Managing Shoppers

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Managing Shoppers


Was anybody actually surprised by anything in the recent CNBC documentary, “Supermarkets Inc.”? I know, we work in the industry, so I don’t think many of us expected to learn anything new – although I was fascinated by all the high-tech design work involved in creating a new detergent bottle.

But I would hope that few viewers would be truly shocked by what seemed to be the overall premise of the show: Supermarkets are designed to get people to buy things. Good heavens, what a concept! And maybe it’s the cynic in me, but it seemed like this documentary – and, honestly, most mass-media attempts to look in on an industry – came across with the attitude that such tactics are somehow novel and at least a little immoral. I mean, really – STORES want people to BUY THINGS? And of course, retailers only want people to buy the most expensive, fattening things that they don’t really want, just for the sake of profit.

But as we all know, if supermarkets didn’t sell products that folks actually wanted, they wouldn’t be in business for long. And with the retail landscape more fragmented than ever, with traditional grocers competing with superstores competing with specialty stores competing with online retailers, it’s vital that grocers prove their relevancy every single day. And they do that by grabbing shoppers’ attention – attention that’s distracted by work, school, family, social and other obligations – and holding it for as long as possible.

Hence, grocers keep coming up with new concepts – solutions – that folks can’t find in cyberspace or at the cold, cavernous superstore across the street.

Center store is a crucial part of any marketing strategy, and grocers are coming to realize that they need to grow center store not so much by category management, but by shopper management, as outlined by Nielsen’s John Lewis in the lead story of this month’s Center Store Trend Alert.

“The magic lies in tailoring solutions to you local shopper needs,” Lewis says. “Shoppers want solutions that span the entire store, and winning retailers will be those who are flexible and adjust formats to cater to their needs at a mission level.”

So, docu-journalists, that’s why supermarkets want to lead consumers on a circuitous adventure through the wonderful world of grocery shopping: to show them that it’s more than just a chore, that perhaps what they’re looking for is more than just what meets their eye on the shelf.

Jim Dudlicek is senior editor of Progressive Grocer.