Retailers Have a Potential Star Position in the Food Craze

June 10, 2016

Where do your shoppers spend most of their time thinking about and planning food?

There’s data to support it, and there are trend analysts writing about this topic. There is no doubt that our food culture has exploded and flourishes through mediums such as entertainment and social media. There’s a food “holiday” (or more) for almost every day of the year, a festival in every town across America paying tribute to a variety of cuisines and crops, there’s #foodporn of course, and our TV guides are filled with cooking/food centric shows featuring both the celebrity chefs and the amateurs. 

We have all experienced a variety of ways that food brings people together, evokes emotions and memories, and helps make connections. Whether it’s the center piece for family comfort meal, a bridge for cultural crossings, a wingman in a business negotiation, a graduation party, a conversation piece, and so on, food can lead the way in all kinds of life situations. So what does this mean for retailers? 

Think about it. Where do your shoppers spend most of their time thinking about and planning food? In a supermarket, more than likely. So shouldn’t this be a place that evokes passion and feelings connected to how, what, and with whom we eat? It makes sense, but how does the retailer enhance the shopping experience to create more of these connections? Here are some ideas.

1.   Staff - The staff of any supermarket, small market, convenience store, grocerant, etc…has the opportunity throughout the day to easily connect with customers on a much more personal level than going through the checkout motions. Shoppers will become more loyal if they leave with an experience that made them feel like they are building a relationship with their store, and the staff cares about them. 

2.   Music - Did you hear the new 365 Whole Foods Concept store is playing The Smiths in store? Why? Because the 80s band has now become popular all over again with hip Millennials, and they are over the same old Barry Manilow, Billy Ocean, Mariah Carey and Paula Abdul playlist that stores have been hosting for years. Pay attention to your shoppers and tailor playlists that would appeal to them.

3.   Samples - Every time a store creates a special tasting event, there’s an opportunity to talk with customers about what they like and don’t like, share some food facts or preparation tips, or simply exchange a little small talk for a personal connection. 

4.    Health and Retail Dietitians - As RDs become more important to the shopping experience in stores across the country, customers will begin to appreciate even more than availability of an RD to help guide their shopping, learn more about food choices and nutrition, and give the store an opportunity to know them more and what their personal diet needs involve. 

5.    Lighting/Environment/Layout  - What type of vibe does your store have? Is it one that feels friendly, warm and calming, making shopping a possible relaxing and enjoyable experience? Is it easy to navigate? Are checkout lanes efficient and modern? Do the different departments of the store have their own unique experience as if acting as micro-stores? If the store feels static and one-dimensional throughout, shoppers may get bored and rush through their list, resulting in smaller basket sizes. 

6.    Social Media - Never underestimate the power of a social media presence. And the great thing about these digital interactions is there’s plenty of room for creative and free marketing. Do you have a rockstar butcher or pastry chef? Encourage them to use Instagram, for example, as a way to show off their works and personally connect with community shoppers rather than just under the store’s social media umbrella. 

Everyone is talking about the foodie crazed population and how it translates to photography, film and television, books, chefs, restaurants, food trucks, etc…but we may be missing out on the most important, and most significantly positioned player in making connections through food - the retailer.