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In our latest look at the Coronavirus' lasting impact on global Grocery Retail, we examine eight emerging trends that are set to redefine the industry's future.

1. Value becomes a decision maker

As global economies tighten, financial strain will prompt certain behaviours from shoppers; not only will they become more frugal in their spending, they will also make greater use of existing food stores and become less wasteful in their quest to reduce outgoings. As a result, value will become an increasingly vital factor in store and product choice.

This has major implications for Retailers and CPG brands:

  • Private labels and discount brands will experience strong growth amongst value-centric shoppers.
  • Non-grocery spend will fall as budgets tighten and non-essential purchases fall away.
  • Discount stores that can deliver a "one-stop shop" experience could make significant gains.

2. Localized shopping means new challenges ahead

Even as lockdown measures ease in some countries, many shoppers are likely to try and stay as close to home as possible. Hypermarket-sized stores may have provided shoppers with bulk-buying opportunities during the initial outbreak, but sales volumes in those formats have now tapered off significantly. Instead, smaller and convenience format stores are now the de facto choice for consumers who would prefer (or are still mandated) to stay local.

As a result:

  • Spending patterns are changing, with Customers choosing to carry out full shops closer to home.
  • Cross-shopping has fallen by the wayside as shoppers limit the number of stores they frequent.
  • Strong action will be required to retain new shoppers and regain lost custom as the situation evolves.

3. Food adventures will continue to happen at home for the foreseeable future

One in five British shoppers are now cooking every meal from scratch, up from just one in eight before the pandemic began. While restaurants, cafés, and bars will slowly begin to open up as social distancing restrictions ease, many Customers – particularly higher-risk individuals – are likely to continue their food adventures in the comfort of their own home rather than risk potential exposure.

For Retailers, this means:

  • Meeting greater demand for fresh and frozen products in favour of pre-prepared lines.
  • Educating and inspiring shoppers to try new recipes via online platforms.

4. Health, wellbeing, and humane behaviour become new benchmarks

Not only has the virus prompted Customers to raise their spending on personal and home hygiene products, we've seen it drive a similar rise in healthy eating as shoppers seek to build their natural immunity as best they can. Concerns aren't just limited to their own wellbeing, either; recent weeks have seen debates ranging from the safety and protection of Retail staff, to the need for a wholesale re-evaluation of global meat consumption.

Addressing this heightened awareness around health means:

  • Supporting Customers with their renewed focus on health, nutrition, and mental wellbeing.
  • Focusing hard on hygiene and humanitarianism – not only with regard to employee and Customer wellbeing, but in terms of animal welfare in the supply chain, too.

5. Online Retail reaches the tipping point

Soaring demand for home delivery and click and collect services prompted many Retailers to ramp up their online operations, and early indications suggest that this change will be anything but short-lived. Online sales now sit somewhere between two and four times those seen pre-outbreak, limited more by Retailer capacity than by Customer demand. The digital tipping point is here, Customers convinced by recent experience that online represents a viable way to shop going forwards.

Retailers looking to optimise their online operations now should consider:

  • Expanding capacity via 'last mile' innovations, from offering click and collect in smaller stores to partnering with fulfilment companies in order to expand delivery networks.
  • Ensuring that new shoppers become repeat Customers, making first shops easy, reliable and value-laden.

6. Expectations for digital grow in tandem with the online boom

As frugality and wellbeing come to dominate the Customer mindset, their expectations around technology won't be limited to online channels alone. Digital innovations that make shopping easier, faster, safer and lower-contact will all be sought after, with shoppers looking to Retailers to deliver useful and helpful new applications.

Areas of focus should include:

  • Pre-trip planning applications that enable crowd avoidance based on levels of in-store custom.
  • Touch-free replacements for vouchers, receipts, lists and payment.
  • Additional investment in technologies that reduce one-on-one contact such as self-scan and self-service checkouts.

7. Public goodwill must not be misspent

In 2020, stores have become something more. Customers have come to see supermarkets, stores, and employees not merely as a means to an end, but as pillars of their local community – essential services and key workers helping them navigate a period of unprecedented disruption. This social capital will prove to be hugely valuable, but only for Retailers who demonstrate an unwavering willingness to operate for the public good.

Harnessing the power of this deeper connection with Customers will mean:

  • Increasing or maintaining activities that benefit local communities such as food banks and charity initiatives.
  • Supporting local and national food producers and minimising their overall supply chain.

