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How to win over customers and keep them coming back

Here are three key strategies to help grocers stay ahead of the competition and keep shoppers happy.

Most people would agree that an apple is an apple at every grocery store, so in a sea of sameness how can grocers set themselves apart? Indeed, the Canadian retail landscape is more competitive than ever, partly due to the rise of digital technologies that are changing the way people shop. Certain industries are feeling the impact more than others--but perhaps none more than grocery.

According to the sixth annual Canadian Retail Insights Report released by American Express Canada, 83% of retailers say their industry is more competitive than ever. And, among grocery retailers, 94% say their customers are getting more selective about where they shop, while 80% agree that they have to fight harder to keep customers. While almost all retailers surveyed had a positive business outlook, it’s clear that they are feeling the heat amidst rising competition.

Here are three key strategies to help grocers stay ahead of the competition and keep shoppers happy.

Improve the in-store experience. Simply providing high-quality products is no longer enough to stand out from the competition; providing an experience is what sets retailers apart. This is why retailers are focused on delivering an enhanced shopping experience that differentiates their business and offers a value proposition to customers.

From in-store activities such as cooking and nutrition workshops, to offering personalized shopping guides and expanding into emerging categories such as health and wellness, 79% of grocery retailers are making investments to improve customer service. In fact, 97% of retailers in the grocery industry believe improving the in-store experience is important and 71% plan to invest more into brick-and-mortar stores this year.

Keep up with digital and tech trends. With customer expectations at an all-time high, retailers are increasingly open to adopting new technologies. In fact, 45% of Canadian retailers are investing in online fulfillment solutions such as “buy online, pick up in store,” a major trend driven by customer demands for convenience and seamlessness at every touchpoint. An added bonus for retailers is that this type of shopping experience offers an opportunity to increase basket size compared to in-store shopping--this is especially important for grocery retailers to take note of given the regular cadence in which most consumers buy groceries.

Emerging technologies are also on their radar. In fact, 69% of retailers agree that investing in new technologies is important to the success of their business. In an effort to improve the in-store experience, 29% of retailers say they are considering automation or data personalization and 11% are interested in implementing artificial intelligence. These types of technologies enable grocery retailers to offer more targeted and personalized service, such as discounted pricing on frequently purchased items.

Invest in faster, quicker ways for customers to pay. Grocery retailers understand the importance of investing in technology, especially when it comes to payments. In fact, 68% of grocery retailers agree that mobile commerce is the way of the future.

With an increase in mobile-first consumers, the majority of Canadian retailers have now adopted contactless in-store payments. In the last year, key types of payment technologies adopted by retailers in Canada include mobile wallet (66%), in-app payments (49%), tablet POS (45%) and web portal payments (28%). As retailers continue to adopt new payment technologies that make shopping even smoother, there’s no doubt emerging check-out formats like scan and go and checkout-less will become more prevalent.

So, whether it’s through in-store updates, investments in new technologies or enabling a "payments-everywhere" strategy, the opportunities to drive customer loyalty have never been so great.

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