it was immediately intriguing to business people. What else could this tech be used for? How can we incorporate it into our business model in order to make more revenue?

The main way that retailers have used blockchain technology in their businesses is to track products through the supply chain. Transparency is becoming more important in retail every day, as are sustainable business practices, and blockchain can be an integral tool in not only talking the talk but walking the walk in both of these areas.

Who is using blockchain in the grocery industry?

The main utilizers of blockchain technology in the grocery industry can be found in one cohort created by IBM – Food Trust. Grocers like Albertson’s and Kroger, along with large brands like Walmart, Unilever, Nestle, Tyson, and Dole are members of this blockchain group led by the technology giant. It’s the first foray into using blockchain for food products, and it’s already paying dividends for the companies in terms of transparency and the ability to back up their sustainability claims. Each of the companies involved in the group require blockchain tracking from source to source throughout their supply chain, which provides them with easy-to-access data on their inventory in case of contamination, customer complaint, or even for marketing materials.

What are the pros and cons of blockchain in grocery?

The benefits of blockchain technology can be a huge boon for grocers. When they are able to use it effectively, they can access tracking information and provide accountability throughout the supply chain. Whether they’re concerned about produce contamination with E.coli, or are experiencing consumer backlash regarding business practices, blockchain technology allows grocers to point to the data and show customers exactly how they’re taking care of the problem. This increases trust between grocers and customers over time, which is integral to maintaining a thriving business in 2020.

The one major downside to blockchain technology in grocery is access. Those who don’t have the funds or the connections to obtain the technology or manpower needed to execute blockchain technology accurately won’t be able to take advantage of its benefits. There are, however, a few blockchain vendors on the market who are entering the food and sustainability space, so access may be less of an issue moving into 2020.

If you’re on the fence about blockchain, ask yourself this: would my customers trust my business more if I could provide them with transparent information about our business practices? Could tracking my inventory through the supply chain prevent health issues or customer dissatisfaction? In this case, the benefits may just outweigh the costs.

 

2020 Grocery Trends: Self-Scanning

2020 Grocery Trends: Self-Scanning 720 480 Andrew Hoeft

2020 is right around the corner, and with a new year comes a treasure trove of opportunities to consider for grocers.

What are the industry trends that are hitting their stride in 2020?

Which should I put time, money, and energy into? 

Over the next few months, we’re going to be covering those 2020 trends – giving you the lowdown on what they are, where they came from, who is currently utilizing them in the industry, and the pros and cons.

Today’s trend is self-scanning. Different than the ubiquitous self checkouts, this trend gives handheld scanning devices to shoppers and allows them to scan as they move throughout your store, hypothetically simplifying the checkout process and taking cashiers out of the equation.

 

Where did self-scanning start?

Self-scanning is a product of the self checkout trend. Many mass retailers from Target to Kroger to Walmart have implemented self checkout, and smaller stores have followed suit because of their popularity.

70% of shoppers have used self-checkout, and self-scanning was simply the logical next iteration.

According to GPShopper, 48% of US internet users believe scan-and-go technology would make shopping easier, and 43% would rather try this trend than wait in a checkout line.

That kind of agreement among consumers was enough to make some major names in the grocery industry take note.

 

Which grocery stores have self-scanning capabilities?

Kroger implemented their Scan, Bag, Go system, which actually takes the self-scanning process one step further by allowing consumers to scan with their mobile phones. Less hardware = less overhead for a program like this. 

Meijer followed Kroger’s lead with an app called Shop & Scan that shoppers can download to scan their items as they wander through the aisles. At the end of their trip, they simply scan their app-generated barcode at the self-checkout kiosk.

Finally, Sam’s Club uses a similar service called Scan & Go to give their shoppers a self-scanning experience in their big box stores.

 

Pros and cons of self-scanning in grocery stores

The benefits of self-scanning are lauded by its proponents. At its best, self-scanning gives shoppers autonomy, and allows them to skip the long lines that many people complain about in grocery stores. The power is put in their hands – and they like it. This optimistic outlook also gives grocery store employees a chance to get beyond the cash wrap, and provides more time to actually assist shoppers with their needs instead of spending time scanning.

On the other hand, there are many people who don’t buy the utopian view of self-scanning. Some customers see it as just a glorified self-checkout, and make good points about it failing to live up to the autonomous checkout that we’ve been seeing in the Amazon Go store concepts. Other shoppers say that it disconnects them from grocery store employees, and removes that valuable person-to-person connection that makes grocery stores so community-driven.

