New formats, new ideas, new media, new channels — all at once
By Bob Wheatley
What’s for dinner anyway? Well that could be curry braised baby carrots in shallot sauce with duck confit that you picked up from the hot table area of your favorite supermarket-as-restaurant store. What was once a four-walled pantry and acres of shelving to serve up a mind numbing array of umpteen thousands of skus of packaged items, is now leaning into lifestyle relevance in a big way. Food shopping organized around how people actually live, what their food passions, interests and concerns are about, now factored into store and retail brand concept.
- Perimeter department space grows while center store shrinks.
- Restaurants create grocery concepts and grocery offers restaurant foodservice experiences.
- More classically trained chefs now working in supermarkets.
- Fresh, local, organic on the upswing while middle-of-the-road packaged products and unhealthy items expire.
- Healthier lifestyle is now a mass-market opportunity not tertiary niche play.
“Our prices are slow low you have to stoop to pick them up”???
Safeway recently announced their decision to depart from the Chicago market, closing 72 stores under the venerable Dominick’s banner that once shared the market share spotlight with rival Jewel. Times are changing. Rapidly. Conventional, middle ground supermarket formats are getting out-gunned from above and below as Dollar Store bargain specialists knock the low-price stilts out while high-end concepts siphon off customers with higher quality fresh products and “emotionalized” shopping experiences.
And hold the (Smart) phone — literally – right behind is an array of online food retailers that have upped the game and refined the experience of purchasing food from an e-commerce site. Door-to-Door Organic being an excellent example of e-tailing focused on consumer experience insight that marries enjoyment of food and menu preparation with the food purchasing process. Or hyper-localized concepts like Instacart that focus on key banners in select markets where speed and convenience is a primary benefit. We haven’t mentioned Amazon Fresh as yet — which will change the game singularly and entirely.
But wait there’s more: a new study from comScore and The Partnering Group shows that Smart phones and tablets are being used as shopping tools at an even greater rate than recently predicted – now accounting for 55% of all retail related internet time. So now mobile strategies – or lack thereof – also play into the consideration set on shopping behaviors.
What’s going on here?
It’s rapid change that is altering the face of food shopping in America and around the globe. If you own a conventional supermarket business, your going to feel the intense pressure of new competition all around that in this writer’s opinion will inject the same rigor on retail brand development once thought to be the sole province of sophisticated CPG marketers.
This is no longer just a game of monitoring transactions, pricing, assortment and deals. That’s table stakes. More shakeout is coming. There will be winners and losers. New players and retail brands on line and off will emerge.
What’s special, unique and curated around specific shopper segment interests and passions will win at the high end, while mass takes the priced business – and will attempt to challenge on quality in certain categories.
So what’s the key to re-thinking the path to market? It’s not going to be upgrading fixtures. The new world order begins with a slavish focus on shopper insights about their lifestyle interests, needs, concerns, passions, wants and aspirations around food and beverage. “All things to all people” is a recipe for not mattering to anyone and tempting decline.
New players will seize the opportunity to follow an important mega-trend now opening doors to new business opportunities in food: people want higher quality food experiences to go along with their higher quality lives.
Supermarket re-imagined as shopping heaven for food adventurers…
Indulgent but good for you
For some it’s “do it for me with chef quality solutions,” and for others it’s “simplify my life” and for others still it’s “help me realize my culinary passions in the kitchen,” or “support my desire to lead a healthier lifestyle.”
All of these aspirations and concerns form the blueprint for retail brands driven by an authentic mission and behaviors that sync with consumer relevance and understanding.
If your business plan is being built on the back of consumer insight and segmentation, pruning the store concept to layer in added focus, then stirred with a heaping tablespoon of optimizing brand positioning and driving towards uniqueness in the shopping experience – you’re looking at some of the right ingredients. Bring e-tailing together with retailing plus mobile support and you’re assembling a few of the right strategic pieces.
What do you think?