Grocery retailing is a rational business. In the fight to attract and keep customers, we focus on such rational elements as price, promotion, assortment, quality and service. However, explore with loyal customers why they shop where they do, and you find instead that they're driven by emotion — by how a particular shop makes them feel.
The best supermarkets, for example, make them feel "comfortable," taking the worry out of shopping. The best discounters make customers feel "smart," that they're doing a good job for their family. While stores such as Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods make their customers feel "excited" or "special.”
Such emotions can feel very disconnected from the day-to-day operations of the business — they’re something the advertising agency deals with. But in reality, how customers feel about a store is largely driven by their experience of shopping there.
In part, it's an outcome of the rational elements. For example, if customers can always find the products they need from a particular store, they feel comfortable. If they can get good quality products much cheaper than elsewhere, they feel smart. And if they continually find new and interesting products, they’re excited.
But how customers feel is also driven by the behaviors they observe. If the best deals are always hidden away or out of stock, they’re anxious rather than comfortable. If a store is always dirty or untidy, they feel disadvantaged rather than smart. And if employees are unfriendly, customers feel unappreciated rather than special.
To evoke strong positive feelings among customers, both what the store offers and how it behaves have to work together, to create a coherent experience – think Wegmans, Costco, or Trader Joe's.
However, a good place to start is with self-awareness. Ask yourself: do you really know how your store makes customers feel?
Simon Uwins is a former CMO of Fresh & Easy and Tesco UK, and author of "Creating Loyal Brands" (2014). Find him online at www.simonuwins.com.
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