Let's begin with this question: does any grocer deliver a consistently GREAT customer experience? With all due respect and in my personal opinion, NO. This doesn't mean that most of my needs aren't being met, because they generally are. I can find what I need, I don't have to wait an inordinate amount of time to pay (unless it's Saturday at Walmart!) and I get decent, quality goods for a reasonable price.
So, can grocers do more? Absolutely! Imagine the revenue potential for any grocer who decides to start creating a distinguished experience. The opportunities would be limitless, especially when considering how competitive the marketplace has become. From what I see, grocers are competing on three things, price, rewards and convenience. Not service. And in light of increased competition from pharmacies, big box retailers and expanded convenience stores, we can shop at more and more places. We can shop virtually too.
So, who is ready to distinguish their experience?
Here's my challenge to all grocers: Get out of the box and dare to be different - here's how:
Some of what I suggest here does happen, just not consistently, and it varies greatly by chain. For example, at Longo's, I see a Starbucks as soon as I enter. It's set up right there in the store. The location is perfect and implies that we should stay a while and enjoy the experience. Leveraging a coffee company who redefined the coffee experience is a great start - they also commit to speed and rarely is there a long line at the cash.
Whole Foods, in my opinion creates the best customer experience with a terrific focus on sustainability. The staff are also the most friendly and helpful of all the chains. In this case, you will pay a bit more because of their organic selection and things can still be better. Again, someone please ask if I need help :). Whole Foods also offers a great lunchtime atmosphere with lots of tables nearby and great food choices (decent prices too).
I don't find there is much to distinguish between Loblaw's, Sobey's and Metro - they are all good but just don't standout as far as a distinguished customer experience. I do love that PC line though! The lower priced options, Food Basics, No Frills, etc. are terrific for basics and for those of us trying to spend less. Of course the customer experience is sorely lacking. Those line ups at the cash can be painful.
Grocery shopping will always be an essential and often mundane task but being surprised along the way can be a good thing. As consumers, surprises are welcome, especially when it makes for a more fulfilling experience. And on that front grocery stores have room to improve. The question is, will they?
Stay tuned for part 2 in our retail series...coming soon!
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