Do you remember the excitement—maybe panic is a better word—around the opening of the first Fresh & Easy stores in the Southwest? The trips to the U. K. by senior executives? The warnings that retailers who didn’t adopt he Tesco model were doomed? How about the more recent fascination with the Blue Apron business model, which, as it’s turned out, may not have been as robust as we
The good thing about our industry’s response to these
GROWING YOUR BIZ
evolutions in or adjacent to our space is that it provides
us all a chance to reflect on the direction of our sales
channel. The bad news is that it fosters reactions to a
solution rather than to the problem the solution is meant
to solve. Or maybe the new idea is a good answer to the
The right question is: How will human beings shop
American supermarkets 10 years from now? The answer
to that question involves an ongoing dialogue between
shoppers, retailers and suppliers. That’s right—suppliers
are on the hook for the shopping experience, too.
The Future Is Shopper-Centric
Don’t we focus on the shopper in what we do today?
Suppliers have a thing in a box they’d like to sell, and
retailers who buy that thing in a box want to move it
profitability. Fair enough. But it causes us to fixate on
the thing, rather than on what solves the shopper’s problem or wants.
We shout out a product and a price—e.g., rotisserie
chicken at $5.99. Nobody wants rotisserie chicken at
any price. They want dinner. Or, to dive even more
deeply, they want the end state to which dinner leads:
relaxed family time, a post-dinner event or activity, a
feeling of accomplishment that the family has been fed
and that they enjoyed the meal. We don’t focus on that.
We don’t talk about that in our communications.
What if purchase intent and store loyalty were driven
much more by engaging our shoppers on these emotional issues than on functional aspects of the product,
or the thing in a box? They are. What if it were possible
to achieve double-digit department sales increases only
by changing how we talk about dinner? It’s been done.
What if the most important thing a retailer can do,
in partnership with suppliers, is to educate and inspire
shoppers? Educate them on how to use our offering to
reach that end state they seek and inspire them to do
it. I’m not talking about rotisserie chicken, a couple of
sides and a beverage. How about a rotisserie chicken,
bagged salad, strawberries and a package of almonds? It
says “fresh.” It says “quality.” It draws on the supermarket’s greatest strengths: the ability to customize and the
wide variety of fresh foods. Those are powerful competitive points of difference versus other channels.
Thirteen experts from a variety of disciplines (theme
parks, technology stores, apparel, etc.) gathered
recently to consider the foodservice retail experience
through the lens of their profession.
A few common observations were revealed, such as:
• Retailers did not communicate the value of shopping
in a supermarket rather than using delivery.
• The assortment was overwhelming—they found
Eric LeBlanc is director
of marketing, deli, for
Tyson Foods Inc.
Human Element in
Expert views on retail strategy, talent management and leadership development
Genuinely engaging shoppers is essential to providing solutions
that truly meet their needs. By Eric LeBlanc