For independent grocers and the wholesalers that serve them
This morning I decided to settle in and review a number of reports that detail consumer attitudes toward the deli departments of a number of chains. I can hear you thinking: what a life of excitement he must lead! But really, I am naturally a very curious person and I was convinced that if I spent some time with this data, I'd come up with some unique insights. After spending the time with the data, I don't know that I found any gold nuggests, but I think you may find the information interesting.
I reviewed the responses to consumers on 19 questions that were designed to gain insight into their attitudes toward the supermarket retailer where they shopped deli most often. I was looking at a set of top retailers vs the average of the total market with an sample size of over 50,000. Here's a few nuggets:
Overall, consumers are track graders, meaning that if they rate your store as average in the market, they will tend to rate your store average on the great majority of the attributes, similarly with above average or below average scores. Why should you care? To me it suggests that simply changing up your deli operations on a limited number of attributes is unlikely to move total customer satisfaction.
Hold on, Eric, you say (you're quite talkative today), if shoppers track grade, if I just change the right attribute, they'll change my rankings on all the rest, right? It's a dandy theory, but I don't see how the evidence bears that out. The lever most retailers will reach for when they are trying to gain deli share is price and/or promotion. In other blogs I've made it pretty clear where I stand on relying too heavily on price. In this set of data, the lowest correlation I found from one attribute to the total was on "affordable price" and "has items on sales."
One of the other things I looked at was the range between the score of the top retailer and that of the bottom retailer. A high range would indicate that the consumer observes significant differences from retailer to retailer on these attributes. The highest attribute was "provides samples." OK, we all like free things. But the next two were "friendliness of the staff" and "knowledge of the staff." So it appears that a point of difference on the quality of your staff is likely to be noticed by your shoppers. Here is what surprised me, though: there was not a correlation between knwledgeable staff and friendly staff, so shoppers notice the difference and grade accordingly. So your training program needs to cover both food knowledge and customer service in equal measure if you want to establish an important point of difference in the marketplace.
The attributes with the smallest range tend to indicate attributes where the shopper notices less of a difference in the marketplace--these would be areas in which it would be relatively harder to make a point of difference for your operation. What's on this list? You guessed it: "affordable prices" and "items on sale."
It would be so nice if there were on lever we could all pull on to make our delis better and faster and more profitable--but it just ain't so. There's a great scene in one of my favorite movies, A League of Their Own. Tom Hanks tells a player, "Of course it's hard, it's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard everyone would do it. It's the hard that makes it great."
Even though it's hard: good selling.