People eat. Plain and simple. But how plain and simple is it really? As the variety of our food choices has exploded over the years, the behavior of shoppers has changed as well.
Three meals a day? Not likely. Traditional, “all-American” dishes for every meal occasion? Not always. Cooking nightly dinners for a family of five? Probably not.
What’s replacing these are the terms, “snacking”, “local”, “single-serve”, and “entertaining.” Today’s consumers shop with purpose and conviction, with parameters and preferences on what they want and don’t want. Sometimes, they’re shopping for ingredients to prepare a meal at home. Other times, they’re looking for a quick, freshly-prepared, and hot meal to take with them.
The biggest takeaway from examining these trends is this: consumers shop for and consume food for a variety of reasons. And retailers that provide a selection of options and services can attract and retain shoppers. So, how can retailers engage individuals upon entering their store? Here are some ideas based on common shopper behaviors:
- Convenience. Time. Many of us simply don’t have enough of it. But, we still need to eat. Make it easy for busy and on-the-go shoppers to pick up a prepared meal or the components for cooking a fast dinner at home. And more than just offer a varied and delicious lineup of meal options, be sure to message it, both in-store and through your store’s marketing channels.
- Exploration. Have you ever eaten something just to try it, even though you weren’t hungry? New cuisines, flavors, and ingredients are triggers for food purchases. The supermarket environment is ideal to capture those spontaneous sales, which can also be boosted through product samplings and pairing ideas.
- Perceived benefits. For a growing number of health-conscious consumers, eating is more than just a daily requirement. It’s part of their healthy lifestyle. These shoppers are looking to “fuel up” before starting their workouts, as well as seeking post-workout food options. Focus on the buzzwords that will catch these consumers’ eyes—protein, all-natural, energy, power-boost—and make it easy for shoppers to find these products when they enter a store, such as in a display placed prominently in the entryway.
- Variety. Oftentimes, we simply don’t know what we want to eat. That is until we see it in front of us. And the more variety shoppers have, the more likely they are to select something and, perhaps even more importantly, view a supermarket as their first choice for their eating needs. Simply put, supermarkets lead the pack when it comes to food variety. This is especially true now, with prepared foods enabling supermarkets to compete with restaurants.
- Occasions. As we all know, our customers are not always shopping just for themselves and their family. Sometimes, they’re looking for food ideas for an occasion, whether it’s a planned-out, formal event, an impromptu dinner at home, or office and school functions. Many retailers are in a prime position to handle all of these occasions, from catering and party/cheese trays, to pairing products for dinner ideas in merchandising displays.
Supermarkets have become destinations for not just stocking up on groceries, but also for meal ideas and daypart variety. And our industry has the pieces already in place for attracting, engaging, and informing shoppers with eating on their minds.
Mike Eardley is president and CEO of the International Dairy Deli Bakery Association (IDDBA)