Small independent grocery store in 2018 need a new edge against growing competition from national chains and even online giants like Amazon. But with so much change in the industry, it is still possible for small businesses to thrive? You just need to find smart ways to set your store’s experience apart. Here are 10 tips to help small grocery stores survive this challenging time.
Tips for Grocery Store Owners
Personalize Messaging to Your Customers
As a business that’s specific to one local community or neighborhood, you have the benefit of catering your product line and messaging to the people who are most likely to come to your store, rather than sticking to generic supermarket fare. This means you can take hyper-local flavors, preferences, and shopping habits into account when stocking your shelves.
For example, Constantino’s Market in Ohio caters its offerings to active young professionals and college students due to its location in the midst of college and trendy neighborhoods, as outlined by Crain’s Cleveland Business. So its offerings include plenty of “grab and go” options that are centered around convenience rather than large, family meals.
Tell the Story Behind Your Products
Local shoppers also tend to appreciate when their food options come from farms or producers that are also part of the community. But it isn’t enough to just include local brands on your shelves. You also need to call attention to those items and really let customers know the stories behind those products and the people making them.
Laurie Rains, group vice-president of U.S. retail consumer and shopper analytics with Nielsen explained to Food Business News, “Over 8 in 10 independent shoppers spend more than 50% of their fresh food spend in supermarkets versus other outlets where fresh foods are bought. To win the trip, independents need to tell the story of the local fresh products they are selling. This includes everything from craft beer to locally churned ice cream. Flag it on the shelf. Tell the story.”
Add a Unique Experience
Millennials especially seem to be eschewing the traditional grocery store experience. So for independent stores that want to stay relevant with this generation of consumers, you have to offer more than just a decent selection of products. Add a coffee shop, free product samples daily, a restaurant where people can eat before picking up items for the week, or some other unique element to make their trip more memorable.
Pam Danziger, author of the book Shops That Pop told Credit.com, “I find more and more that millennials are looking for special experiences. They are not just looking for products. They want a better quality service experience from people who really know their stuff.”
Educate Employees on Your Products
Furthermore, Danzinger emphasized the importance of having experts on staff who can actually help people make buying decisions. For the consumers who are prone to online shopping, one of the reasons they might choose a brick and mortar store is because they want help making their buying decisions.
Danzinger added, “There’s nothing like going to specialty wine store where [workers] can really advise you on what you are getting. This has happened with food now.”
Another way you can improve the shopping experience is by adding features of convenience. Since so many consumers are using their smartphones for shopping and various other purposes, creating an app for your store can be one way for you to stay connected and create great experiences. Consider an app that lets customers have their orders set aside for pickup at a specific time, or one that includes a roadmap to all the in-store specials or even one that provides exclusive coupons.
Use Coupons and Deals Creatively
One of the factors that can always help to attract customers is a great deal. While independent grocery stores normally can’t compete with big chains based on price alone, you can offer some coupons or special offers via email or mobile devices to provide a better value to customers on specific types of products.
Rethink the Traditional Store Layout
Another area where independent stores don’t necessarily have to try and emulate what the big chains are doing is store layout. The traditional layout where produce and meats are arranged along the perimeter, with dry goods in the middle, works for stores where people buy all of their groceries for the week in one trip. However, if you have a more specialized store that focuses on a niche like health food or prepared meals, you can cater your layout to call attention to your most popular products and make it as convenient as possible for customers.
Offer Some Online Options
You may not be able to compete with Amazon in terms of price or volume. But recent research has made it clear that more and more customers are turning to online outlets for certain grocery items. Neilsen found that 70 percent of consumers will be shopping online by 2024. So it could certainly be to your benefit to get in on this trend early and offer some kind of online options where it makes sense to do so. You can then potentially set your store apart by offering same-day delivery or curbside pickup.
Make Use of the Gig Economy
Actually handling the logistics of grocery delivery or pickup might seem like a challenge for store owners. However, gig economy based platforms like Roadie offer solutions for managing these functions without having to hire tons of extra employees.
Focus on Personal Service
Finally, there’s one area where independent grocery stores have always seemed to have a leg up on national competitors — individual service. If you and your employees take the time to really help employees, get to know them, learn their names and provide really high levels of service, they are much more likely to pay more to shop with your business. And that’s likely to remain the case no matter what new technology or competition enters the market.
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