Service With a Smile

With the recent opening of the Amazon-Go, Cashier-less convenience store in Seattle and the new IBM in-store technology being tested in North London where your entire bag of shopping is scanned in one go, we are promised a future of “just walk out technology” that is set to revolutionise the convenience store offer and dramatically alter bricks and mortar retail.

True, technology will re-invent the way we shop but whilst convenience is a major player is it really the only future for food shopping.

From my personal experience, I now enter my local convenience store and select products from the shelves, put them in my basket, queue in front of a self-scan till, scan the product and bag them without any interaction or human contact. As I leave, struggling to juggle my daily top-up in pockets and random makeshift bags, I am greeted by the automated sound from the till ” Thank you for shopping at…. ( Insert any high street major food store chain)” I feel slightly cheated – You can have all the technology in the world  but as I have become the shelf stacker, checkout assistant, bagger etc and seem to be doing most of the work myself I cannot help the feeling of annoyance when I leave.

Where is the interaction and experience of the brand? If the experience is only one of convenience then the customer soon loses brand value and the brand loses customer loyalty.

With Amazon moving into the food market through technology, delivery and the acquisition of the Whole Foods brand to broaden the range of groceries available, food retailers need to endorse technology but if convenience is now a given (as the “game-changing “ technology of Amazon is to suggest) what is next for customers to buy into?

The food market is now wide open and the large traditional retailers needs to take notice.

Brands like MUJI (yes MUJI) have opened a food-store in Tokyo where customers are encouraged to explore where their food originated alongside various methods of advice on how to eat depending on the current season-” the goal of the market is to create the opportunity for the customer to think about the product and places where the food comes from”

Stores and physical experiences play a critical role in the value proposition. Stores like David Jones Food-hall in Sydney, Globus in Switzerland and Eately are setting benchmarks for the food experience and changing the way we shop for food which will filter down to the neighbourhood store mindset.

Having worked with the Co-op in the Channel Islands for over 25 years we dropped the “convenience store” tag many years ago in favour of the “neighbourhood store “ and set about re-designing the formats with the personality and service of a neighbourhood store mind-set, covering everything from store design, format, graphic communication, products and services.

At gpstudio we have recently launched our latest generation of in-store communication with the Channel Islands Co-operative where we talk about “belonging “ – belonging to a community, a brand and its values. We have helped tell the story about local suppliers, the source of products, sustainability and community.

In short, with convenience a given the big brands must now look at the role of the neighbourhood store as one of a service to the community and customer experience is key.

The key is to build this customer experience rather than just use technology for queue management. It won’t be long before a retailer will know what a customer looks at in a store, what they pick up and keep, what they put down, where they walk in the store, where they spend time standing and what catches their attention.With all the focus on the latest software, it’s easy to forget that the essence of a great store isn’t technology, it’s about helping consumers to buy.

At gpstudio we use 5 key points to create consumer experience and help consumers buy, “Experience that Sells”.

  1. Brand storytelling – inspiring brand and product story’s that talk to the customer and responds to their needs.
  2. The customer journey – highlight key points of engagement and theatre where the customer can discover new products and services to encourage circulation and penetration into the store.
  3. A curated environment with cross categories products and seasonal change and colour – a platform for experience, eventing and service brought to you by the brand.
  4. Awaken the senses – dwell points and tasting areas – a place to discover new products and ideas.
  5. Connect and engage – use technology as an interactive engagement experience for the customer to truly connect with the brand.
    Retailers who put customers first and adapt to how the consumer interacts with their store will see the biggest rewards in the next few years. The expectation of customers will continue to grow and if their experience is just convenience they will walk away. Loyalty will be driven by the authenticity of the store teams, the environment, an interesting brand and product story and a human smile.