Grocers, Use Data to Find Your Differentiator

Grocery retailers have long struggled to differentiate themselves in an increasingly crowded market. Let’s face it — unless given a convincing reason, customers will often shop wherever is closest, cheapest or fastest. And as Amazon and Whole Foods begin to reshape customer expectations of how they experience grocery chains, retailers can be hard-pressed to answer the question: What makes me special?

If you’re like many grocers, you might not be able to answer this question. But it’s critical to understand what keeps customers coming back for more.

For most consumers, grocery shopping is a chore. But there’s a hefty segment of customers looking for a culinary experience that simply cannot be replicated online. That means you can experiment in samples, product demonstrations, and unique, browsable limited time offers to attract foot traffic.

It also comes down to factors like store layout, product selection, employee friendliness, product quality, price and more. Experience and ease of shopping remains a critical differentiator for grocers looking to retain those who want to be in and out of the store.

But how exactly can you best serve your customers? What do they come to you for? The only way you’ll learn is by asking.

Relying on data straight from the source is the best way to understand what’s winning shoppers over, and what’s losing them. Given that many brands can’t compete on the same playing field as behemoths like Amazon, it’s more important than ever to pick a lane and perfect your offerings. To do that, you need to listen to your customers.

Fortunately, it’s not as hard to start as it looks. While ‘the voice of the customer’ brings to mind arduous focus groups and grueling customer interviews, it’s often as simple as asking one question. Customers rarely want to spend time filling out lengthy surveys, but they’re more willing to give feedback if it’s seamless and convenient. Use the point of sale to ask straightforward questions like:

  • How likely are you to recommend this location?
  • How would you rate the value of our products?
  • How friendly was your sales associate today?
  • How clean was the location today?

Even simple questions like these, taken in aggregate, can paint incredibly powerful pictures that will lead you to your differentiator. For example, if employee friendliness garners consistently high results, you might promote that strength and carve out a niche as a welcoming neighborhood retailer. However, if you find out customers are really coming for the discounts, you can play up the low prices and sales.

Your grocery retailer can’t be everything to everybody — and you’ll likely fail if you try. It’s important to keep an eye on top competitors, but don’t just blindly follow trends set forth by retail and technology giants. Instead, take the time to understand how you’ve earned your most loyal customers, and invest in improving those factors even more.

Georgina Nelson

The above article, was originally published in Today’s Grocer Vol. 60 No.4.  To see the article in its original form, head to p5 of the online print version.


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