When interviewed for my book So You Want To Be Customer-Centric, Georges-Edouard Dias of L'Oréal pointed out the opportunity to truly improve the customer experience in many traditional supermarkets. In his view: “Many stores today aren't really user-friendly. You need to drive there and park far away from the entrance. When you get inside, it's hard to find the information you're looking for. There are too many products to get a clear picture, and the staff aren't always much help either. Not to mention that even if you know exactly which product you want to buy, it may not be in stock.”
Having just restocked our fridge at the local hypermarket, I can only agree that grocery shopping can seem like a stressful, inefficient and occasionally depressing endeavour.
While it was tempting to write a post on "fixing the supermarket experience", I decided to take a positive view and instead look for supermarkets which are making the experience of grocery shopping painless, or even enjoyable. As much of the industry is still stuck in its orthodoxies, the examples weren't always easy to find. But the seven below definitely stood out enough to make my 11 year old son conclude: "if these people can do this, why can't supermarkets do it everywhere". I think he's got a point, so if you're working in the supermarket trade, you may want to visit a few of the stores below for inspiration.
MPREIS in Tirol (Austria)
If you thought supermarkets were square boxes which lacked any form of architectural imagination, MPreis in Austria is clearly intent on proving you wrong. Launched 90 years ago, this Tirolian supermarket chain is known for making sure their supermarkets are architectural beauties beyond compare in their industry.
EATALY in New York
Part deli, part experience, part restaurant and with a massive beer garden on the roof, Eataly is somewhat hard to define. But what is pretty clear is that this high end Italian megastore is pretty on the ball when it comes to creating a food shopping experience to remember. Not to mention the art of securing the margin that goes with it. The video below says it all.
H-E-B in San Antonio, Texas
In early 2010, this Texas supermarket decided to group all male skincare in a Men's Zone. This was driven by the insight that most guys, especially in Texas, don't really feel at ease looking for their products alongside female hygiene and hair removal products. The results were phenomenal with a year-on-year sales increase of 11% on a range of 534 personal care items.
We have all seen the "shop online and pick up in store" programmes which most advanced supermarkets have implemented. But France's Auchan has taken matters a step further by designing a Chronodrive service station where you can collect your groceries in 5 minutes or less. The current format upgrade, Chronovillage even helps you secure a freshly baked baguette, a good bottle of wine or a rose to remind your spouse how much you love her (hey, it's France). These extras are provided by complementary specialty stores which surround the pick-up zone. Apparently the format is hitting it off, as Auchan has announced a quite aggressive roll-out plan.
Kaiser's Berlin, Germany
The Futurelab blog already covered the store in 2009, but Kaiser's in Berlin is still the most senior friendly supermarket that I've ever seen. From magnifying glasses to read prices to modified trolleys, every aspect of this food retailer has been adapted to the needs of those who aren't as young as the product managers that typically market to them. As the world's population keeps aging, this is one retailer everyone needs to watch.
Tesco Homeplus, Korea
Sure, I know it's shown up in every retail presentation of 2011, but Tesco out-innovated everyone with its subway station smartphone stores. If you would have missed it, or would like to indulge once more, do check out the video.
The People's Supermarket in London, UK
Last one in the row is a supermarket that doesn't use special furniture, architecture or technology to create a unique experience, but manages to do so nonetheless. Owned by it's customers, who are also regularly asked to lend a hand in the restocking the aisles or servicing customers, The People's Supermarket focuses on local, authentic products at fair prices.
Did I miss anyone who's equally remarkable?
This was my little list of remarkable supermarkets. Do you know of a chain that should also be on the list, then please use the comment section below to add to this post. I'm always happy to learn about new customer experience innovators.