Why the Grocery Store Customer Experience Must Evolve

Though there is a rightful sense of worry in the consumer public during the COVID-19 pandemic, there are real business opportunities as well. Despite new concerns like a limited stock of some essential items, staff safety, and maintaining safe social distancing, the grocery industry has seen their importance to the overall economy reaffirmed more than ever before. No matter the economic situation, people need to eat and clean their homes. With the stress on other areas of the economy and on people, in general, there are many opportunities for grocery businesses to have a positive impact.


Safe grocery customer experienceCustomer experience has long been the competitive battleground for businesses. In a time when every negative experience can quickly compound, getting CX right is crucial in every business, but especially the grocery industry. Many grocers have already taken important steps by keeping market prices stable, working with producers to keep critical supply chains open, and taking precautionary measures to protect their staff. These are critical parts of the customer journey, but there are other ways that grocery brands can help keep people safe and become valuable partners for people during the crisis. Below are two ways that you can craft a better grocery customer experience. 

The Last Bastion of Normalcy

While we often talk about the importance of the digital, orchestrated journey, the in-person brand experience is also a crucial part of the customer journey. For many consumers, social routines have completely fallen apart. They may be working from home or lost their jobs entirely. Visiting the grocery store to stock up may be one of their only chances to see other people and to do something for themselves that makes them feel good. In this time of crisis, every emotion can be amplified for better or worse.  This can mean positive emotions as well. A customer might find a BOGO offer on a favorite fruit juice that rarely goes on sale. They might then start looking out for similar deals: a welcome distraction from the bareness in other parts of the store. Replicating this type of positive experience for customers can have lasting impacts on their perception of any brand. 

Finding BOGO deals can be a true positive experience

Though coupons and special offers can have a big impact, they are far from the most important. In-person experiences with staff are also more important than ever. Staff members must be properly cared for so that they can provide an excellent experience to the consumers they interact with every day. Having staff wearing masks and using gloves will help set customers at ease, but encouraging them to talk to people – who may be feeling more alone than normal – can help break the monotony and darkness people are experiencing. This is all part of the customer journey. But how can you take these positive experiences and make them more intelligent or move them to digital channels? 

The Digital Grocery Store Customer Experience

Social distancing guidelines are pushing people to visit the grocery store less often and economic concerns are pushing them to simultaneously shop more than they eat out and to focus on buying cheap staples. While this has a net positive impact on revenue overall, it may mean that some items are cycling through stores at different rates. By adding intelligent decisioning to the customer journey, grocery stores can genuinely help people experience new foods that they might not make normally. One way to do this is through smart email personalization for the grocery store experience. 

Intelligent emails can drive better grocery experiencesCustomers often have buying and spending habits that are shifting during this crisis. They simultaneously are more worried about costs and more in need of treats, snacks, and anything to distract them from the reality outside. With the ever-connected nature of the market today, email marketing can be more impactful than ever. Consider using intelligent decisioning to send customers a pre-made grocery list of items they frequently buy, plus one or two treat items based on their frequent purchases.  For example, if a customer usually buys pasta, sauce, a variety of vegetables, and occasionally chocolate ice cream, send them a sample grocery list with their usuals, including the ice cream and a bottle of wine with accompanying coupon. Offer to have the items ready at the front of the store at a specific time – all they have to do is pay in advance. With intelligent decisioning, like that made possible by Kitewheel, systems can do this automatically while also spacing out these messages so that stores and associates are not overwhelmed with a rush of orders all at the same time. 

We’re All In This Together

download: customer journey maturity modelCOVID-19 has reshaped the landscape of commerce around the world, from the grocery store customer experience to the stock market, the price of oil, and the increased need for mental health services. Here at Kitewheel, we encourage you to take care of yourself. Whether you work for a grocery brand or for a travel business, times are hard. But hard times are the exact right time to invest in better customer experience. If you have not yet begun a digital transformation project, the time has certainly arrived. To do this with a journey focus, we highly recommend you read the Customer Journey Maturity Model. The document is full of insight and guidance on how to take your business from just starting with journeys through to journey optimization.