If you’re thinking about bringing self-scanning to your stores, it’s important to take these considerations into account. Are your customers used to an interaction-heavy shopping trip, and would feel disdain toward a program that would take that away? Are they tech-savvy? Are they concerned with shopping at a store that has the latest technology, such as autonomous checkouts? Are they interested in getting in and out of your store as fast as possible, or are they looking for a more engaged experience? Answer these questions, and you’ll be able to determine if self-scanning is the right move for you and your business.

 

How to Keep Your Employees Informed, Engaged, and On-Brand

How to Keep Your Employees Informed, Engaged, and On-Brand 720 480 Andrew Hoeft

Employing part-time workers is a catch-22. Part-time employees work in the grocery industry (for now) because they don’t require a lot of experience or high wages. However, when your employees aren’t consistently in your store or tied to your company with a full-time position, it’s likely that they’re less informed, less engaged, and ingrained in your brand than they would be if they were full-time employees.

That’s an issue.

Customers expect to have a consistent A+ experience, no matter if the employee they’re interacting with is exempt or non-exempt. Shoppers simply want to know that they’re spending their money in a store that values them, one that employs people who are willing to go the extra mile to make them happy.

It’s up to you to ensure that your employees fit the bill. To do this, you need to keep your employees informed, engaged, and on-brand.

 

Keep employees informed

Employees need to know your store and your products inside and out to give your customers an expert experience each time they shop. Give them the confidence they need to do just that by providing weekly, monthly, or even quarterly video updates from your corporate office about the business. What’s new to your shelves? What initiatives are important to the company right now? Open it up for discussion and Q&A opportunities with your executives. Even your part-time employees will feel connected when they’re given the chance to transparently discuss company-wide goals and the strategies that you’re putting in place to accomplish them.

 

Keep employees engaged

Engagement is the next building block in employee success. Think of it this way: without the relevant information, employees will never be engaged. They need to understand what’s going on behind the scenes in order to want to give their job their all. So, this is the next step. Incentivize your employees to do an exceptional job by offering rewards to those who live up to your company values and deliver on the projects that they’re assigned to. Make their work day more than “just another shift” by holding internal contests. How many customers can your employees interact with? How many positive reviews can they attain from your shoppers? How few errors can they rack up during a store walk? All of these metrics and more can be used to keep your employees engaged in your business, and feeling like they’re a part of something bigger than just another shift in a grocery store.

 

Keep employees on-brand

Finally, once you have employees who are not only informed but also engaged, you can start to ensure that they’re on-brand. This is important to your overall strategy (not just your hiring strategy) because it provides your customers with a consistent experience. If your employees are on-brand, a customer can walk into any one of your stores and feel like it’s familiar.

To help your employees understand and maintain your brand, create in-store collateral around your core values. Hang these rallying words from banners on your ceiling or on posters in your break room. Periodically provide customer service scripts to your employees to show them how to talk about specific products or initiatives so everyone can align around a common message.

 

Keeping your employees informed, engaged, and on-brand is integral to the success of your business. Without these three building blocks, employees can become apathetic and you’ll have trouble retaining them. Implement the ideas mentioned in this post in order to build and maintain a workforce that is not only informed, engaged, and on-brand, but also just plain happy.

How to Train Your Staff to be In-Store Experts

How to Train Your Staff to be In-Store Experts 720 480 Andrew Hoeft

Customer interaction is the single most important aspect of every grocery employees job. It’s one thing to be a great stocker or date checker, a detail-oriented cashier or excellent manager. However, if you can’t assist customers, answer their questions, or develop a connection with them, you’re not adding a lot of value to a grocery business.

That’s because grocery stores have been a community gathering place as long as they’ve existed. They’re the space where you bump into your neighbors as you’re each buying food for the tailgate later, or for your weekly shop. 

There’s a familial aspect to grocery stores that needs to be reflected in every aspect of your business – including your employees. As a rule, they need to be able to talk to your customers as if they are lifelong friends while maintaining a certain level of expertise about your store, your brand, and your products.

We’ve talked about that person-to-person interaction in the past, so today we’re going to cover the other side: developing your employees into in-store experts.

 

How to Train Your Staff to Be In-Store Experts

Empower employees

First and foremost, if you want your staff to become experts on your store you need to give them the ability to do so. If you have supervisors who are prone to micromanaging your associates, you’ll find that they never get the chance to learn from their mistakes because they’re never given the chance to learn from them. They never feel like they need to know the answers to customer questions, because their manager has all the answers.