8. Market consolidation will define the years ahead

As the economy contracts, competition will only get fiercer. As weaker operators begin to struggle, larger Retailers are likely to benefit from their scale, forming global alliances and buying groups that enable them to operate more efficiently and purchase key lines in larger volumes. A period of consolidation is likely to follow, these larger chains scaling up as smaller competitors fall away.

To prepare for this period, Retailers should:

  • Focus on resetting and simplifying their assortments, as discussed in our previous post.
  • Lay the groundwork for new partnerships that can enable more efficient and productive operations.

For more information on retail strategies beyond the virus, please watch our webinar on demand | Future Outlook: Consumer and Retail shifts for Grocery & Pharmacy post-Coronavirus

white and blue magnetic card

Photo by Avery Evans on Unsplash

Most companies attempting to drive customer loyalty fail miserably—and few so-called customer-centric companies generate sustainable customer loyalty that drives measurable business results. Why? Because they get three key principles completely wrong, right from the start:

  1. Loyalty is about the company acting loyally to its customers, not vice versa.
  2. It is about a loyalty approach, not a loyalty program.
  3. Loyalty is about the store, not only about the CRM.

1. Loyal to Customers

We start to act loyally to customers when we understand them to a level of detail that ensures that we remain responsive to changes in their behavior, relevant to ever-changing customer needs and rewarding in the way we treat customers.

Acting loyally is about adopting a loyalty mind set of managing customer segments as strategic business units (aligning with how we think about a category management strategy as managing categories as strategic business units). This context demands change that is both incremental and transformational—evolution, but with a bit of manageable revolution.

What customer loyalty is, and is not:

  • Acting loyally (responsive, relevant, rewarding) to our customers; not about customers being loyal to us
  • An overall approach throughout our business; not a proposition or program
  • Earning customer loyalty; not thinking that customers should become loyal
  • Collaborative partnerships to win customers together; not tolerant of internal conflict between areas of the business or with suppliers
  • Transparent; not opaque
  • Driving sales and cash margin; not customers being responsible for percent margin

2. Loyalty Approach vs. Loyalty Program

We demonstrate loyalty to our customers by taking a loyalty approach wherein we commit to rewarding and delighting our customers with products and experiences that meet their wants and needs.

  • We call this putting customers first—when we decide on priorities and actions based on insights from our customer data.
  • By doing so, a retailer becomes an even more prominent choice in the customer's consideration set. This is not a tactic; it is a long-term strategy that makes the customer the focal point of our business decisions and objectives.

The loyalty program is an important element within a loyalty approach, as the key source of the data that enables customer intelligence, and as the channel that enables us to talk to our customers personally. I call the loyalty program the "little l" in loyalty, with the loyalty approach as the "big L."

But a loyalty program is not required to act in a loyal way to customers. Here's how to think of "big L" loyalty:

A loyalty approach, simply put, embeds customer insight throughout the retail organization to enable better, faster decisions and thereby increase sales and profit sustainably. Best-in-class practitioners have seen an incremental sales uplift in the early stages of a loyalty approach of between 1% and 2% and later stages between 3% and 4%, quarter over quarter and year over year.

3. Loyalty Is About the Store, Not Just the CRM

As I used to say to my retail colleagues, "If the store is lousy but we deliver brilliant targeted CRM, the store will still be lousy."

Even if the personalized CRM is perfect, customers need to perceive that tangible changes have been made in the store itself before they will respond by giving more of their custom. We must put customer insights into action within the "hardwiring" of retail practices—pricing, promotion, assortment, adjacencies, new products, the checkout experience and so on.

In a previous article, I shared several examples of being loyal to customers in store by simply making the shopping experience easier—setting the yogurt section by customer need rather than by brand blocks, for example, and by setting product adjacencies according to how customers shop, rather than by how items are sourced in the supply chain.

3 Ways to Activate a True Loyalty Approach

  1. Make better business decision by putting the customer first. Everything is better when you start with the customer. Start with the data you hold on customers—understanding how they shop and behave, what is important to them and how they engage with your business. This insight will identify a number of opportunities for better decisions using the data.
  2. Improve the customer experience by using data-driven insights to improve your retail offering, such as assortment, pricing and promotions. Use insights to connect you to your customer through the store. Think of the mantra "data to insights to actions"—this is how improved like-for-like sales growth and customer loyalty is delivered.
  3. Transform the organization using customer-driven insight to help you better understand, anticipate, measure and continually respond to your customers. This is realized through empowering, aligning and equipping your people with relevant insights, values, goals, strategies and actions.

