One of the most important parts of the conversations you should be having with shoppers is: What is your food story? Why? It creates meaningful connections. The opportunity to truly engage customers is in your ability to connect with them on an emotional level, and storytelling is the secret ingredient to make that happen—especially when it comes to food, because everyone has a story. Indeed, both food and stories connect people, and the innate human need for connection is at the heart of many of the decisions we all make.
The compelling thing about stories is that the information we often think is the most uninteresting or unimportant is actually the most relevant. It’s the details, the backstories and the personal touches that make tales come alive with an instant connection. What if we knew that the front-end checker loves rescue dogs and volunteers at the local shelter? What if we knew the butcher grew up on a family hog farm? Or that the produce stocker ran marathons? These details are personal connections to real people. They are common points of interest that allow us to begin conversations, bond and extend our conversations about food. For instance: “When I’m training for a marathon, I use this product. It really helps me with my recovery. You might like try it and see if it works for you.” Or, “My kids just love this new variety of apple. If you haven’t tried them, I highly recommend them!”
Putting Food Storytelling Into Practice
Imagine if an employee nametag said, “Ask me about my winning cookie recipe!” or “Did you know I’m a third-generation butcher?” What if your employees became the story—and, even more exciting, your customers became the story? Can you envision telling weekly food stories related to family gatherings, favorite foods, community service or health and wellness through the eyes of your front-line teams and your shoppers? Or if each of your customers visited your social media page every day—not to see what’s on sale, but to see what great food stories their friends and neighbors were sharing?
Today’s consumer longs to be connected. They don’t look to advertisements and commercials or even celebrities to get their information. Instead, they look to online influencers who share common experiences and testimonials about new products, brands and foods for everyday meals and full-blown holiday affairs. They look to their peers for suggestions about what works and what they should try. And they expect transparency from the people they trust—even you, their primary grocer.
FMI’s “2017 U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends” says 87% of consumers trust their grocery store, which provides a moment to shine and capture them at “hello.” After all, “hello” is about hospitality—it says, “I see you, and I care about who you are and what your needs are. I’m glad you’re here and I’m ready to help.” Personal stories reinforce authenticity and demonstrate how your associates can help make your shoppers’ lives better.
There are no right or wrong stories to tell. There is only the truth, which is the first step in transparency about your products and your business. Your workers are your most important resource, and their stories are your point of differentiation. But to make the connections count, you must create a culture of interest—in your staff, your customers and the issues around you. Once you are interested, you will start hearing stories that are waiting to be told; and they’ll only get richer when they’re connected to food.