Tag Archive 'supermarket marketing'

In post one and post two of this three-part series, I talked about ways that smaller chains of supermarkets can compete effectively with the large chains, mass merchandisers and club stores that dominate the supermarket channel. And I began to describe some of the marketing and brand related aspects of store operations that smaller operators can use to build customer loyalty and increase bottom line profits.

In this final post, I’ll review three more ways you can get the jump on your competition and draw some useful conclusions for your consideration.

Web Site
Like it or not, the Internet has changed the world. A well-designed Web site that engages, informs and assists your customers is no longer an option. Properly conceived, it can become the hub of your store’s brand communications. While that’s a long term consideration, it can also support your ongoing sale and promotion efforts.

Nino Salvaggio International Marketplace home page

www.ninosalvaggio.com (designed by Goldforest) is a comprehensive Web site offering interactivity and an opportunity to build an online community.

Too many small markets have outdated and largely irrelevant Web strategies. But the truth is that huge numbers of consumers have learned to use the Web to improve their efficiency, shop more intelligently, communicate with their retailers, communicate about their retailers, and deepen their ties to trusted brands like yours. And because the Internet enables engagement within communities, it’s especially suited to the branding needs of local businesses.

But don’t kid yourself. Building a Website with customer relevance takes strong internal will and commitment. Planning and execution are both involved phases. You’ll need a Web development partner who’s demonstrated ability in both areas and you’ll need to follow their lead to get good results. One retailer we’ve worked with scaled back other advertising and marketing efforts for a year to free up the resources to pay for the effort. Remember, a Web site is a long term investment that will pay dividends and leverage the value of your other marketing dollars as time goes on. So if you’re going to do it, do it right!

E-mail Marketing
Once your Web site is up and running, you can leverage your online presence with an ongoing e-mail program targeting your regular customers. It’s the 21st century equivalent of the store circular, only far less expensive and with greater functionality.

Each e-mail can publicize your special offers. But it can also provide links to different pages of your Web site: special recipes, blog posts (if you’re blogging), upcoming events, community happenings, and more!

E-mail Marketing ties into Web page design

This e-mail template for Nino Salvaggio (designed by Goldforest) dovetails with the Web site shown above, offering a seamless online brand experience to the customer.

There are many good ways to build a list of e-mail addresses. And there are companies that specialize in managing e-mail distribution. But the truth is that there are also very inexpensive online programs you can administer yourself once you’ve designed your e-blast template. Constant Contact and Emma are just a couple that come to mind. (This e-mail reached you by virtue of Constant Contact software.)

Trend Watching
Today health, simplicity, eco-consciousness and time constraints are very significant factors in consumer behavior. Have you done anything lately to show you’re in sync with their concerns?  Could you add or develop an in store expert on wellness? What have you done to improve the checkout experience? Have you taken simple steps to make your business more green?

One way to start is to develop conversations with customers. Ask them what’s important to them and how you can make your store more valuable to them. Reward them for making suggestions. Reward employees for engaging customers and soliciting feedback. Any time you implement something that addresses a concern or issue shared by a significant portion of your customers, publicize it in your advertising and in-store communications. You’ll strengthen your customers’ trust and deepen the bonds your store’s brand enjoys.

Why Wait?

The only thing certain is change. Sometimes it’s forced upon us. Sometimes we can act purposefully. The economy is currently in flux. Fortunately, it hasn’t been as bad a ride for most supermarket operators as for other businesses. But your competition isn’t sleeping. Fundamental changes in store strategy are taking place at all levels. If the ideas discussed here makes sense, maybe they’re worth your consideration. The market that plans ahead with a good understanding of its alternatives has a great opportunity to solidify and grow its market position. A brand communications expert who’s worked with businesses like yours can help you explore the options.

What do you think of the ideas I’ve proposed? Feel free to use the comment box below to state your view or start a conversation!

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In the initial post of this three-part series, I wrote that smaller chains of supermarkets have inherent advantages in their competition with large chains, mass merchandisers and club stores that dominate the supermarket channel. And I began to describe some of the marketing and brand related aspects of store operations that smaller operators can use to build customer loyalty and increase bottom line profits. In this second post, I’ll continue with several more.

Private Label
The typical large supermarket chain does about 20% of its unit sales in private label product. Consumers are far more accepting of private labels as alternatives to national brands than they were even 10 years ago. If you’re not offering them this option, you are missing out on a tremendous opportunity not only to provide a significant lift in gross margin, but also to make your stores into destinations for unique products.

Haggen Market Private Label Product Assortment
Haggen operates a chain of 16 stores in Washington State, and maintains a handful of private labels. Shown here is a nice assortment of products under their store banner brand. (photo courtesy www.haggen.com)

There exists a large and well-developed infrastructure of contract manufacturers and packagers that can help you create pieces of your private label line. If you don’t already have a private label program, you may be surprised at the reasonable volumes needed to build an effective program.

Gone are the days when private label uniformly meant knocking off strong national brands with broad assortments of look-alike product packages. The trick is to develop a brand that sends the right message about your store and addresses your particular clientele’s sweet spots. A package design firm with a strong knowledge of private label strategy can help you navigate this course. Beware the trap of letting your suppliers design labels for you. If you do, you’ll probably end up with a hodgepodge, not a brand. Successful private label strategies require consistency in execution and strong central oversight.

It’s true that larger banners carry multiple private label brands at different price/quality points. Some of them even address niches like organic or environmentally friendly. But you don’t need to be that sophisticated to gain from a private label program. Smartly rendered, even a narrow assortment of private label products can help you compete more effectively in this rough and tumble market.

Many small chains started out serving ethnic communities. If this describes your store, you probably still possess a strategic focus that comes from your roots, even if your market has grown and evolved over the years. And because you do not serve a mass market, you can afford to carry specialty products that your larger competitors cannot “waste” shelf space on. Cultivating a specialty assortment and communicating effectively about it are tactics that larger stores simply cannot adopt. If you’re not taking advantage of this advantage, you’re missing out.

Pro Ranch Kitchen - Ethnic Positoning
No matter how diverse your customer base has grown, acknowledging the ethnic roots of your marketplace is a great way to differentiate from larger competitors. (photo courtesy www.prosranch.com)

You should regularly promote this assortment, and call special attention to it at appropriate seasonal, religious or patriotic opportunities. Always feature some of these items in your circulars, perhaps in a section especially designed for this purpose. If you’re using e-mail marketing (and if not, you certainly should be looking into it  – more on this in part 3 of this post), be sure to do the same thing there.

Are you taking suggestions from customers on ways to expand this assortment? Are you making a big deal of additions to it? The profitable answer is “yes.”

Limited Offer Products and Promotions
Another advantage you have is flexibility in your planograms. That means a couple of things.

First, your regular assortment can more readily reflect the shopping preferences of your neighborhoods.

Second, you can work out advantageous deals on smaller deliveries from local or seasonal vendors that larger stores have a hard time dealing with. Shoppers love a find. Why shouldn’t your market become a place where pleasant surprises are the norm? Come up with a name for these programs and post shelf hangars or special signage to call attention to them throughout the store.

In the final post of this three-part series, I’ll talk about three additional ways you can achieve a marketing advantage for your supermarket chain, and I’ll draw some useful conclusions for your consideration.

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