Supermarkets Must Invest In The In-Store Experience

In a recent article that appeared in Talking Retail, Jill Pinner, our chairman and founder says retailers need to offer something different in the battle to win customers. She writes:

The current marketing landscape, whilst positive, is posing new challenges for marketers. Businesses which until recently have worked with a mid-recession mindset of generating ROI on a budget are now in the position of managing increased budgets allowing them to be a little more creative.

The challenge however, is the battle to win back previously loyal customers who have gone to cheaper competitors – and are now comfortable and loyal with this new familiarity. Therefore more expensive brands who are trying to entice consumers back into the fold need to focus their efforts in offering a reason to re-engage, by offering a better overall package of value.

This might involve offering something new or unexpected, or alternatively increasing spend on customer service, the in-store environment, or staff on the shop floor.

This is something that supermarket retailers in particular need to consider, as since the recession many consumers have turned their backs on their loyalty to a chain and are picking up more of their weekly shop in cheaper stores such as Aldi and Lidl.

The latest figures show that both Tesco and Sainsbury’s have seen their market share fall. Therefore retailers who can’t compete on price must find other ways to offer real value.

In a post-recession landscape, customers will only be lured back from the cheaper chains by the promise of a more personal, pleasant shopping experience. This might require investment or reallocation of spending, whether through in-store revamps, more in-store staff, or better training, but a focus on service will reap huge dividends.

After all, it’s no coincidence that besides the budget supermarkets, the only chain to increase its market share in the weeks leading up to September compared with last year, is Waitrose – which places a strong emphasis on staff training and a pleasant in-store experience.

For the likes of Tesco to regain customer loyalty, it needs to invest in its staff – incentivising them to deliver a customer experience people want to return to.

When you walk into a Waitrose the customer service is noticeably strong. Staff are trained and knowledgeable, being able to provide helpful, important advice.

This is often attributed to employees being partners in the business though, of course, not every business can follow John Lewis’ model. Nonetheless it certainly helps create a comfortable shopping environment.

There are lessons for the mid-level supermarket chains to learn from Waitrose, and investment in the in-store experience is key. If consumers have questions about products in-store, staff should be sufficiently trained to answer them.

It can help consumers to become motivated brand advocates. If Tesco and Sainsbury’s switch their focus from competing on price to creating a positive consumer experience, they may begin to halt their recent decline.

Anything that serves to create a better, more personalised experience of the brand can make a significant difference on consumers’ willingness to spend a little more.

This article appeared in Talking Retail on 2nd October 2014. Click here to view the full article