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All in the Experience

You can’t be in retail these days without hearing about how consumers are migrating to experiences instead of things. As evidenced on a panel at the Retail Innovations Conference, a good place to start when thinking about this topic is to align expectations about what “experience” means. While Kasey Lobaugh of Deloitte showed data that consumers aren’t necessarily shifting spending from retail to travel and entertainment, panelist Doug Zarkin of Pearle Vision challenged that the shift might not be as apparent as money moving to different categories. Instead, Zarkin argued, customers are migrating toward brands that integrate experience into retail. 

The good news for grocery retailers is that grocery stores already have quite a bit of experience built in and generally, going to the grocery store is already an experience. Experience isn’t necessarily something considered with intention though, at least according to Tom Demetriou of Dimensional Innovations during his AMAKC presentation in April. He outlined six ideas that marketers can take into account while thinking through how to reach consumers looking for experiences. I took those ideas and translated them into how grocers can enhance experiences for their customers.

6 ideas for Experiential Design

  1. Use all the Senses – This is easy in a grocery store! Produce that’s picked based on touch, smells of fresh bread in the bakery, perfectly pink strip steaks. Now, the trick is to think about how you enhance those sensory experiences for consumers and help them translate the senses into their meals.
  2. Start with Emotion – Experience is largely centered around how people feel. Whether it is someone saying hi when a customer enters the store or a butcher thanking the customer for shopping, a pleasant experience often entails friendly customer service. 
  3. Digital Evolution – As customers become more familiar with online grocery shopping, it doesn’t mean they don’t want to still enjoy the experience of finding new products, or surprise deals. Retailers should consider how they can deliver delight and surprise through digital channels as they often do in little ways in store.
  4. A + X = C – An experience a customer will remember includes an X factor. Grocers have been doing this for a while with banks, coin-counting machines, and Red Box options or in-store sampling and cooking demonstrations. Grocery stores aren’t just for groceries sometimes. Consider ways to simplify and enhance the customer experience with other services and events they might not expect. 
  5. Build a Landmark – Some stores in AWG’s membership actually build landmarks customer’s flock to just for the photo op. Whether it’s a big statue, a gigantic rock, or maybe a great mural on the wall in produce that’s Instagram worthy, don’t discount physical components of a location that customers will find interesting and want to share.
  6. Sell the Cave, Not the Wine – Product is the most important thing in a grocery store but that doesn’t mean customers don’t appreciate an enhanced story or environment around them while they’re trying to shop. Think about all the components of that physical environment. Bright lighting that highlights produce, simple signage that makes the store easy to navigate. Pleasant music on the overhead. All of these facets contribute to a great in-store experience.

Experience can only be cultivated so much, yet grocery retailers have a head start compared to most retail because consumers themselves are thinking about experience when they shop. They’re considering tastes and textures and how feeding themselves or their family will make them feel. Grocery stores have always extended that into the store. Maybe the topics above will help retailers think of this experience a little more intently.

Why do I work at AWG? “I value the opportunity to work with family businesses. My dad owned his own business for 35 years, so it is what I know and cherish. Plus, I love food, so thinking about it everyday is a huge plus.” -Kate