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Keeping Up With the Ever-Growing Expectations of the Grocery Customer

The importance of keeping customers happy has become even more critical to the shift in consumer habits and expectations. And as bigger retailers provide faster fulfillment options, the pandemic has set a new standard for the mindset of the grocery customer.

April 27, 2021 4 minute read

There should be all around applause for grocery after one of the most turbulent years this industry has ever seen. A tug-of-war between supply chain logistics and consumers' relentless needs — all with operational challenges at the center — woke up any grocer that was dragging its heels before being fully submerged into the digital mud pit. Walmart and Target have successfully entered into the grocery territory and have brought their seamless refined systems with them to play and dominate this game. 

As a result, customer loyalty is lost in a web of competition like never before. The importance of keeping customers happy has become even more critical to the shift in consumer habits and expectations. And as these bigger retailers provide faster fulfillment options, the pandemic has set a new standard for the mindset of the grocery customer. 

The smallest device should solve the consumers' biggest problems.

Consumers expect their mobile device to solve their problems and meet their every need, including their grocery shopping. And those problems and needs have a wide range. Traditional grocery shopping days and times are in-flux and will continue to be, as households balance ever-changing schedules. Waiting in long, socially-distanced lines is undesirable and feels so March 2019. And of course, inventory has become a gamble for in-store shoppers, so loyalties are shifting. 

A consumer will never understand the operational restraints grocery stores are facing so utilizing your digital products to solve these issues will be the key to retention: 

  • Order Ahead services allow consumers to set their own schedule while streamlining the fulfillment process for overloaded employees.
  • Giving consumers the ability to switch from curbside to in-store pickup provides an escape hatch for schedules and last-minute item adds. This also brings the control back to the grocery store, as opposed to leaving it in the hands of third-party fulfillment.
  • A smart infrastructure with up-to-date planograms can be utilized in-app to navigate a user through a store and notify them of inventory changes, leaving store workers free to stock shelves and fulfill orders.

Consumers crave connections but stay 6 feet away. 

With the obvious increase in demand for contactless fulfillment, apps are now the new "storefront" for grocers. The familiar in-store experience with routine paths and see-and-buy "off the list" purchases must now translate to a seamless app experience, creating a cohesive customer journey across all channels.

Digital artifacts need to embody your brand: 

  • Putting a face and name to the employees fulfilling your curbside order gives the consumer the familiar "hello" they would exchange with the cashier.
  • Your app and website need to visually relate, if not fill the void, of what consumers see in-store. Large, zoomable images and sharing capabilities can replace the in-person touch while giving the buyer assurance for what they are purchasing.

There's a lot of noise out there. Cut through it with personalization. 

Every screen fights for a consumers' attention, and consumers give their attention to the brands who know them. Think about it, when someone calls your name, you turn and look. The same thing happens in the digital environment. Retailers who know your shopping habits, and "call out" to you with suggestions, get the purchases. 

So how can grocers cut through the big retail noise? 

  • Predictive grocery lists hit the sweet spot for consumers suffering from decision fatigue.
  • Loyalty programs reward retention and make shoppers feel less guilty for those impulse purchases. This means larger basket sizes and increased trip frequency.
  • Personalized categories can surface niche products for the tired new mom or the Dooms Day prepper.
  • Advanced product searches give consumers the virtual personal shopper that knows their exact dietary needs and restrictions, while also suggesting similar products to surprise and delight.

So, with all that being said... 

Grocers should not abandon their core. The days of wandering the grocery aisles are no longer viewed as a chore, but more of an escape. As a result, the physical footprint of a store is still important to the shopper. 

The key is to decide who you are, own it and use technology to enhance it. For example, if convenience is your brand promise, offer various ways for in-store checkout to accommodate for all schedules. Self-serve kiosks and line-busting scanners can remove bottlenecks and in-store friction points. It is critical a grocer's digital presence be an extension of the in-store space so click-traffic can keep pace with foot-traffic.  

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