For most of us, the supermarket is a natural part of everyday life. Sure, there is a minority who buy through modern alternatives like subscriptions services, or click and collect, or shop online with home delivery; but most of us still make regular trips to the supermarket for our shopping.
Our relationship with our supermarket is like other long-term relationships in life. We like things to be steady and reliable on one hand, but sometimes we want things to be a bit different and exciting. The contrast is important. Being too predictable breeds boredom. Too much change and variety creates confusion and anxiety that is hard to trust.
Most people tend to use a very narrow range of the same few supermarkets. We value what is close and convenient to where we live, or on a common route we take. The sense of permanence – that the local supermarket is there and open – is psychologically comforting. It is interesting to see what happens when this permanence is placed in jeopardy even for a day around public holidays. People stock up in advance with enormous trolleys full of essentials as if a nuclear winter is about to set in.
We also value what is familiar and easy to shop. There is nothing worse than getting lost navigating the unfamiliar aisles of a foreign supermarket. It takes a lot longer to shop, not being able to find what you want creates stress, and there is an irritation if your favourites are not available and you are forced into substitution.
There is a benefit in knowing where everything is amongst the thousands of items on shelf. That familiarity also helps us spot the contrast of ‘new’. When we know the usual lie of the land we are better prepared to see new products, or promotions, or innovations that can spice up our shopping trip, or give us something new to take home.
So then, supermarket shoppers are creatures of habit that enjoy a splash of new.
By nature, ‘New’ can take different forms. In New Zealand, we have seen Little Shops, Little Gardens, virtual Easter egg hunts, and giveaway plastic containers. On most trips, there is something tasty and new to sample. There are always new prices, to the point that we have been trained to see promotional prices as the norm in many categories. There are also usually bold new product displays, and bunting that announces that Christmas is on its way.
Looking overseas, here are 10 examples of new innovations that supermarkets have introduced:
They deliver personalized messages and customized loyalty scheme offers delivered to shopper’s mobile phones via beacons while in store. This resulted in a 7% sales lift in the test stores.
Created their own brand yoghurt multipack with each container having decreasing amounts of sugar to help shoppers wean themselves off high sugar yoghurt. A 44% sales increase for product users was reported.
Created an augmented reality Monoprix Smiles app to enhance the in-store experience of millennial shoppers. It brings up surprise icons on screen and rewards shoppers with spot prizes.
Bou Khalil (Lebanon)
Created an alternative ‘Good Notes’ currency that shoppers can buy as a way of donating to support Syrian refugee charities. This generated 25 million Lebanese pounds in Good Notes.
Have launched an in-store farm concept. They grow herbs and produce using a hydroponic system.
Nation’s Experience (Canada)
An all-in-one grocery store, dining destination and virtual reality entertainment centre.
Amazon Fresh Pickup (USA)
Have created a drive-thru grocery store for online orders. They’ll be ready within 15 minutes from when the order is placed.
Whole Foods (USA)
Have introduced DIY fresh juices prepared by the shopper in-store. It uses a selection of pre-prepared fruit and vegetable packs to choose from.
Whole Foods (USA)
Their Bryant Park store has introduced a ‘produce butcher’ who does all the chopping, slicing, dicing and mincing of vegetables and proteins for the shopper in-store.
They have brought story-telling into the store in the form of interactive kiosks and posters in which experts provide information about quality guides, provenance, food preparation and other information to shoppers.
So when you next visit your local supermarket, consider what are they providing for you. Is it same, same with, or without the different?