Maximising customer experience
Recently on a visit to Wales, I visited a couple of farm shops. Both had quality stock but the customer experience of the two was very different. One seemed to suggest that the quality of its produce was all that was needed. The staff were polite and efficient but I left wanting more. The other, by contrast, was amazing. It was buzzing with activity and clearly very popular in its local community and also attracted customers from very long distances. Real pride had been taken in the displays and real attention to detail in explaining what was on offer and its origin. The butcher counter allowed customers to see the staff at work and there were menus on hand showing how various cuts could be turned into great value meals. The shop also had a busy restaurant offering carvery selections each day and recent developments included a children’s play area and other activities.
So why in a magazine focussed on supermarket activity am I talking about farm shops? Well, I believe that it is very relevant. We are all aware of the growing trend for customers to buy their essentials on line and to look for real value in their shop visits. We also are told that less people are engaging in the big weekly shop but tending to visit slightly more frequently for purchases. In this context, it is going to be even more important for stores to truly attract and ensure the experience is the very best. It is not just about well stocked shelves or product range, it is about maximising the shopping experience. This requires accurate assessment of the value shoppers place on the non-tangible factors that affect their thinking, and putting them into effect.
A friend, who still does a weekly supermarket shop, travels to her favourite store passing by another one. When asked why she does the extra mileage, you might expect an answer saying lower prices or higher quality but, although both important, she puts down the factor of a better customer experience as key. Essentially what is needed is an integrated approach bringing all the benefits offered by IT and the virtual world combined with the right product mix, prices and the right atmosphere. Only then will we truly meet the expectations of today’s and more importantly tomorrow’s customers. Whilst analysis of past customer behaviours is important, and, in times of reducing margins, tactical change is important, it is clear that it is also about creating that strategy for tomorrow; not easy for sure but essential.
The supermarket scene is in a state of flux and challenge but out of that will, as always, be opportunity. I recognise that referring to customer experience is not new. It is just that what is required may need to change. The farm shop in Wales offered something for all the family – a destination venue. Whilst supermarkets are different, maybe there are things to be copied. Of course price and convenience remain core requirements, but acquiring and maintaining customer loyalty might require a different approach. Customer loyalty is not just about the check out bill but how they are valued and the customer experience.