How to Move Metrics That Matter

Jan 14, 2021

Quick: name three reasons why a shopper would choose your store over the competition.

Most of you thought of price, selection, service, right? Those are the top three answers today and have been the top three answers for decades in grocery, home improvement, consumer electronics—in all retail. (Quality used to be number four but has grown to be on par with the other metrics in the last 10 years.)

Now, of those three, which one can you improve on the most?

Fair question, right? To grow share, you improve the attributes that shoppers care the most about.


Price is an easy one to do, but hard to sustain. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to cut prices, but over the long run, an independent trying to compete on price will slam right into the Walmarts and Price Clubs and Euro Discounters like Aldi and that is a tough battle to fight.

In fact, for most independents, we try to not lose on price, by shifting the game towards value. It is a good strategy, because while 25 percent of Americans say they are motivated by price alone, the rest think it is a combination of good service and quality that add to or detract from price. Said another way:

Most shoppers will pay a bit more for something that meets their needs better.


So that leads to product selection. This is a tricky one, because on one hand, we tend to have smaller stores than the national chains; on the other hand, we can usually get anything a shopper wants because we pull from leading wholesalers who stock way more choices than we typically have in our stores.

The question is: Do our shoppers know?

Today, walk your aisle and ask shoppers this question: “If you wanted an item you don’t see on our shelves, did you know we can often get it for you?” I will bet that less than half know you can and often do this for shoppers.

So, one easy way to improve your score on assortment is to just let shoppers know about a service you already do. Put up signs explaining the policy. Add a recording to your in-store audio system that says, "Can't find an item you want? We'll order it for you! Visit the customer service desk to experience this IGA shopping perk." The majority of shoppers won’t ever ask, but the idea that they could will improve their perception of your assortment.


Now, service. This is the hardest of all metrics to improve; fortunately it tends to be an area that most independents do well. It all starts with recruiting and hiring the right people. Good leaders model how to treat shoppers, and how to make people feel appreciated. I could write 10 blogs on improving customer service and not scratch the surface, but instead I will share two crucial tips.

Tip 1: Find what you're looking for

This is a big component of quality service for most shoppers. Our stores typically stock 30-40,000 items. No wonder shoppers are often frustrated having to wander the store to find an item that a recipe demands.

Training your associates to ask, “Did you find everything you were looking for today?” seems like a simple thing but it has been proven that shoppers rate a retailer as having better service if at least one associate asks them this question. Said another way, shoppers rank stores as having better customer service if they are helped finding what they want. (Data from Home Depot, PetSmart, Walmart, and Safeway showed an improvement of over 200 basis points in quality service for shoppers who were asked versus those who weren’t.)

Retailers like Publix make the cashiers ask this question, too. And if the shopper says they couldn’t find an item, they call an associate to go find the item for them while they continue the checkout process. They know that it not only improves their customer service score, but adds an average of $1.48 per cart, according to one Publix executive I spoke with last year. Adding "a buck a cart" can make a huge difference to any retailer’s financial health!

Tip 2: Training

Now, the second tip: training. Associates who are trained in customer service, and in the basics of their jobs, are happier, stay in their jobs longer, and are more likely to earn promotion. That’s just smart business.

But stores that use a formal training system—like the IGA Coca-Cola Institute, globally recognized as one of the best—have higher comp sales and higher shopper loyalty.

The best news is that you have the entire library for free. If you let training slack during the COVID-19 sales craziness, that is understandable, but now is the time make training a high priority for your stores.

The training program at IGA includes advanced leadership training, too. This year, we are hosting the Supermarket Management classes virtually in three modules so more IGA department heads, assistant store managers, and owners can attend. The first module on loss prevention is already underway, but the sustainability and leadership modules begin on January 18 and 25, respectively.

The Supermarket Management training program is one of our highest attended and best ranked programs in the IGA Institute. Our top performing retailers send associates to the classes year after year because they believe in the results. Don’t miss out on this incredible IGA asset to learn how to:

  • Refine your personal leadership
  • Improve your self-management
  • Manage the conditions that drive team performance
  • Increase associate engagement
  • Improve store culture

In summary, we can make small changes and improve our scores in the key metrics shoppers say matter the most. We saw a lot of new shoppers visiting our stores in 2020—let’s make sure they stay loyal IGA shoppers in 2021!

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