In a matter of months, the restaurant and grocery landscape has completely transformed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether your favorite restaurant closed indefinitely, shelves are bare at your local grocery store, or the only salad bar you can find these days is filled with beer, we’re all living in this strange new reality.
This week, Brandon Wishnow, our EVP of Measurement, and Jo Hamburge, our VP of Strategy Consulting, joined Frank Paci, the CEO of Corner Bakery, and Darius Abbassi, the Growth MarTech Lead at Albertsons to discuss the future of the food and beverage industry and the race for digital relevance.
Here are our four main takeaways from the conversation:
Consumers are changing how they shop, what they buy and what they care about.
Consumers are making fewer, bigger trips with a heightened sensitivity for store safety. Their assortment and size preferences are changing as they have to consider what a 14- or 30-day food supply looks like for their household. The importance of private label is increasing in-line with unemployment. Darius commented on the now solution-focused approach that grocers must take in order to meet changing consumer expectations. Consumers don’t want to hear about what’s on sale, they want to know what you have in inventory, what your store hours are, and what options are available for contactless fulfillment.
Restaurants and grocers need to determine digital investments for the future.
With changing consumer preferences, grocers and restaurants need to adjust their digital strategies accordingly. Frank noted that had Corner Bakery been able to predict the coronavirus pandemic, they would have accelerated the online ordering capabilities on their site. Home grown capabilities provide attractive opportunities to capture customer and reduce costs as opposed to 3rd party delivery providers such as DoorDash, UberEats, and Instacart. Both grocers and restaurants will need to make thoughtful decisions about what digital investments will be most advantageous to them and their customers in the short and long term.
Develop a customer strategy to retain newly acquired customers.
Restaurants and grocers who have remained open during the pandemic have acquired a higher volume of new customers, many of whom don’t fit their typical customer profile. Think through your data collection and nurture strategies to ensure you have a plan for moving these new customers into high value long-term customers. Align with your team on who these customers are, what they’re buying, how to most effectively reach them, measure success and continuously refine your strategy. (Read Ed. 5 of the Marketer’s Guide to Navigating COVID-19 for more info.)
Leverage customer data to provide a better service and add value to your shoppers’ experience.
Use the internal and external consumer data at your fingertips to create a more relevant experience for your customers. Whether that is a personalized newsletter or a dedicated check-out line for loyalty members, reward your best customers and give them something of value. In a time where we can’t be as confident in historical trends as indicators of the future, it’s critical to be extra focused on capturing data about what’s happening now and using a combination of measurement tools to inform your decisions.
No one can accurately predict what long-term effects COVID will have on people’s spending habits. However, this webinar underscored the importance of monitoring consumer trends against key business metrics to understand if and when consumers are returning to their normal routine or if some of these new behaviors are here to stay.