You’re taking the wind out of their sails before they’ve even left port.

Give your employees responsibility right out of the gate by either letting them lead the way on a project or own a specific task day in and day out. Through that empowerment, they’ll develop the knowledge of your store’s operations and products that they’ll need to provide A+ customer experience.

 

Include education at every opportunity

In addition to giving employees on-the-job training, provide more traditional forms of education that they can sink their teeth into for extra knowledge. Set up daily tips and news alerts when they clock in at the beginning of their shift. Ask them to watch quick, digestible video trainings on new products, brand messaging, or corporate updates when they occur. Explain the reasons “why” behind their responsibilities so that they have context for why they should put extra effort into a task. When you empower employees to take on responsibility, and give them the education they need to do it successfully, you’re on your way to developing an in-store expert.

 

Teach staff how to build relationships with customers

Finally, being an expert means nothing if your employees aren’t relaying their knowledge to your customers. If you have an associate who is timid or reluctant to speak with customers freely, you can provide them with easy-to-use scripts to open a conversation, or work with them through role playing training so that they’re less nervous about speaking with your customers. Once they’re comfortable, they’ll have all of the tools they’ll need to be an in-store expert: customer connection, industry-specific knowledge, and the empowerment to take on whatever problem comes their way.

4 Tech Tools to Enhance Customer Experience

4 Tech Tools to Enhance Customer Experience 720 480 Andrew Hoeft

Just as technology is integral to maintaining a talented, engaged workforce in the grocery industry, it is the key to drawing and retaining a high quality clientele. Customers will no longer share their loyalty with just any grocer. They want to know that their needs are being met: both in terms of inventory selection and through behind-the-scenes technological advancements that contribute to their experience.

To stay competitive in today’s retail industry, grocers need to integrate technology into their retail operations. Here are our top four recommendations for tech tools that will enhance your customer experience:

 

4 Tech Tools to Enhance Customer Experience

Digital Loyalty Programs + Personalization

Loyalty programs are not a novel concept – if you’re a grocer who has a penchant for innovation you probably already have one implemented in your store’s POS system. However, loyalty programs can be used for a lot more than customer satisfaction. Use your loyalty program to gather data on your customers and send them personalized offers that enhance their experience with your brand. Have an almond milk lover on your hands? Let them know when their favorite flavor is on discount. Have a customer who regularly buys Latin American fare? Share an offer on a new product that you think they may like. The more seamless you make a customer’s experience with your store, the better.

 

AI and mPOS

Artificial intelligence has been a buzzword for years in the retail space, and promises of its impact on customer experience have been optimistic but perceived as farfetched. However, some of those profound proclamations are coming to fruition. We are finally starting to see applications of artificial intelligence in grocery retail, from cameras that can detect certain customers and share specific offers with them as they wander through your store to cashier-free payment like in Amazon Go and H-E-B Go stores. Augment these opportunities with mobile point-of-sale (mPOS) technology, and you’ll position yourself as market leader.

 

Expiration Date Management Software

Your customers do not want to find expired products on your shelves. Where other tech tools are front-and-center in the customer experience, expiration date management software works behind the scenes to ensure your shoppers never find an expired item in their carts. Software like Date Check Pro helps your store associates effectively and efficiently locate close-dated items in your store and take action on them, either discounting them or donating them to a local organization before they expire.

 

Bluetooth Beacons

Bluetooth beacons are another one of those tech tools that feels like it’s straight out of the Jetsons. These electronic devices can be placed throughout your store in key traffic areas, then interact with customers who have downloaded your store app in order to prompt them to take action. Bluetooth beacons can make your customer’s experience more personalized by sending them unique offers or messaging, or give you insights into the activity into your store based on usage activity.

To put it plainly, you can’t afford to ignore technology anymore. Your customers, though they may love your hometown style and individualized approach to customer service, they are also starting to expect a technological bent to your operations. Start with these four tech tools in order to build an experience that will keep your customers coming back, over and over again.

How Personalization Data Will Help You Decrease Shrink

How Personalization Data Will Help You Decrease Shrink 720 480 Andrew Hoeft

Reducing shrink in a grocery store can seem like an almost impossible task. While the retail industry in general is plagued with loss prevention woes, grocery can be even more difficult to monitor simply because of the nature of its products. Customers can eat products before purchasing them and items can even go bad on the shelves.

That’s not an issue for other types of retailers.