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[This is the fourth in a series of articles advocating the voice of the Customer in the highly competitive food-retail industry. David Ciancio is Global Customer Strategist for dunnhumby, a pioneer in Customer data science, serving the world's most Customer-centric brands in a number of industries, including retail. David has 48 years experience in retail, 25 of which were in Store Management. He can be reached at].

Treating Customers differently based on their 'profitability' is counter-productive to building loyalty and toward creating a healthy retail Customer Experience.

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Memories of panic buying may be fading here in the UK but have resurfaced elsewhere1. The near constant threat of another wave of Covid-19 may yet prompt another round of hyper demand. Whilst there is little hard evidence to determine the underlying drivers of panic buying2, there are numerous theories that the retail industry may benefit from exploring.

Feroud Seeparsand, dunnhumby's Senior Consumer Psychologist, outlines some likely theories to explain the 'why' behind the 'panic buy' and some implications for retailers to prevent it reoccurring in future.

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In a series of posts published earlier this year, we covered the results of the dunnhumby Customer Pulse – a global study designed to explore changing consumer mindsets during the COVID-19 pandemic. Over three waves, conducted between March and the end of May, we polled thousands of people from more than 20 countries on subjects including supermarkets' responses to the outbreak, the economic outlook, and how their shopping behaviour had changed due to COVID.

At the beginning of September – three months on from the previous wave and with supply chains stable and the changing nature of lockdowns – we wanted to revisit the Customer Pulse to see what, if anything, had changed. Below are some of the standout findings from this fourth tranche of research.

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assorted fruits at the market

Photo by ja ma on Unsplash

In the decade since Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein's Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness was published, nudge theory has enjoyed unprecedented success.

Predicated on the idea that individuals respond better to indirect suggestion than outright commands, nudge theory is commonly used as a way of subtly influencing our behaviour towards positive choices. The idea has gained such traction, in fact, that many governments around the world have created "nudge units" in a bid to tackle thorny issues like obesity and the climate emergency.

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Are you looking to increase your contactable Customer base? How much money are you losing on incorrectly identified Customer communications? Throughout our 30 years of big data experience working with clients across industries around the globe, we have found that maintaining contact through relevant Customer engagement is a crucial component of putting the Customer First.

Essential to preserving contact data is ensuring that you have the most up-to-date information from your Customers; not an easy task. On average, people in the United States will move an average of 12 times in their lifetime. United States Postal Service data indicates 14% of the population change addresses annually. As email contact has grown, it's important to note that, on average, 30% of people change their email addresses each year. This is driven by ISP or job changes, or just to stop being spammed. As people move away from home phones to primarily mobile devices, phone numbers are stabilizing as consumers maintain the same numbers through physical moves.

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Retail leaders must objectively understand how their business currently considers Customers before trying to set a more Customer-centric direction and focus. There are some formal assessment methodologies, like dunnhumby's Retail Preference Index (RPI) and Customer Centricity Assessment (CCA), which offer detailed evaluations of a business' capabilities, strengths and weaknesses based on Customer perceptions (RPI) or global best practices (CCA).

The approach outlined below is not intended to replace these formal tools; rather, these observations are intended as a kind of 'toe in the water' to help retail leaders form early hypotheses and points of views. These are rules of thumb, heuristics culled from global experience. Later, leaders might use these observations to informally check progress from time to time as a way of assessing whether the "program in the stores matches the program in our heads".

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dunnhumby’s Prophets of Aisle Six, Episode 2: Heinen's Fine Foods

The Prophets of Aisle Six is the first online reality series focusing on innovation in the food retail industry. In this episode, Jose Gomes, dunnhumby's North America Managing Director, travels to the downtown Cleveland store of Heinen's Fine Foods. Jose meets with Tom and Jeff Heinen, co-owners and brothers, and learns how they are evolving their grandfather's mission of delivering excellent customer service. With 23 stores in Northeast Ohio and the greater Chicago area, and a 90-year legacy, Heinen's is proving that being a small retailer can be an advantage when it comes to data.

In this series, dunnhumby tours the globe and speaks with some of the world's greatest brands, exploring their biggest challenges and how they are using customer data science to meet those challenges.