Shopping is a very personal and sometimes emotional experience. For some, food corresponds directly to their beliefs; for others, it’s a strong connection to their culture and upbringing. And because food purchasing decisions align directly with consumer needs and preferences, food retailers have a unique opportunity to differentiate themselves through the physical experience they offer.
That’s why Interstore | Schweitzer, who believes brick and mortar is the backbone of the omnichannel customer experience, analyzed grocery stores around the world and compiled a list of 50 stores they think any serious retailer (and food lover) should visit.
These stores represent “companies that understand how people shop in-store and online,” said Martin Campbell, North America Creative Director, Interstore | Schweitzer, in an interview with Retail Touch Points. “They understand how to make this store play a unique role in the omnichannel experience – something people can’t get online that forces people to engage with brands. Retailers who have done this well are clearly on this list.
Food retailers were assessed and scored based on five key criteria:
1. Expertise and know-how
“We think it’s increasingly important for grocery stores to demonstrate they have that expertise against the competition,” Campbell said.. The leading stores in this field have created a platform to show and tell why their brand is above all others.
For instance, The Great Grocery in France has been touted as the “crème de la crème” of the French gourmet retail experience. Expert pastry chefs and bakers do their jobs in a train station, visible through a window to passers-by. They are the stars of the show and, in turn, of the customer experience. When people venture into the store, they know they will get exceptional products.
2. Space and atmosphere
The most exciting thing about store design is that while there may be general trends and best practices, there is no single model for success. Campbell noted that while the 50 grocery stores on the list varied widely, they all centered on one core value they wanted to offer visitors. “We’re seeing a divergence of stores that are really pushing on efficiency and convenience, while others are trying to help customers slow down, get them to experience the store, and spend more time there,” he said. he declares. “Meanwhile, some stores have done both things extremely well. We thought these checkouts were great because they added so much convenience and efficiency, while inviting the customer to spend the time they saved shopping. sit and eat in the store.”
All brands and retailers need to think critically about what they want consumers to accomplish in their stores. Then they can figure out how to create convenience in a friendly, immersive atmosphere that can also delight customers. For example, the david jones concept at Bondi Junction in Sydney, Australia is an immersive Food Hall that Interstore | Schweitzer cited for its incredible vibe. A communal restaurant and champagne and oyster bar add a touch of luxury and immersion to the experience. If visitors aren’t in the mood to sit down and dine, they can also quickly venture into the space and buy the groceries they need.
3. Exemplary presentation of the product
When shopping for food, sight is just as (if not more) important than smell, and several places on the Interstore | Schweitzer’s list gave new meaning to the phrase “a feast for the eyes.” For instance, Dairy in London offers an “exquisite curation” of fresh groceries, household items and, of course, cheese. The store is designed as a series of interconnected rooms that immerse consumers in the journey and story that La Fromagerie wants to tell. Visitors can book a private group dinner or participate in a wine and cheese tasting hosted by the senior cheesemaker.
But immersive merchandising and product curation aren’t just for specialty food stores. Even a cash-and-carry concept from the German retailer Selgros completely reinvents the product discovery experience. A site in Poland is inspired by gastronomy specialists by adopting the “food theater” and the great architecture of visual merchandising. However, these elements do not take away from or complicate the efficiency goals of consumers.
“The strongest visual merchandising is really when the consumer thinks first of the product and then of the fixture,” Campbell explained. “You develop the solution that really helps showcase your product. It’s a simple principle, but a lot of retailers don’t do it very well.
Grégoire Kaufman, retail consultant at Interstore | Schwitzer added that these products should be the beginning of the story retailers are trying to tell in order to draw consumers from room to room or aisle to aisle. It’s a completely different and immersive vibe, created by a combination of layout, infrastructure and how consumers are exposed to the products. “The most attractive retailers show that they are not just an outlet,” he said. “Like museums, they are the curators of experience.”
4. Exciting ready-to-eat
Creating a space where people can touch, smell and taste the product is a big part of achieving “culinary theatre”. It’s no surprise, then, that many of the retailers on the list have invested heavily in foodservice.
“Many retailers are creating more sophisticated foodservice,” Campbell said. “The United States has come a long way in this area and other markets are catching up. Retailers act as food providers, not just food sellers. They provide meals to give consumers all that food history. »
To add more detail and transparency to this story, some retailers are using design to connect production to retail. They open up kitchens, provide visibility into preparation areas and create a stronger bond between the consumer and the employees who prepare meat, fish, cheese and other products. “I think a lot of the stores that we’ve seen do it really well to create a bit of drama,” Campbell noted, “and it just creates that connection with the human staff and their expertise in a different way.”
For instance, Erewhon is a Los Angeles-based organic grocer and cafe that offers an “open kitchen.” Whether shopping or sitting down to eat, all visitors have a direct view of the prepared meals as they are prepared by highly professional staff.
5. Omnichannel and digital innovation
While technology has been at the center of many conversations about the future of the in-store experience, Campbell noted that food and grocery retailers are still in the exploratory phase. “Some retailers are digital-first businesses and are well ahead of others in their digital competency,” he said. “Everyone else is really playing catch-up.”
Interstore | Schweitzer also found that digital was used in of them main means: to attack checkout challenges and provide dynamic content that drives consumer engagement and empowerment. Two stores on the final list seem to have mastered both of these areas and taken the digital-physical synergy to the next level: Exit WOW in Laureles, Colombia and cool hippopotamus in Shanghai, China.
The Laureles location is Grupo Exito’s second WOW store in Colombia and is a “hypermarket” designed to mix digital and physical touchpoints. The store has a robot, Otti, which assists consumers based on voice commands. Smart carts allow shoppers to visualize recipes as they venture into the store. A dedicated click-and-collect corner supports seamless management of pickup and home delivery. All of these components work together to serve the customer experience. For its part, Alibaba’s Fresh Hippo is consistently celebrated as one of the world’s most innovative supermarket concepts thanks to its creative combination of technology, in-store dining and fresh food offerings.