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According to statista.com, 14 percent of U.S. consumers shopped online for groceries in 2012. While the vast majority of consumers are still visiting physical stores to make their purchases, online shopping for groceries is a growing trend. For retailers, that means the in-store experience is becoming more important than ever before. And store brands can be a crucial part of that in-store experience.
“Today, customers don’t have to go to stores anymore; they have to want to go to stores,” says Lee Peterson, executive vice president, brand, strategy and design, WD Partners, Columbus, Ohio.
Consumers are now looking for the best in-store experience from entry to checkout, including interaction with store associates, ambience within the store, quality of products or services, etc., states Karl Swensen, assistant vice president, Cognizant Business Consulting, Teaneck, N.J.
And consumer data bear this out. The International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association (IDDBA), Madison, Wis., in its 2014 “Engaging the Evolving Shopper” study, produced in partnership with the Hartman Group, Bellevue, Wash., found that the in-store experience is the “most important factor for many shoppers,” says Alan Hiebert, senior education coordinator, IDDBA.
When asked for the most important factor in recommending a store to another person, a third of survey respondents (33 percent) said the store must be “an enjoyable place to shop.” This factor ranked higher than “helping you get the most for your money” (18 percent), “make it easier to get your shopping done” (17 percent), and “carry the brands you like to buy” (2 percent), he adds.
And retailers that create engaging and fun in-store shopping experiences stand to benefit in many ways. For example, if customers love a retail space, they will stay longer in it and will purchase more from it, says Todd Cole, design director, King Retail Solutions, Eugene, Ore. And if customers really love a retail space, they will begin talking about it via blogging, social media, etc. This type of marketing is not only free, but also the most impactful.
Conversely, if retailers (and their store brands) fail to provide that fun and interactive experience, shopping could lose all meaning to the customer.
“If your shoppers are most typically sleep-shopping in your store, you don’t stand for anything meaningful to them,” says Laura DavisTaylor, executive vice president, customer experience, MaxMedia, Atlanta. “You become a commodity, which translates into dispensable.”
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One reason consumers continue to want to shop in physical stores is because they crave a one-to-one relationship and human interaction, Swensen states.
Great customer service and a staff that is trained to recognize and interact with a retailer’s most loyal customers could be great ways to offer that one-to-one interaction, says Todd Hale, principal of Cincinnati-based Todd Hale LLC and former senior vice president, consumer and shopper insights for Nielsen, New York.
Retailers could also provide human interaction while promoting store brand products. For example, they could hire skilled fishmongers and butchers to cut meat and slice fish (both categories are extensions of store brand programs) in the store instead of selling only meat and fish that have been cut and wrapped off-site, says Jerry Lauro, vice president of new business development, Trilliant Food, Beverage & Nutrition, Little Chute, Wis. These employees would be available to answer customer questions or even provide custom cuts of meat.
Retailers also could follow the example of Sprouts Farmers Market, Phoenix. Sprouts hires “in-aisle” specialists who maintain the vitamin and over-the-counter (OTC) aisles full-time and are able to answer consumer questions, provide guidance and offer recommendations based upon dialogue, Lauro adds. This specialized service makes the shopping experience easier for the consumer while allowing the retailer to cross-merchandise incremental purchases and be store brand advocates.