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Ask somebody what they love about grocery shopping, and they will likely mention strolling the aisles, discovering an intriguing new product, sampling something tasty, or being greeted by a friendly employee. In short, they love the physical experience of shopping. But, while these core experiences are a good start, they aren’t enough to compete in an increasingly digital world. As online sales continue to rise even in categories like grocery, it is more important than ever that you really think about how you can continue to innovate and make the in-store shopping experience more unique.
According to Mark Mechelse, VP Insights and Communications for Global Market Development Center (GMDC), “Fundamentally, the consumer is post-internet minded while the world was built on pre-internet thinking.” This presents retailers with a serious challenge to reimagine how they can appeal to digitally-minded consumers inside traditional brick and mortar setups. But, by offering more personalization, more customization, and less homogenization, independent retailers are particularly well positioned to drive customer counts through experiences that you can’t replicate online.
If you are ready to attract and retain customers through unique experiences, you can get started by trying these five tips:
If we were to design stores from scratch in a post-internet era, they would likely have a much different layout that focused more on creating experiential spaces. Mechelse explains that retailers would be guided by “food halls, wellness, and community” to create a sense of belonging as soon as you enter the store.
IGA stores, with their long traditions of offering unique local items, already have a distinct advantage. But, the key to really setting your local items apart may simply be upgraded product placement. By moving local specialties and prepared and made-for-you items to the front of the store, you prioritize some of the items with the highest margins in the store, while also immediately signaling to customers that you offer something unique that you can’t get elsewhere. Mechelse goes on to suggest that retailers add new face-to-face, gourmet made-to-order specialties to capitalize on high service, high margin, and high experience.
Owner Fred Zanotto in the deli of Zanotto Markets’ newest location, Fruitdale Station in San Jose, CA.
Putting it into practice: Take a look at Zanotto’s newest location, in San Jose, CA. Owners were able to design the space, tailoring to their customers’ needs. According to owner Fred Zanotto, the new store’s residential location is surrounded by apartments, which means focusing on what’s important to them, such as a full-service coffee bar, and grab-and-go dinners that are scaled down to single servings. Add to that a full deli with made-to-order sandwiches, grocery, specialty meats and sushi, homemade salsa, dips, hummus, and tortilla chips and all the bases are covered!
Experiential displays immerse shoppers in a unique branded experience. For example, Mark Ravi, in his webinar, Experiential Retail: The Future of Brick and Mortars for GMDC, explained that Hershey’s has worked with retailers to create a candy aisle with bright colors and unique displays that has the feel of an in-store carnival. Even customers who came to the store with no intention of buying candy were enticed to enjoy the spectacle, significantly increasing the likelihood that they left with candy in their bag.
IGA retailers can use these basic tenets to create display-based experiences of their own. With the holiday season upon us, now is the perfect time to create your own experiential aisle experience. Rather than just simply placing the holiday items on the shelf, try creating a winter wonderland aisle, complete with festive decorations. Perhaps you can group a variety of small gifts together and offer build-your-own stocking incentives. Make it even bigger by offering holiday samples or a quick holiday cocktail demonstration.
Granite Falls IGA in Granite Falls, WA is doing a day with Santa this Saturday (12/8)
Putting it into practice: Granite Falls IGA in Granite Falls, WA, has transformed part of their store’s cafe into a holiday display worthy of St. Nick himself. This Saturday, kids are invited to visit with Santa, paired with holiday cookie decorating.
The modern customer is all about personalization and customization. Provide customers with opportunities to create their own products to both ensure that they are perfectly suited to their unique tastes and that they come away with an experience that they can’t get anywhere else.
Mix and match craft beer 6-packs at Cornell’s IGA
Putting it into practice: Take, for example, the mix and match craft beer 6-packs at Cornell’s IGA store in Shelby, OH or Kishman's IGA in Minerva, OH. These fully customizable sample packs are catered to each drinker’s preferred flavor profiles. Plus, the experience, from the time the customer selects the beers to the time they are consumed, is a lot more fun and interactive than simply picking up a standard case of beer.
Create a sort of farmer’s market within the store by offering a space for local purveyors to display their wares. Mechelse explains that offering an assortment of local brands and entrepreneurs produces an ever-changing experience that brings the various personalities to life. This is a fabulous way to both promote the variety of local options in your community and treat your customers to something wholly unique.
Maine-grown potatoes on display at Brackett’s Market in Bath, ME
Putting it into practice: At Brackett’s IGA in Bath, ME, owner Kim Brackett has cultivated relationships with many of the area’s farmers. Those close ties plus her community’s love of supporting local agriculture has led to a dedicated space in the produce department for showcasing what’s in season, from potatoes to broccoli to blueberries. She then uses social media to promote what’s fresh and new.
Today’s consumers seek a closer connection to the brands and products they buy. As the experts in the field, you are well positioned to be a resource for these information-seeking shoppers. Educational events can include anything from a food historian lecture to a meet-and-greet with a local producer, or a cooking demonstration featuring regional cuisine.
As shoppers turn more frequently to digital retail across all categories, brick and mortars will be under more pressure to prove their value. Rather than evoking fear, IGA retailers should see this as an opportunity to become an even more integral part of the community landscape. Whether you start throwing events, create a fully immersive display, or offer customizable products, beginning to incorporate elements of experiential retail will help you maintain and grow a devoted customer base in an increasingly digital age.
Shoppers at Schild’s IGA in Grafton, OH look forward to their wine tasting events.
Putting it into practice: Take a look at Schild’s IGA in Grafton, OH which offers both small weekly wine tastings and larger twice-a-year events. As a result, the store has a reputation as a valuable resource for wine knowledge, and annual sales have increased 20 percent.
IGA Retailers: Looking for insights on product displays and other merchandising tips? Your IGA Red Oval partners are a great resource! Visit the IGA corporate website for a list of contacts.