Over the last few years, the grocery industry has been disrupted by the implementation of digital services that allow customers to do their weekly shopping without ever leaving their house. Does this mean that the in-store experience is dying? Far from it. Despite the rise of alternative shopping methods, brick and mortar stores continue to own most of the traffic in the industry with over 90% of customers still shopping for groceries in person.  Customer insights from PYMNTS.com show that only 2.6% of shoppers rank the option to shop online as a top priority. Instead, the top four factors that customers care about are price (20.7%), selection (18.1%), location (16.2%), and trustworthiness of the merchant (12.4%). 
So, while it is important to stay on top of the increasing digital trend, it is equally as important to maintain a strong brand experience for in-store customers. Big change in any industry is slow; in the meantime think about these ideas to improve your grocery store’s brand experience.
Private Brand (PB)
Private brands currently have a large influence in the grocery industry. Private brands allow stores to provide a unique experience while curating an emotional connection between the brand and shoppers. In Daymon’s ‘Private Brand Intelligence Report’, 69% of respondents claim that typically at least half of their carts are filled by private brand products.  Offering a sense of familiarity and consistency, private brands have proven to increase trust and loyalty in customers. PYMNTS.com’s data shows that 51% of customers choose to shop at a store specifically for its private brand. 
Additionally, private brand products yield higher profits since the cost basis for production is typically lower than the acquisition of resale products. Furthermore, lower costs allow stores to offer lower prices to their customers. With price as as a top factor in the customer experience, offering low-priced PB products will increase customer satisfaction and improve the brand experience.
Shoppers are looking for an effortless experience when it comes to purchasing their groceries. Your employees can act as valuable sources of information and assistance for customers. Training your employees to learn about your products is key in decreasing customer effort. Whether it is product location, stock updates, nutritional facts, or product reviews, workers should act as reliable resources for customers.
Data shows that 55% of people would not return to stores with poor customer engagement.  Your employees have the opportunity to market your private label products while demonstrating attentiveness to the customer. Educating and training your staff to be ambassadors of the store will lead to a decreased customer effort and more pleasant customer experience.
Understanding your Customers
In any industry, knowing your customer is essential for a successful brand experience. In the grocery industry, the precise customer demographic varies by geographic location. Knowing the needs of the shoppers in your area will allow you to focus on creating a personal experience for your local customer.
For example, the demand for healthier options has influenced the grocery industry immensely, but it is important to note the priorities of your immediate demographic before assuming that the demand is universal. Whereas shoppers in large metropolitan areas and high income cities place a high value on the healthiness of the product, shoppers in low-income communities tend to purchase less healthy, cost-efficient items.  If your customers feel that their needs are being neglected in lieu of fashionable trends, their loyalty to your brand will deter.
Offering samples is an interactive way to market private label products and increase customer engagement. Samples help to transform your store into a destination. Today, many customers want an interactive experience at their grocery store. Costco is notorious for their welcoming sample tables that circulate delectable smells throughout the aisles. Samples build an an engaged environment that prioritizes the shopper and expands customer reach.
Loyalty and Rewards
Loyalty and reward programs are the bread and butter of brand experience. These programs will increase both customer engagement and brand loyalty . Additionally, they also provide an opportunity to offer discounted prices to members and promote PB products. These programs help to build a community around your brand and its mission while placing the customer at the center of the operation.
Creating an engaging and pleasant experience for in-store shoppers will prove to be beneficial regardless of your digital initiatives. A positive brand experience begins with defining the customer as the top priority. Listening to the needs of your shoppers will guide you towards an improved brand experience. Mystery shopper programs and customer surveys are effective ways to gain valuable insights about your customers and their overall brand experience.
In the midst of the technological transformation of the grocery industry, there is no better time to actively strive to better understand your audience.[1,2,4] (2018). Enterprise Retail Grocery Report October 2018. PYMNTS.com.  https://www.daymon.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Daymon_Q1Report_2018.pdf  https://xtalks.com/how-to-increase-private-label-brand-sales-through-the-customer-experience/  https://www.acsh.org/news/2018/01/05/build-it-and-they-will-come-food-deserts-and-entry-new-supermarkets-12369
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