Download Report


Thank you! Your copy of the report opened in a new tab. If you have trouble viewing it,click here.

Your personal information is kept in accordance with our Privacy Notice.

This article originally appeared on Forbes.

At a recent customer conference — a gathering of dozens of executives of the nation's top food retailers — I opened my keynote by paraphrasing the opening line of "A Tale Of Two Cities": "It's the best of times, it's the worst of times."

I was talking, of course, not about the French Revolution, but the revolution that's afoot in my industry. And unlike Dickens, I was looking at what's happening not in the past but in the present.


I do not subscribe to the view that we are in the middle of a retail apocalypse; rather, I believe this is a retail revolution where the winners and the losers are yet to be determined. While the headlines continue to spook retailers inside and outside the food sector (Sears filed for Chapter 11, while Toys R Us is plotting a comeback), it seems like we are only focused on the worst-of-times/doomsday scenario. The truth: success stories have been obscured in the toss and tumult, and a rulebook for success is emerging. In a nod to another writer about revolutions — Saul Alinsky, author of the infamous Rules For Radicals — I offer seven principles that the best and the brightest retailers are following to weather the storm.

1. Put The Customer First

In my first column for Forbes, I made the point that "putting the customer first" — what seems like a timeworn cliché — is good for business. In the food retail sector, the main theater of battle in the retail revolution, the virtue of being customer-first is most apparent. This is a revolution where the customer is the victor, and the pressure is on retailers to compete for her. According to our research, she shops on average at four grocery stores each month and regularly buys groceries from at least three other channels. Most important: She has clear opinions about what each store represents in terms of value. Ignore what she thinks and wants at your peril. If you are a food retailer today, you need to start with a data-driven customer strategy.

2.Don’t Think Just About Price — Think About Value

All great revolutions result in the destruction not just of institutions but old credos as well. Here's one: E-commerce will lead to an inevitable race to the bottom for retailers because they need to compete more and more on price. We recently unveiled research that shows customers are more driven to make decisions as to where they shop based on perceived value, not price, per se. We have a formula: divide quality by price, and that gives you a better idea of what your customer wants, and how to put the customer first. For example, customers happily exchange the time it takes to shop at Costco and Walmart for lower prices — a choice driven by a subconscious cost/benefit analysis of each retailer's value proposition. A recent report by Forrester concludes that price, convenience, assortment and experience are all important to the modern consumer.

3.Know Your Particular Value-Driven Customer And Adapt Accordingly

Which is not to say that you cannot differentiate more around quality or price to win customer preference. Retailers that are focused more on "fresh" or "organic" might focus more on quality, while big box brands might focus more on price. It's important to note that a study by Business Insider found that discount stores are surging. But the battle for shoppers today mandates you think about both price and quality. By analyzing first customer data — which retailers have access to — retailers can get a better sense of what matters to their customers.

4.Target Your Investments

In another study, we found that brands with a more homogenous customer and store footprint perform better. Why? Because they deliver a value proposition that is more consistent with their customer's expectations. They opened the most stores in the last 30 years, and as a such, their customers are more homogenous, and they understand their customers — their habits, their biases, and, ultimately, their preferences — better. Again, the best place to start is with tools for analyzing customer data.

5.Think Intelligently About Private Labels

A growing corpus of research shows that food retailers with their own private label product lines are benefitting not just from brand lift but margins as well. An intelligent private label strategy can significantly improve overall margins. But there should be an emphasis on "intelligent." To make this happen requires more than strategy; it takes a little something called customer data science.

6.Incorporate Customer Data Science

By that, I mean the data, tools and practitioners that are now available not just to the Amazons of the world but to practically every retailer on the planet. Along with the revolution that is empowering consumers to shop more intelligently, there's the democratization of the science that was limited to just a few businesses visible at the start of the revolution. But to enter the battle you need to equip.

7.Join The Revolution Now — The Best Of Times

As I said at the start, this is not just the worst of times but the best of times as well. In addition to the democratization of best practices and tools, the relative strength of the economy plays in the favor of large incumbents and new market entrants poised to enter the fray. They may have more cash and other resources to commit today than when the inevitable dip in the economy makes competition for the choice-rich shopper even tougher.

When that time comes, we may actually have a tale of two retailers, not cities: the one that planned for the revolution and the other that did not.

[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 David.Ciancio@dunnhumby.com].

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


Keep Reading...Show less

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.

Keep Reading...Show less

The dunnhumby Consumer Pulse Survey is a multi-phased, worldwide study of the impact of COVID-19 on customer attitudes and behavior. We surveyed more than 27,000 respondents online in 22 countries, with interviews conducted for Wave one from March 29 – April 1, for Wave two from April 11 – 14, and for Wave three from May 27 – 31. Due to the rapidly unfolding crisis in North America, dunnhumby conducted Wave four from July 9 – 12 in the U.S., Canada and Mexico only. Here are highlights from the study:

Keep Reading...Show less

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.

Keep Reading...Show less

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.

Keep Reading...Show less

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.

Keep Reading...Show less

It's a well-worn phrase by now, but it's true that the COVID-19 crisis has drastically altered the global retail landscape. Here in the Asia-Pacific region, a majority of markets are now looking past the panic of the first wave and towards the future. In this series of articles, we'll explore how grocery retailers must adapt to a more omnichannel reality to thrive in a post-pandemic world.

Keep Reading...Show less

FOR RETAILERS

Smarter operations and sustainable growth, powered by Customer Data Science.

FOR BRANDS

Better understand and activate your Shoppers to grow sales.

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".

Keep Reading...Show less

In the first episode of Customer First Radio, Dave Clements, Global Head of Retail for dunnhumbyand David Ciancio, Global Head of Grocery for dunnhumby kick off the series by discussing what it means to be a truly Customer First business, share which retailers and brands today embody a Customer First mindset, and examine how Customer First materialized during the pandemic with retailers.