Making the cut in the digital age

The Lempert Report
August 05, 2014

Supermarkets need to attract customers in a way that e-commerce can't.

We often talk about what brick and mortar stores need to do to survive in this digital age. After all, isn't online shopping so much more convenient? An answer we've also discussed a lot is that stores need to give shoppers a reason to come in. In other words, offer them an experience they can't get online.

Well,  this is a concept that  Lowes Foods, a 99-location grocery chain across the Carolinas and Virginia, is taking to heart. The company hired branding expert Martin Lindstrom and his team to give its traditional stores a makeover.

Their store in Clemmons, North Carolina is now a perfect example of a "shopping experience", looking like a cross between a farmers markets and a theme park. Martin Lindstrom hired writers from Walt Disney to create a storyline throughout the store. There is, for example,  a "Chicken Kitchen," where each chicken is celebrated with a chicken dance when it comes out of the rotisserie oven, a "Sausageworks," with a sausage professor, inventing whacky sausage flavors like the "Star Spangler," and the "Beer Den" that lets customers sample local draft beers. There's also the community table, hosting events from recipe sharing to speed dating.

Talk about an experience!  And so far it seems to be working. The store told CNBC, they have seen basket size rise 7 percent and transaction volume increase 23 percent since January.

While maybe not every supermarket can go to go to such lengths, this does serve as a great example. Online is convenient and more often than not, prices online are pretty competitive, but if supermarkets can create an experience or become a destination that shoppers want to go to, they'll attract customers in a way that e-commerce just can't.