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OPINIONIndustry Partners

Experiences, Engagement Help Make Stores a Destination

IDDBA prez discusses vital ingredients retailers need to succeed
Photos courtesy of IDDBA

“Life is a journey, not a destination.”

For many, the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson are an essential chapter in the guidebook of their lives. Life is about experiencing new things, not a mundane and sedentary state of being.

And this mindset is present in all facets of one’s life, including shopping and eating patterns. While I hate to sound like a broken record, I’ll again state the importance of something I’ve mentioned many times in my past columns: creating an experience for shoppers.

Purchasing groceries has never been easier for most shoppers, thanks to new channels, both online and physical. A consumer can quickly purchase products and have them delivered in a matter of minutes from his or her phone or tablet. It’s fast, easy and convenient. But it doesn’t provide an experience that so many consumers seek out.

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Traditional supermarkets have the potential to provide this experience, in a variety of different ways. And it’s not just the larger chains that can capitalize. With a little ingenuity and creativity, any store can develop services and programs that engage shoppers.

“The Experience Economy”—a concept and book developed by B. Joseph Pine and James H. Gilmore whereby businesses create memorable events for shoppers, which in turn become the products themselves—has been the inspiration for our Show and Sell program for the past few years. At Show and Sell, our team of volunteers develop concepts that any-sized retailer could implement at their stores. Engaging, educating and entertaining the shopper are the key ingredients for setting your store apart from the competition, especially emerging channels such as online grocers and discounters.

Here are a couple of examples of the concepts showcased at this year’s Show and Sell that retailers could replicate and get inspiration from:

  • Innovative foodservice ideas. With dining out now more common than cooking from home, a robust prepared food department is becoming a must in supermarkets. This trend was in full display in our “Industry” section, a grocerant-style concept that featured made-to-order sandwich options served by chefs using in-house-made meats, fresh bread and unique and tasty condiments that inspired attendees to elevate their deli offerings and turn their prepared food program into a true destination for shoppers. Besides serving as a lunch and dinner destination, a prepared foods program can target the breakfast crowd, a customer demographic growing in importance as more individuals seek out food to start their day away from home.
  • Bakery Cafe. Freshness continues to be one of the most sought-after food attributes. And nothing is fresher than food made right in front of a customer and featuring interesting flavors and ingredients. The Bakery Cafe encompassed this ideal with freshly made doughnuts topped with combos such as Velveeta, Flamin' Hot Cheetos and candied bacon. Additionally, the cafe featured a pretzel bar with a variety of savory and sweet flavor combos. The concept also gave attendees fresh ideas on how to enhance their in-store bread programs through scratch baking, frozen dough products and par-baked items. These concepts truly embody the spirit of the experience economy, because the smells, sights, and sounds of baked goods being made and displayed in the in-store bakery can truly be a draw to shoppers.

In addition to delivering a variety of prepared food options to shoppers, these two concepts, when properly implemented, can have a small footprint on a retailer’s floor space and enable operators to be flexible when utilizing their space; reduce equipment investments; and allow operators to implement changing menus.

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In today’s competitive retail food environment, it is simply not enough to run a store in the traditional way. Innovation, imagination and thinking outside the box are not just talking points; they’re the vital ingredients to help supermarkets succeed in today’s marketplace. Learn about the current trends in consumer purchasing patterns. Talk with your shoppers about what they’d like your store to offer. Attend trade shows, events and seminars to educate yourself and your team on the latest research, products and technologies.

And then create the experience that will have shoppers coming back for more.

Mike Eardley is the president and CEO of the International Dairy Deli Bakery Association (IDDBA)

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