Why Customer Experience Is the Crux of Grocery Loyalty

Retailers should invest in the 3 “I”s
InMarket Gerry Joyce Headshot
Digital Circular Image
Digital circulars offer a great solution for ensuring that your audiences have access to the hottest deals in real time as they plan their next shopping trip.

Whether it’s the rise of discount and dollar chains or booming private label brands, economic uncertainty has shifted consumers’ preferences, creating both new challenges and opportunities for attracting and retaining customers.

Convenience is pivotal. In fact, an InMarket study found that consumers prioritize convenience in their shopping experiences, second only to value. Grocers must look beyond value alone and double down on creating a convenient experience to carve out a sharper competitive edge. 

[RELATED: How Grocers Can Make Their Loyalty Programs Go Further]

It’s that time of year when many of you’re thinking of what you can do to drive greater success. It’s simple: Invest in the three “I’s” – Insights, Innovate and Incentives – and you’ll be well on your way to fueling repeat visitation and loyalty in the evolving grocery landscape:

1. Invest in Insights to Maximize Impact

InMarket recently asked 1,100 marketers to share their predictions and top investments for 2024. Unsurprisingly, measurement, first-party data and omnichannel solutions were the top three priorities. Why?

In the face of crumbling cookies, evolving consumer behaviors and continued pressure to do more with less, driving marketing efficiency and effectiveness requires doubling down on customer-driven strategies with a refreshed focus on three buckets: customer behaviors, competitive landscape, and campaign success and optimization. 

Pre-shop behaviors are a great place to start. Effectively reaching your customers throughout the purchase journey begins with understanding their visitation and purchase patterns, alongside what motivates them – a.k.a. why they shop. 

You also need to grasp your performance across the competitive landscape. Using such tactics as a lapsed/lost analysis can help uncover insights to identify your biggest opportunities, as well as provide inspiration to refresh your go-to strategies. 

If your lapsed/lost analysis for a key market finds customers are switching to a nearby chain, you have an opportunity to understand why. Is a particular category driving the shift? Are additional services like online ordering, in-store pickup and delivery affecting loyalty? Review your omnichannel offerings and enhance them to better meet the market’s needs. 

New measurement strategies also improve bottom-line outcomes by adapting inflight based on the KPIs you set, be it engagement, visits or purchases. A CMO Council study found that retailers that implemented third-party measurement solutions saw 11 times greater media efficiency, proving the importance of measurement in minimizing ad waste and stretching advertising dollars. This not only drives better channel and creative performance, but also contributes to a better bottom line.

2. Innovate to Fuel Success and Encourage Engagement

Leaders like H-E-B, which consistently rules when it comes to loyalty, increase their attractiveness to customers by building customer-first shopping experiences.

Naturally, price and quality play a significant role in generating loyalty, but true leaders take it a step further by building experiences that customers can’t get anywhere else. 

In-store restaurants, for example, offer new ways to engage customers while creating additional revenue streams and opportunities for product promotion. 

This can look different for brands of various sizes. For attracting health-conscious professionals, consider opening a Sweetgreen-type in-store restaurant that would pique their interest and convert them to frequent visitors. Alternatively, launch higher-quality lines of on-the-go meal kits that achieve the same goal.

Incorporate new activations into your marketing playbook that expand opportunities for cultivating deeper connections with your customers and fostering loyalty.

3. Incentivize Customers With Consistent Convenience-Focused Messaging

Implementing enhanced in-store and omnichannel experiences aren’t enough on their own for retaining loyal customers. You need to remain top of mind throughout the customer journey. 

With your breadth of insights in hand, strategize unique experiences that go beyond a static ad to consistently capture the attention of your customers. 

An 84.51 study found that most shoppers are looking for personalized coupons and deals on omnichannel experiences like grocery delivery. InMarket also found that combining top-of-the-funnel advertising used to build awareness with bottom-of-the-funnel strategies such as real-time activation while in store, increases engagement by double digits. To incentivize customers, create engaging promotions that lean into your value proposition across channels to drive repeat visits, purchases and loyalty, while consistently keeping your brand’s value top of mind. 

A great example is circulars. Faced with increased costs and a shrinking print industry, grocers must analyze additional avenues for getting convenient, value-focused messaging to their customers in a more effective way, without ad dollars being thrown in the trash. Digital circulars offer a great solution for ensuring that your audiences have access to the hottest deals in real time as they plan their next shopping trip.

Timing should also come into play – strategize consistent times when shoppers are in greater need of value-based messaging. These tentpole or spark moments can be game-changing. For instance, during the first two weeks of the month when SNAP debit cards are loaded, value-focused ads are particularly impactful because it’s essential for many shoppers to get the most out of their dollar.

2024 is the year of customer experience, as spending is up and shoppers are eager and engaged. Now’s the time to double down on the three “I’s”: Insights, Innovate and Incentives. Most importantly, keep the customer at the heart of everything you do, and you’ll quickly see the impact on driving long-lasting loyalty.

About the Author

Gerry Joyce

Gerry Joyce is VP, retail practice lead at Austin, Texas-based InMarket, bringing 20-plus years of leadership and sales experience across retail and digital media. Since joining InMarket in 2022, Joyce has worked closely with retail clients, agency partners, and sales, marketing, measurement, and product teams to develop drive-to-store client-based solutions.
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