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Customers vote with their fingers, as well as their feet

Customers vote with their fingers, as well as their feet

I was listening to the CEO of a major retail chain recently describe how in retail customers vote with their feet.

It’s a very familiar mantra, and very powerful. If you don’t do a great job for customers in-store, then you’ll see it next day in the numbers. Such instant feedback is the reason I’ve spent most of my career in retail.

But it struck me that in today’s connected world, this might be taking too limited a view: Customers also vote with their fingers.

Of course, online grocery shopping itself is still a minority sport. Even in the U.K., where very effective online options have been available for more than a decade, it still only accounts for 5% of the market.

But online is increasingly a part of grocery shopping, in three key ways.

• First, many customers say they go online before going shopping: to find information, ideas or coupons, or to consult their social network. If you don’t do a good job here, or your competitors do a better one, they may not even get to your store.

• Second, customers increasingly use their mobile devices during shopping to go online, for similar reasons. If you’re not using the opportunity of mobile to help them with their shopping trip, then their attention — and ultimately their business — may go elsewhere.

• Third, customers can easily share their experiences of shopping with you, which then influences potential customers, before you’ve even had a chance to communicate with them. You need to encourage loyal customers to share positive experiences, so that you build your reputation online.

None of this, of course, replaces the importance of delivering a great shopping trip. But if customers vote for you with their fingers, then they’re more likely to vote for you with their feet.

Do you know how well you're doing online?

Simon Uwins is a former CMO of fresh&easy and Tesco UK, and author of Creating Loyal Brands (2014). Find him online at

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