Supermarket showdown: how to get ahead in the race

We’re living in exciting (retail) times. The FMCG sector has been undergoing a decade of upheaval: first the recession, shaking up both the contents and the costs of our weekly basket, then the arrival of a range of continental upstarts such as Aldi and Lidl which have now become firmly embedded in the FMCG scene. With all these options at people’s disposal, how can supermarket marketers best target consumers to encourage them to shop in their supermarkets over competitor shops?

Loyalty is overrated

While it’s been great to see such growth in the FMCG sector, the takeaways are not as simple as previously thought. The improved technology (GPS) and its wide adoption (smartphone uptake) shows that the phenomenon of so-called “shopper promiscuity” is not simply a case of consumers moving wholesale to wherever’s cheapest. What really matters isn’t just price, or so-called ‘loyalty’ – but convenience. While discounts and loyalty schemes do encourage consumers to shop in specific supermarkets, their overall role in the wider concept of ‘convenience’ is not that great. You can imagine that consumers would much rather go to a store that is nearer or offers them tangible benefits than rack up a few extra loyalty card points. The real crux of ‘convenience’ – and the key to getting ahead – lies elsewhere.

Knowledge is power

In the realm of convenience, location is key. This is where the technology comes in: alongside the supermarket showdown which has taken place over the course of the past decade, tech too, has come forward in leaps and bounds. The majority of the population is now carry a tracking device at all times, in the form of smartphones. This kind of location data is fundamental in determining where people are most likely to make their purchases. It's also fundamental in determining your competitive set. Whilst national shopper crossover is interesting, local shopper crossover is where you see the real implications in the battle for supermarket supremacy.

When it comes to data however, the more sources you can get, the better. Just because someone’s in your shop doesn’t mean they’re necessarily your shopper. Location data really comes into its own when layered with a range of other data types – for instance first, second and third-party data should all be studied. This kind of data is essential to overcoming the limitations of individual data sources and creating a clear-as-possible picture of your target audience. Once you know your audience, you can go about making yourself convenient to them – or to new customers.

Make yourself convenient

Convenience isn’t just about being close to home. Footfall data shows what a consumer’s purchase journey looks like: where their preferences are, how far they are willing to travel, how long they spend in supermarkets and much more. This is a wealth of data which allows you to adapt your marketing strategy in the way that best suits your target customer. For example, if your shopper spends a lot of time at the gym and at health-food shops, you can imagine they’re more likely to want a protein shake than the triple-choc fudge brownies – so guide them to it. If they don’t like to browse, don’t serve them a time-consuming ad – give them a coupon. If they don’t like to travel out of their way, then don’t send them to an out-of-town hypermarket – direct them to a smaller branch en route. And above all, if now isn’t a good time – perhaps they’re flitting through apps on a mobile – you can get in touch later when they’re relaxing on the sofa with a tablet or browsing at a desktop. However, footfall data can also show the likelihood of a consumer being a loyal shopper, over a promiscuous one. For instance, if a consumer visits your store, it may not necessarily mean that your brand has exclusive ownership of that consumer.

Shopper promiscuity or brand loyalty will vary by vertical; and supermarket shoppers are probably the worst offenders. Supermarkets with the greatest store-count are unsurprisingly the big winners as they are less susceptible to high negative footfall. For instance, Tesco Express, with its massive store count and high footfall locations excels, as does Co-op. This is not the case with stores like Iceland or Morrisons which have lower store counts, meaning consumers may be more likely to go to competitor supermarkets if they are closer by. Convenience can help explain high levels of store visits in comparison to other supermarkets, and this is something retail marketers should be taking into account. Shoppers aren’t only concerned with loyalty to a brand or discount codes, they also want what’s readily and easily available.

Ultimately, when delivering ads to drive consumers to supermarkets, it’s important you establish a relationship and put the work in to maintain it. That means keeping up with your customer to see what changes, and what stays the same, so that you can always stay convenient.

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