Fresh Food

’Tis the Season to Stand Out From Competitors

How grocers can make the most of the in-store experience
Photograph: Shutterstock

The fall months not only bring crisp air to most of the country but also usher in one of the busiest times of the year for our stores, especially our fresh departments.

Good food and drink are as much a part of the holidays as gifts, decorations and happy children. Most of us can remember a time when a trip to the local grocery store with our parents and family to explore and purchase holiday pies, deli cold cuts and salads, and fancy cheeses was a tradition onto itself. In many instances, the store lived and breathed the holidays. And it was something to be experienced in-person.

Flash forward to the retail landscape of today, where the talk on the streets is how brick-and-mortar stores are dead and online shopping is the future of food shopping. But is it really? Don’t the holidays help us reflect on how truly important our stores are to the communities we serve?

Absolutely they do. And it’s because of what they offer that consumers simply cannot find when they shop online: the experience.

“Experience” is a topic I’ve stressed in several of my past WGB columns, and it’s one that’s certainly fitting for this time of year in our stores—which can excel because of this characteristic, but which is not a given.

Merely having a physical footprint doesn’t guarantee success. The saying “80% of success is showing up” may hold true in some circumstances, but not necessarily when it comes to our stores. We have to be proactive, even during this time of year when our stores tend to be the busiest. 

Consumers visit our stores not just to fill their cupboards. They want to be engaged. They want to be educated. They want ideas and suggestions for the meals they purchase and prepare for their family and friends. And while some shoppers may enter the store with a mission and a grocery list of exactly what they want, it should be the mission of all retailers to not only make it easy for them to find what they’re looking for but also to engage them with new ideas and recommendations.

Here are just a few ways to accomplish this:

  • Focus on the products, tastes and ingredients of the season. Create eye-catching displays featuring these products that draw attention to your fresh departments.
  • Cross-merchandise products within your fresh departments. Just like other times of the year, provide meal ideas that incorporate freshly made offerings.
  • Educate your shoppers on holiday meal ideas and pairings. Demonstrate how shoppers can add variety to their traditional holiday cuisine lineup.
  • Conduct food and drink tastings to engage consumers and encourage them to try new food items and pairings.
  • Use your marketing channels—especially social media—to share meal ideas, discounts, recipes, new products and creative takes on traditional holiday food.

Finally, remember: Many shoppers are in a hurry, so be sure that convenience is a top priority to help consumers looking to get in and out quickly.

The holidays are a season of giving. And there’s no better way to engage your shoppers by giving them the experience they seek.

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