Taste of Potash

Is it time for the Experiential Supermarket?

April 11th, 2016 Posted by food experiences, Insight, Retail brand building, retail brand relevance, shopper behavior, shopper experience, Supermarket strategy, Uncategorized 0 comments on “Is it time for the Experiential Supermarket?”

Tapping desire inside the front door.

Q: What’s true about all supermarket shoppers no matter where they live and work?

A: They are first and foremost – human beings. Thus, how people make decisions matters and should be considered in optimizing the store environment.

Why? Consumers buy with their hearts and not with their heads for the very simple reason that the ‘feeling’ mind is in charge at all times, and will lead the thinking mind to any outcome and purchase.

If desire sits at the front door of how people behave and fuels their actions, then how can we leverage that desire into experiential strategies at the store-level?

It may be time to consider pushing the edge of unique and relevant grocery store experiences. The goal is to embed what we know about consumer behavior and their beliefs around food and food-related experiences.

Behind the potential humanization of supermarkets

Tom Asacker is one of the most brilliant thinkers in this behavioral arena, and his 2013 book “The Business of Belief” helps reveal the intimate understanding of how humans operate. Rational arguments and messaging are seldom effective because consumers are motivated first by their beliefs and desires.

Says Asacker: “What we believe is what we desire. What we desire is what we do.”

What do we know about the people inhabiting the aisles of grocery stores?

At a fundamental level, shoppers want direction, guidance and inspiration. They are motivated to improve lifestyle quality – their bodies, relationships, work and home life. Ultimately, they want to transform their lives and the lives of others – to be a part of something larger than themselves. Said another way, “We want to feel the draw of possibility and the anticipation of better experiences and a better life.”

The shift to all things fresh, local and less processed is borne out of the belief that the quality of what we consume has a direct impact on the overall quality of our lives. Food is, in and of itself, experiential. Food is social, meaningful and lifestyle relevant.

We have entered an era where elevated food and beverage experiences are essential. How best can this be expressed in the grocery store? Is the store merely a four-walled pantry with aisles of cases and shelving? Or, is it a culinary food adventure showroom that taps into our desires for improved food experiences and a better life?

With the rise of ad blockers and ad skipping in virtually every channel of mainstream paid communication, traditional retail marketing strategies are eroding. Enhancing the store experience has become an even more important investment in presenting the retail brand story.

The store becomes an opportunity for deeper store brand engagement – a place to foment talk value and nurture the desire side of how people think. Food and cooking is emotional, so how can we help shoppers encounter romance in the store with elevated food experiences?

Examples of experiential store formats now arriving

Other channels of retail are developing new concepts intended to engage, provide experiences, and help marry shopping to lifestyle.

  • Reebok – Adds cross-fit gym facility to their new FitHub stores.
  • Fashion brand Tory Burch – New Tory Sport stores add yoga classes and interactive games.
  • Samsung – Features an event space for Oscar-themed parties, a ‘night with LeBron James’ and live-streamed concerts at their new brand experience store in New York.
  • Staples – Creates partnership with office sharing site Workbar to add workspaces inside Boston area stores.

Creating the immersive food experience

What can supermarkets do to enable food adventure?

  1. Open show kitchen with chef-inspired menu prep experiences.
  1. Menu shopping concierge services – culinary guidance and inspiration.
  1. Top Chef and Chopped TV viewing parties.
  1. Cookbook corner with computer workstation for recipe searches.
  1. Cooking club tasting events.
  1. Social cooking classes and date night experiences.
  1. Meet-the-farmer product showcases and demos.

Tapping belief and desire means we work harder to leverage store design around food experience and culinary inspiration. People love food and want to interact with it. Can we help them on this journey? When they walk through the door is it a food Disneyland encounter or sterile merchandise shelf navigation?

Of note: Pantry stocking may become the province of online shopping platforms anyway.

Is your store dressed for experiential success?

Bob Wheatley is the CEO of Chicago-based Emergent Healthy Living. Emergent provides integrated brand strategy, communications and insight solutions to national food, beverage, home and lifestyle companies.  Emergent’s unique and proprietary transformation and growth focus helps organizations navigate, engage and leverage consumers’ desire for higher quality, healthier product or service experiences that mirror their desire for  higher quality lifestyles. For more information, contact Bob@Emergent-Comm.com and follow on Twitter @BobWheatley.

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