When it comes to grocery stores, they are all pretty much the same. You have aisles of food and products, you have a section for dairy and cold stuff, a section for produce and you have a deli.
So, how do you compare one grocery store brand with others if they are all pretty much the same? Price? Maybe. Convenience? Likely. How they deliver on their brand? Definitely.
But what makes up a great grocery store brand?
The way I see it, most of those involved in creating the in-store experience of grocery stores are invisible. The shelves are stocked in the middle of the night, the floors are cleaned after hours and the merchandising plans are created in an office behind the employee lunchroom.
Grocery stores are now essentially self-service. There is not much opportunity for brand building between the store employees and the customer. You get a cart when you walk in, (usually with a busted wheel that spins incessently) and you parade up and down the aisles. Up and Down.
In the olden days, you at least got to speak to the person at the checkout counter. If they were nice and efficient, you had a good brand experience. But they have replaced that critical touchpoint with a self-serve scanner where you scan and bag your groceries.
So who is left to personally deliver the grocery store brand?
The deli people, that’s who.
Think about it, unless you have trouble scanning your groceries, your only personal contact in the store is at the deli counter. And this is where the brand is made or broken for me.
Take two examples: I usually shop at Butera or Meijer for my groceries. Butera is 3 minutes from my house and Meijer is open 24 hours. Both cater to my convenience need. And both #FAIL at this crucial touchpoint. There is usually one or two people working the deli counter. They are slow. Really slow. Consistently slow. Many times, it will take longer to get the deli meat than it does for all the rest of my shopping.
However, the best grocery store deli counter I have ever experienced is from a local, 9-store family owned grocery chain called Caputo’s. Their produce section is huge and their butcher shop is staffed with knowledgeable professionals. But it is their deli that really captures the essence of their brand.
I was there last Sunday – a very busy day to visit the deli – and counted 10 people working behind the deli counter – slicing, packing, wrapping and taking care of customers – offering samples and suggestions to customers. They were efficient, friendly and totally focused on my needs.
While I could go on and on about my experience at the deli, I won’t. But I will use this example to stress that brands need to look at all the places where their customers come in contact with the brand and look at it from their customers point of view.
In the new self-service grocery stores, there are only a few places where employees have the opportunity to meet the customers. Doesn’t it make logical sense to ensure that the best brand stewards work the deli counter?
It is all about the customer experience. Deliver it by the pound!