CPMA conference hosts session on alternate retail models

Grocery pros talk about building customer loyalty online

Online retention is "difficult because if you mess up, consumers are probably not coming back for a while or they’ll try another option,” Mimmo Franzone told attendees of the Canadian Produce Marketing Association annual convention and trade show in Toronto last week.

Franzone, the director of produce and floral at Longo’s, was part of a panel discussion around alternate retail models, discussing why they appeal to consumers and the impact they're having on the traditional grocery landscape.

When discussing the importance of building and maintaining customer loyalty online, he said that providing solution-based ideas around shopping and cooking and targeted offers help increase retention.

He added that tailored email offers based on the customer’s shopping history and preferences, including promotions on additional items, can grow basket size. “It’s key to target with appropriate messages,” he said. “If you can give an offer they’re more likely to open the email.”

Joining the discussion was Daniel Henderson, director of culinary and sourcing at Canadian meal-kit provider Chefs Plate and Devika Kumar, category manager and produce buyer at New York-based online grocer FreshDirect.

While Chefs Plate is launching a loyalty program in the next few months, Fresh Direct has an “Amazon prime equivalent” delivery pass that, for an annual fee, includes freebies, discounts and unlimited free deliveries.

Produce is a particularly challenging category because consumers like to examine their items to ensure they’re fresh and to their liking. What happens if a customer isn’t satisfied with their order?

“When we have an issue, free always works,” joked Franzone. “But really, our team has worked very hard to make sure what’s being delivered is top quality.” When fulfilling an order, the team in the facility centre ensures the consumer has time to finish the product before it spoils, he said.

FreshDirect welcomes feedback from its customers and if someone is unhappy, they receive a credit. “The customers we speak to we have a better chance of retaining,” she said. “We’re more fearful of the customers who don’t complain and don’t come back.”

Next year the CPMA conference and tradeshow will take place in Vancouver, April 24–26.

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