NRF 2022: Albertsons’ CEO sees frequency driving grocery loyalty
Vivek Sankaran, CEO at Albertsons Cos., believes that, while consumers may become loyal to a grocery store because of the proximity to their home or the values being offered, the steady stream of repeat visits are often the biggest loyalty builder.
“To me, you visit a grocery store more often than you see your doctor or accountant,” said Mr. Sankaran at a session at the NRF Big Show. “In many cases, more often than you go to church.”
The regular visits, he said, position the local grocer to become part of the “biggest moments” in their customers’ lives.
“It could be a graduation. It could be somebody’s birthday,” said Mr. Sankaran. “Some of those moments are sad. Sometimes it’s somebody who’s sick and you want to give them flowers or balloons. But I think that there is just so much potential for that kind of relationship that goes beyond the transaction side. That’s the fun of it, because it’s so human.”
Grocers have to deliver on the experience. During the pandemic, Mr. Sankaran said Albertsons had to quickly adjust to the way customers wanted to shop and for what. He said, “We had to lean on understanding where the customer is going.”
Mr. Sankaran believes loyalty is the “true measure of our value,” rather than metrics such as transactions, as those steady visits nurture the relationships that strengthen customer bonds.
As an example, Mr. Sankaran noted how he was working a few weeks ago in the produce department in a store in downtown Dallas alongside the produce manager. In the four hours he was there, the produce manager was given three Christmas cards from customers.
Said Mr. Sankaran of the experience, “It just struck me that my notion of relationship over time, over many years, is true at that very fundamental human level. On top of that, we’re putting in a lot of technology — whether it’s loyalty programs, personalization, and e-commerce delivery to your home — that build up this notion of loyalty and creates a lot of stickiness. I really think that’s the long-term value of the company.”
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Does customer loyalty work differently in grocery than in other retail channels? Is relationship building easier for grocers due to more frequent shopper visits?