Why should grocery stores care about being the destination grocer? It could mean regaining a loyal following and increasing business.
During 2020, as the pandemic gave rise to disappearing staples from grocery store shelves and uncertainty about entering grocery stores, consumers shifted their strategies and habits.
Loyalty to certain grocers and brands went out the window and customers instead changed their focus to the easiest, safest, and most convenient places to shop—these included places that had essential items in stock.
Part of the shift included the rise in online shopping which essentially grew at a rate 10 times faster than grocery retailers expected. Online grocery shopping is now normal, versus something some people did, and others wanted to try.
BOPIS (buy online pick up in store), grocery delivery, curb side pick-up—all three avenues have been catapulted into the limelight as more and more people switched to these options.
Needless to say, the grocery industry has changed.
According to Grocery Dive, in 2021, “Instead of retooling their supply chains to keep pace with record demand, retailers will focus more on merchandising and securing customer loyalty.”
In order to do this, they will need to present a positive perception and utilize new technologies that make grocery shopping as simple and easy as possible.
While consumers may never return to in store shopping at pre-pandemic levels, there are still things retailers can do to make their store a place to venture into.
In a survey done by Chain Store Age, “53%” of the people surveyed said they missed going into physical stores, noting that the ability to touch and see things in real life, plus being able to take the goods home right away, are reasons consumers prefer to shop at stores.
Additionally, the survey went on to point out that “79% of consumers agreed that they were more likely to purchase from retailers/brands that acted responsibly and did something to help their own employees...” who suffered job loss or layoffs due to the pandemic.
Taking the necessary steps to show shoppers you are a store that is responsible, and cares for its community and customers, is important to future business growth and operations.
Brick and mortar locations have long been a source of inspiration for consumers. Visual stimulation plays on emotions and gives customers a positive perception of a store.
Photo worthy displays of fruits and vegetables, clearly designed layouts that make shopping easy and sensical—there is an entire psychology behind how grocery stores are laid out, it is designed to speak to and lure customers throughout the store.
This inspiration has largely gone online—social media is the new marketplace—according to Omnitalk. Omnitalk points out “Inspiration and product discovery are now better done online through social media because digital commerce experiences are 100% tailored to individuals.”
Grocery retailers can appeal to a whole new set of shoppers through social media platforms that link directly to their stores, websites, and apps. Appealing visual images online might just be the way to lure shoppers into the store to see more of the unique variety of goods offered.
Omnitalk goes on to suggest: “As a result, social media isn’t just a marketing tool. It is now the commercial real estate shopping mall development of the 21st century. Retail companies that invest in getting people from inspiration to click on Instagram in seconds will be the ones who still have stores standing in the future, not the other way around.”
Once those connections are made through social media and online platforms, stores will need to deliver to meet customer expectations. Presenting a clean and well taken care of brick-and-mortar store is an essential part of the experience and creates a positive perception.
According to research citing a survey done by the International Council of Shopping Centers: “consumers ranked frequent cleaning and sanitizing as the top (66%) measure that would make them more likely or more comfortable with visiting physical spaces.”
Cleaning protocols and guidelines have been laid out by the CDC since the early days of the pandemic and grocery stores that followed those were seen cleaning carts and baskets more regularly, putting hand sanitization stations by doorways, and implementing social distancing standards and markers.
Meeting increased cleaning demands is time consuming and can be tough to do but there are guides with unique suggestions to help grocers keep up with consumer ideals.
A positive perception of clean is essential to stores working to create an environment that demonstrates they care about the health and safety of their clients.
Using data and reports to measure what cleaning tasks are getting checked off the list each day is one way grocery retailers can keep their stores clean.
Using floor scrubbers and sweepers with innovative fleet management software allows store managers access to reports and data that demonstrate how frequently machines are being used as well as at what time of day.
Tracking equipment and time usage stamps can help managers track timing of the work, helping them to create better schedules and to know how long floor cleaning takes. This allows them to then plan how cleaning staff or store staff should spend other available hours of the day sanitizing and disinfecting surfaces.
Intelligent Cleaning Equipment by ICE Robotics is distributed through a subscription service.
This floor cleaning equipment rental program has a unique offering in that it comes with service. ICE Robotics service technicians help to monitor the equipment, keeping an eye on machine alerts.
For example, if a machine is not plugged in between shifts, the ICE Robotics technicians can send an alert or call the manager on duty to notify them. In many instances, this has led to the machine being fully charged before the next shift, avoiding what could have been prolonged downtime and floors left uncleaned. This service helps managers be more efficient and proactive.
Beyond that, with ICE Robotics i-Synergy fleet management software, store managers can track cleaning and speak to confirmed clean. This information can be used to prove what cleaning is done each day and is one more step in creating a store shoppers will feel safe in.
Promoting a healthy and safe space can go a long way in bringing shoppers back into stores.
Agility PR Solutions conducted a survey of 8000 consumers from the U.S., UK, China and France in September of 2020.
Of the 8000 respondents, 80% felt reassured by safety measures that have been put in place such as requiring masks, putting up plastic screens, adding hand sanitizing stations and cashless checkout. Requiring face masks made 27% of respondents feel the most reassured.
Keeping up with and sticking to safety measures will help build consumer confidence and help grocers develop a reputation as a store that cares about the health and safety of its shoppers.
In their survey, Agility PR notes Scott Moore, global chief marketing officer at Mood Media as saying, “Acknowledging and fulfilling today’s unique customer experience needs is where opportunity lies. Those of us in the physical retail business must continue to think through every aspect—every step—of the customer experience journey, finding ways to mitigate fear and assure safety along the way.”
Building a reputation as a destination grocer will require implementing a seamless experience for shoppers.
Whether consumers are shopping online or instore, making sure the experience is simple and easy is key to creating loyal customers.
From developing easy to use technology that streamlines the online to in store process, to implementing scan and go, cashless and even touchless checkout systems, to using robots to make sure inventory is accurate and essential items are always stocked—the easier it is for shoppers to find and get what they need will send the message that you are aware of who they are and what is necessary to keep them coming back.
Scott Moore goes on to point out “Those businesses that step up to elevate the customer experience and help their customers streamline their shopping journey from start to finish have an opportunity to create a lifetime of customer loyalty far beyond the pandemic’s reach. For all parties involved, it’s important we all rise to the occasion.”
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If you’d like to read more, we suggest: Perception of Clean: 3 Ways Intelligent Cleaning Equipment Can Help