Retail Customer Experience: Retailers, take back your shelves
Commentary by Jeff Weidauer, Vice President of Marketing for
Vestcom International Inc.
Through a special arrangement, presented
here for discussion is a summary of a current article from Retail Customer
Experience, a daily news portal devoted to helping retailers differentiate
the shopping experience.
Over the past generation, stores lost their individuality, becoming
homogenous and undifferentiated in their product assortment, price, and promotional
offers. Virtually nothing was left to define one retailer from its competitor
across the street; it was said that you could drop a customer into virtually
any major supermarket and she wouldn’t be able to tell which one she was
A major factor in this lack of personality came when stores
began selling space for advertising. It didn’t take long before there were
identical ads on the shelves, carts, floors, you name it, across competing
stores nationally as major CPGs saw a more efficient method to advertise.
The minimal differentiation between stores was eliminated by
the ever-increasing blight of signs, banners, posters and giant television
screens in every available space. But the hook was set: retailers were making
millions of dollars from advertising, and they were now dependent on this
revenue as sales through the front door declined.
One day we woke up to find ourselves overstored and making all
our money through the wrong door. Restaurants were taking people away from
home to eat, superstores owned price, and grocers watched as both their market
share and share of wallet fell. Then the economy imploded.
The good news is, much like spring, change is on the way. Retailers
are taking back their stores, and their shelves, and learning to sell again.
Shoppers are returning, wanting to learn how to shop as well as how to cook;
wanting more from their stores. “Neighborhood, local, and relevant” are the
new watchwords. Shoppers are looking for authenticity, not just in the products,
but in the seller of those products. Differentiation is coming back, with
better branding, and a growing commitment to the shopper above all.
Taking back shelves for retailers need not be expensive, and
any loss in “wrong door revenue” can be overcome. Retailers should consider
these aspects as they begin to take back their shelves:
- Be relevant: beyond offering price,
retailers should offer information or guidance to build trust with shoppers.
- Be consistent: the shelf edge
can let the shopper know a retailer supports what she sees there. For
example, one way food retailers can differentiate and engage shoppers and
foster longer-lasting consumer relationships is by offering nutritional information
at the shelf, based on the retailer’s health and wellness strategy.
- Be accessible: messages should
be put where the customer is looking, such as the shelf edge.
Discussion Questions: To
what degree is co-op advertising responsible for any sameness seen across
supermarkets? Are you seeing supermarkets pursuing more differentiation?
What’s the best way for a food retailer to differentiate and achieve
individuality at stores where co-op advertising is fairly common?