Transforming the Grocery Shopping Experience

Aug 22, 2002

The biggest problem the supermarket industry faces today is the decline in trip frequency, writes Christopher Hoyt on Between 1998 and 2001, the number of household shopping trips to supermarkets decreased by one billion fewer trips, the steepest decline in trip frequency of any trade class in any three-year period ever registered, according to Dr. Hoyt.

Dentists have faced a similar drop-off in trip frequency and the profession’s response offer lessons for grocers, says Hoyt. Fluoridation has reduced the number of cavities dramatically and consequently the need to go to the dentist as often. The dental profession has worked judiciously during the past few years to make us want to go to the dentist. They have done this by examining the totality of their “shopping experience” and systematically addressing those things that were not consumer-friendly. The biggest change, however, is the repositioning of the whole profession as a service to improve your appearance as much (or more than) to address dental problems.

Many leading supermarkets have identified and are actively experimenting with solutions to the physical annoyances of grocery shopping such as long check-out lines or out-of-stocks or crowded aisles. What seems to be beyond the capabilities of most supermarkets is the repositioning — the shift from needing to go to the supermarket to wanting to go to the supermarket. Most supermarket retailers understand merchandising but don’t “get” marketing. Supplier marketers have the best chance of transforming supermarket shopping from “necessary” to “desirable” and regain those lost trips.

Moderator Comment: Is it possible to change the sentiment of consumers from “having to grocery shop” to “wanting to go to the supermarket?”

It is very doable and it doesn’t mean you have to operate
stores that cater to upscale consumers either. Stores clearly have to master
the basics (clean, well-stocked, staffed, etc.). Once that is accomplished,
the key is for store management and associates to demonstrate that they know
and love food. They need to actively share their passion and evangelize consumers.
The consumers will take it from there. (Check out the Meal of the Week feature
on and the customer comments that follow for an example.) [George
Anderson – Moderator

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