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Talking to Canucks

Ever wonder what really matters to Canadians when they're doing the weekly shop?

Retailers, meet today’s shoppers. They have a lot on their minds as they stroll through your store: the healthfullness of the products you sell, their tyke’s pesky food allergies, loyalty programs and the impact of their purchases on the environment, to name a few. But what’s their top concern? No surprise here: Around 85 per cent of Canadians say rising food costs impact their grocery buying decisions, with more than half calling it a major influence. 

The findings, pulled from a recent Nielsen online survey, offer a peek inside the minds of today’s consumer. The survey looked at how various factors, ranging from the availability of organic foods to packaging and labelling, are influencing Canadians’ spending habits in supermarkets. Armed with this knowledge, you should be able to better fine-tune your store to match customers’ priorities.

Thanks to today’s belt-tightening economy, the price tags attached to food have the biggest effect on consumers’ purchases. But as any commuter filling their SUV at the pumps knows, the cost of food is only part of the price of shopping. Just getting to the store costs money. That’s why, for 30 per cent of Canadians, the cost of gas affects how much they spend at the grocery store. You can’t control what gas stations charge for fuel, of course, but you can lessen the headache for customers. Try integrating fuel benefits with your loyalty programs. Or provide meal deals and recipe ideas that encourage athome cooking, which saves money.

HEALTHY FOODS, HAPPY CUSTOMERS. Health and wellness, two big buzzwords, influence the purchase decisions of 29 per cent of Canadians. One-quarter say food labelling information is a key concern. The availability of organic food and of products with enhanced nutritional benefits is also important . What can you do to help? Champion a healthy agenda by talking to customers about their favourite health and wellness topics. You should also cater to special-needs diets by selling a variety of alternative food options, while offering healthy lifestyle recipes and guidance on meal planning.

IF YOU HAVE IT, THEY WILL COME. Among the various product availability issues measured by Nielsen, nothing irks Canadians more than when their favourite brand is discontinued. In addition to causing frustration (20 per cent of shoppers said delisting is a major concern) it can translate into lost business for retailers. If you are thinking about delisting a product, carefully consider the impact on sales and the relationship between the shopper and that brand. It’s critical to first understand how much demand for this product will simply shift to another, comparable brand, and how much business will disappear altogether.

Canadians surveyed also said, loud and clear, that they are significantly impacted by the availability of products in recyclable packaging (17 per cent), the accessibility of new retailer store brand options (14 per cent) and the ease-of-use of ready-made meals (12 per cent). To stay competitive and keep consumers smiling, you must stay attuned to customers’ needs and direct your product selection accordingly.

GET ON YOUR CUSTOMERS’ WAVELENGTH. Consumers care about technology. And so should you.The availability of self-service checkout counters impacts 14 per cent of Canadians. And while hand-held scanners for customers are not commonly available yet, nine per cent of consumers say it’s a major consideration as they set off for the grocery store.

To distinguish yourself from competitors, keep your store up-to-date with new and convenient technologies . You should look for ways to encourage shoppers to actively engage with new technologies by offering incentives to use them. Ultimately, this will improve the in-store experience: Shoppers will get the time-saving benefits and retailers will be rewarded with satisfied customers.

Today, you can’t rely on price alone to attract shoppers.The market is just too competitive. Instead, understand what matters most to grocery shoppers. Then tailor your rewards, products and services accordingly

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