As a result of the tight economy, competition is fierce. This is a general phenomenon but applies to our sector more than any other because we largely sell commodities. Attracting prospects into our stores, turning them into customers and retaining their loyalty indefinitely is easier said than done. To differentiate ourselves from our competitors, we need to perfect the one competitive advantage some of them will find difficult to match – personalised service.

We drive feet to your store

Our marketing department works extremely hard to consistently drive feet to your store. For example, we:

  • Distribute up to two million pamphlets crammed with special offers every month;
  • Communicate with about one million consumers via social media;
  • Advertiseonradioandinthenewspapers;
  • Arrange in-store promotions,competitions etc.

Our aim is to bring consumers to your store and we monitor the results of our campaigns very carefully. That’s how we know that our efforts are paying off. However, there is only so much we as the brand custodian can do.

The reality is that our competitors sell a similar range of products to ours, and they typically have bigger advertising budgets than we have. The acid test comes after a consumer has entered your store for the first time. At this point, you have the opportunity to not only make a sale but, more importantly, turn a once-off customer into a regular.

It’s up to you and your team to make the best of this decisive moment; don’t blow it. Just ask yourself one simple question:

What do customers really want?

Ask average consumers what they expect to get from their favourite food store and they will tell you, “cleanliness, a good range, attractive displays and low prices.” They may truly believe that but every psychologist will tell you that it goes a little deeper than that.

Yes, cleanliness, range, merchandising and competitive pricing are important to consumers but most of them actually want more, although they may not even realise it. That’s your chance to shine.

Consumers are people. It is only human that they crave personalised service. Provide it and the number of regulars your store attracts will mushroom. Do this consistently right and some of them might even turn into ambassadors for your store. They will recommend it to their family and circle of friends – word-of-mouth advertising at its best!

Personal attention is key

Consumers have more choices than ever before. They are well aware of this and have become extremely selective. To attract them to your store by consistently being the cheapest across all product groups would be akin to commercial suicide. Fortunately, there is a better option.

You need to turn your customers’ shopping experience into something unique. Ideally, you could do this by giving them your personal attention but, given the number of customers that pass through our stores, this won’t be practical. However, you need to impress on every member of your team, especially but not only those that are customer-facing, that it is their personal responsibility to make every customer feel welcome.

Every member of your team needs to act as a brand ambassador, for example: Greet customers with a smile as they enter the store, offer assistance where needed and generally treat customers for what they really are – the lifeblood of your business.

As the owner of the business, you need to set an example. Quite clearly, you can’t get to know every single customer but you can make contact with opinion makers and other important members of the community. Do this by greeting them, introducing yourself and getting to know them by name. You could even try to find out their shopping preferences and make appropriate suggestions from time to time.

Other relationship builders
• Encourage floor staff to tell regulars about current – or forthcoming – promotions and make meaningful recommendations geared to the needs of their families.

• Occasionally, offer your regulars a little something extra. This need not cost you the earth. Even handing out free ice cream or a lollipop to a little one will make his, and his mother’s, day. Both of them are likely to tell others – word-of-mouth once more.

Community involvement

Showing genuine interest in the activities of the surrounding community and participating in community activities where possible is another excellent route towards placing your store top of mind of consumers who consider where to do their shopping. Ideally, consumers should come to think of you as the food supplier of choice because your store consistently offers range, quality, competitive pricing and excellent service. Elsewhere in this newsletter, we provide some tips on how to achieve that.