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Star Women winners on the importance of putting the customer first

Panel discussion delves into the ways grocers are catering to consumer needs

Though the industry was gathered to celebrate the accomplishments of this year's Star Women in Grocery, five of the winners made one thing very clear: it's all about the customer.

Whether it's putting relevant and tailored coupons into the shopper's hand, providing ready-made meals or ensuring children in Canada are going to school properly nourished, finding ways to keep customers front and centre is key to driving growth.

This was one area of discussion during a panel session at the 6th annual Star Women in Grocery breakfast and conference hosted by Canadian Grocer in Toronto last week.

Moderated by Tony Chapman, the panel included Marie Chevrier of Sampler, Mary Dalimonte of  Sobeys, Natasha Gunn of General Mills Canada, Michelle Scott of The Grocery Foundation and Shannon Skinner of Metro Ontario.

While other keys to success were shared throughout the morning, the panellists agreed that giving customers what they want when they want it is not only vital, but increasingly challenging given the pace at which the industry is changing.

"It’s really about understanding your consumer and it’s really about matching what are the need states, what are the occasions of eating... But most importantly it’s about the emotional connection that we match to our consumers and then setting up the offer within every location," said Dalimonte.

What customers are looking for in a grocer can run the gamut. They want cleaner labels, more transparency about where their food is grown and quick and easy meal solutions. "All of those things have to come into every section of what you offer," said Dalimonte.

With so many moving parts, Chapman asked, how grocers are able to keep up and make it work?

"It can be overwhelming but because the consumer is changing and the consumer is demanding what they want and it has to be personalized you have to be able to go up to that wall and be able to stick your fingers in all those little holes to be able to satisfy them," said Skinner. "So it's being able to execute with excellence, but doing it over a whole bunch of different things."

Click here to the full list and bios of the 2017 Star Women in Grocery winners.

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