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The Pub has become a popular dining destination in a growing number of Wegmans' stores.

Viewpoint: Create an ‘experience’ in your fresh departments

IDDBA President and CEO Mike Eardley shares tips for creating memories in-store

The food retail landscape continues to evolve; the local supermarket or grocery store is no longer the only game in town. Consumer buying habits, new store formats, and online shopping options are creating even greater competition for traditional retailers.

Despite these challenges, food retailers are in a prime position to benefit from another evolving aspect in today’s retail environment, a growing phenomenon known as the “Experience Economy.”

How the experience economy can transform retail

First coined in 1998 by authors B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore, the Experience Economy goes beyond the fundamentals of past economies — such as agrarian, industrial, and service — by adding that element of “experience” to shopping occasions. For a growing number of consumers — especially younger generations — it is simply not enough to provide competitive pricing, selection, and convenience. Individuals are now seeking “memories” when shopping, which can come in the form of in-store education, additional services, entertainment, or other offerings that engage shoppers.

To understand the principles of the Experience Economy, it’s best to view it as four generalized quadrants, each contributing to the overall experience: entertainment, education, esthetic (spelled with an “e”, rather than an “ae”), and escapism. Let’s look at some examples of how food retailers might engage shoppers in each of these areas.

Entertainment. Live engagement with shoppers — such as cooking and pairing demonstrations, as well as wine and beer samplings — can make food come alive and create engrossing side shows during shopping trips.

Education. Examples of this could include in-store cooking classes, “stories” behind the sourcing and production of products, and meal ideas.

Esthetic. In-store amenities such as restaurants, wine bars, and cafés can turn food retailers into destinations, both for individuals on a shopping trip and for those visiting the store specifically for food or beverage service.

Escapism. This quadrant especially suits our industry, as tasting new cuisine and flavors can mentally whisk shoppers off to new locales or inspire them to experiment with new ingredients.

As an association committed to the success of food retailers and their fresh departments, our goal is to not just encourage retailer consideration of concepts that can potentially drive sales, but to also implement them. That’s exactly what IDDBA is doing this year at its annual Show, IDDBA 17, in Anaheim, Calif., June 4-6. Driven by the hard work, commitment, dedication, and years of industry experience of our team of over 70 IDDBA volunteers, the ideas, displays, and education in the Show and Sell—an interactive marketplace of merchandising and retailing concepts—will reflect the spirit of the Experience Economy and provide Show attendees with innovative take-aways for their own stores. We’ll have dynamic and implementable ideas for all attendees, regardless of the size or format of their stores. We’ll also show you effective ways on how to “tell the story” behind the products you sell and the services you offer, whether it’s through interactions with shoppers or point-of-sale signage. The ultimate goal is to help make customers lives easier and more fun when they shop your store, versus the drudgery some shoppers expect. And we’ll show you how with concepts like:

• A breakfast bakery bar, with lingering aromas of freshly-baked goods, freshly-brewed coffee, and a seating area to enjoy the experience.  

• A cheese pub that will let attendees experience unique cheese pairings and tapas that retailers can easily offer in their stores.

• In-store foodservice concepts, which will create an engaging experience of sights, sounds, smells, and pace of a full-functioning, in-store food-service program that attracts shoppers seeking prepared food options for their mealtimes.

•  Cake design, which will provide attendees with creative and unique cake ideas for entertaining occasions, as well as a unique and interactive “cakescape” display that will evolve and grow throughout the three-day show.

To be successful, food retailers must move beyond the traditional view of supermarkets as a place to buy groceries.  They can be so much more than that, offering the experiences that today’s consumers not only prefer, but demand. Thinking outside the box can turn return shoppers into loyal shoppers, and help attract a whole new generation of consumers to your stores.

What type of “experiences” is your store offering to attract, engage, and retain customers?

Mike Eardley is president and CEO of the International Dairy Deli Bakery Association.

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