Grocers need to use every tool in their arsenal in order to combat shrink in their grocery store, including technology that allows them to collect data in order to make better purchasing and rotation decisions.

A great portion of shrink in grocery stores could be reduced if grocers accurately used personalization data to order precisely the right amount of stock, instead of overbuying items that are historically slow-moving and likely to become expired shrink. 

 

How to Collect Personalization Data

Grocers have many options at their disposal when it comes to collecting the personalization data that they need in order to combat expired shrink. Though the industry is notoriously slow to adopt new technology, installing a new software solution isn’t the only way to keep track of what your customers are buying frequently and which items tend to sit on the shelves. Here are a few ways that grocers can collect personalization data:

 

Loyalty programs

Many grocery stores already have loyalty programs in place. These purchase- and point-tracking systems make it easy for grocers to reward their customers with special perks once they’ve hit a certain purchasing threshold. However, they are drastically underused for other purposes, including the collection of personalization data.

Loyalty programs are already tracking how much a customer purchases, and what they are purchasing on a regular basis, but how much of that data is being translated into corporate buying decisions? If grocers are already inadvertently collecting this data, couldn’t it be put to good use in stocking your shelves with the products that your most loyal customers actually want?

 

E-commerce history

E-commerce purchasing history could be valuable to grocers in the same way that loyalty programs are when it comes to collecting personalization data. E-commerce platforms tend to be a bit more sophisticated, so not only will you be able to see data on what items are purchased most frequently, but also which products are searched for regularly, which are added to the cart and then abandoned, and what times of year products are fast-moving or slow-moving. 

You have all of this data at your fingertips as a grocer. It’s time to start using it to help you make better purchasing decisions and reduce expired shrink before it ever even occurs.

 

In-person interaction

Finally, for the good old-fashioned grocer, in-person interaction can be a keystone of your personalization data collection strategy.

Your store associates and managers speak with customers on a daily basis, answering questions and building relationships, but did you know that they’re an integral part of personalization data collection? 

The interactions between your store staff and your customers contain information that can help you do your job better and reduce expired shrink in your store.

What are your customers asking you for repeatedly? Is there a new item that’s become a consistent part of your staff’s conversations? Keep track of this information and take it into account when you’re making purchasing decisions.

Is one extremely loyal customer making requests? It might make sense to bring in a small quantity of the item they’re looking for in order to build a stronger connection with them and discover a potential new winner for your store.

 

How to Use Personalization Data to Reduce Shrink

Now that you’ve started using your loyalty programs, e-commerce purchasing history, and in-store interactions with guests in order to collect personalization data, you’re probably wondering what to do with all of this information.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the possibilities that data represents, but there are a few quick ways that you can use this data to create a positive impact in your store and reduce expired shrink.

First, find out which items customers aren’t buying very frequently and compare those to items that are frequently out of stock, but are popular with customers. These are your slow-moving vs. fast-moving products.

Your fast-moving products represent the items that you should be buying more of. Your customers are clearly exhibiting a high demand for these items, and frequent out of stocks are costing you valuable revenue.

Your slow-moving products represent the items that you should be buying less of, and even eliminating from your purchasing habits altogether. Use personalization data to stop purchasing items that aren’t showing up in your customer profiles regularly, as these items are easy culprits for expired shrink.

Then, use the data that you’ve collected, and the systems that you already have in place, to send hyper-specific offers and extreme discounts to your customers on items that are about to expire so that they don’t become expired shrink. Close-dated items are still viable for customers, but you want them off your shelves before they become a liability. Sending notifications to customers who regularly buy items that tend to expire on the shelf is a clever way to use personalization data to drive conversion to slow-moving items.

Using an expiration date management software could make this entire process simpler for you as a grocer. Collecting personalization data is an important aspect of your business, but keeping it organized in a way that makes it useful to your store is another challenge that you’ll have to tackle. While your e-commerce platform or loyalty program may be sophisticated enough to provide you with a dashboard that gives you personalization information, it’s likely not comprehensive.

If you use an expiration date management software, all of this information can be found in one, easy-to-access place. Your Date Check Pro dashboard not only sends you notifications when an item is close-dated or expired on your shelves, it also tracks which items are costing you the most money when they expire, and which items are slow-moving enough to be expired shrink risks for your store. 

Personalization data is discussed at length in the retail industry, for marketing purposes and for product development. However, in the grocery sector specifically, this information can be used to reduce expired shrink in your stores and put you on the right track toward achieving more optimal loss prevention results.