“The whole local food thing has sort of gone from being this hipster, yuppie, urban elite phenomenon to something much more widespread” to include mainstream shoppers and the overall look, feel and experience of shopping at a store, Julie Wittes Schlack, senior VP of product innovation at C Space told FoodNavigator-USA.
She explained that a recent digital poll of US shoppers conducted by C Space, which helps brands rethink the role of customers in business, revealed “localism” as a “dominant” theme in helping shoppers feel connected with businesses and brands.
Of the shoppers who, unprompted, listed grocery retailers as examples of businesses or brands that “get them,” a “pretty ubiquitous theme among the top performers, particularly Wegmans, Trader Joe's and HEB” was “this notion of localism, of being sensitive, of being local in the language used, the products stocked and buying products from local suppliers, farmers and growers,” Schlack said.
Trader Joe’s particularly excelled at connecting with consumers at a local level, Schlack said the survey revealed. For example, she noted that consumers said they liked how the checkout lanes and aisles often are named after local streets and landmarks.
HEB connected with consumers by providing sufficient local ethnic foods, according to the survey.
In addition, HEB and Publix were complimented for contributing to local communities by raising funds for schools and local charities, which the survey showed resonated well with consumers and was mentioned as a value more in this survey than in prior years, Schlack said.
She suggested that consumers increasingly value corporate responsibility and see it as an easy way for them to “do good” as well -- an emotional response that can translate to larger baskets and more frequent trips.
Other factors that made consumers feel emotionally connected to retailers or perceive the stores as “getting them,” were:
- Satisfied or empowered employees -- This goes beyond helpful staff to include a positive work environment and corporate culture which likely makes consumers feel like employees want to be there and less like they are a burden to staff when they seek help.
- Strong consumer service -- While not surprising, this factor comes in various shades. Directing consumers to the correct aisle for a product is helpful, but walking the shopper to the product earned stores more points with consumers, the survey revealed.
- A comfortable physical space -- Many Publix shoppers praised the retailer in the survey for having wide aisles and overall cleanliness, Schlack said.
- Educational materials that are easily available -- Respondents also praised Publix for “being a partner to them in cooking” by providing recipe cards in the aisles that are associated with specific products and seasonal displaces that group key items for holidays.
- Tailored, well curated products -- Wegmans won consumer loyalty and respect by offering high and low end products and different package sizes for different sized families, according to the survey.
In addition to revealing what retailers do right to connect with consumers, it also showed what turns consumers off -- the biggest being unclean stores and prices that make consumers “feel ripped off,” Schlack said.