Enterprise Marketing & Promotions Management

Locally-Grown Grocers Taking on the Competition

By / March 2018


With a regular cadence of retailers, category disruptors and even gadgets getting in on the grocery game, it’s time for local supermarkets, independent food retailers and specialty stores to take a stand. To illustrate, Kohl’s recently announced it will partner with Aldi  to co-locate within 10 of its stores, following Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods last year. In addition, smart homes and smart appliances, along with voice-activated devices like Amazon Alexa and Google Home are replenishing household necessities without the need for consumers to step foot in a grocery store.

Grocers’ Competitive Advantages

What can grocers do to remain competitive and top of mind for customers? Grocers have competitive advantages and must emphasize their unique position in the marketplace.

Neighborhood Store

Spotlight your unique value as the friendly neighborhood store. Grocers are steadfast supporters of the community. You cater to the seasonality and specialty items preferred by locals in the area, featuring regional favorites, locally-brewed craft beer and more.

Supermarkets are a key employer in the area, the supporter for community fundraisers, and sponsors for little leagues and local organizations.

When there’s a natural disaster, people turn to their neighborhood stores for supplies. And they know you’ll be there to help bring the community back to a sense of normalcy after storms, wild fires and other emergencies.

Convenient Shopping

As the nearby store, shopping is naturally more convenient at local supermarkets. With additional investments in mobile and online shopping, grocers can be truly competitive.

In addition to serving on the Aptaris board, I’m also Executive Chairman of the Board at Self Point. Self Point serves as a digital commerce partner for large food retailers and global supermarket chains, as well as specialty shops and neighborhood stores. E-commerce elevates the customer experience, ensuring an ongoing interaction with your shoppers. From creating shopping lists and recommending complementary products to remembering past purchases, e-commerce platforms provide tools and shortcuts for busy consumers.

Enhancing the Shopping Experience

By offering product samples, introducing new food and multicultural alternatives, as well as advice from the butcher and floral department, local grocers can be the epicenter of an educational and fun shopping experience. In fact, many supermarkets have become a place to meet for lunch, relax with a glass of wine after work, or take cooking classes.

Remember that grocers originated meal kits. Adding extra packaging and promotions can alert shoppers to your more affordable meal kit options for simple home cooking. Other traffic drivers include meals ready-to-heat and grab-and-go selections, too.

Another aspect of the shopping experience is the ability for people to touch, smell and see the products for themselves. Background music such as jazz, classical or contemporary to match local preferences will complete the ambiance and comfort-level for shoppers.

Stress-Free and Shared Shopping

Grocery shopping is a shared responsibility notes Retail Dive, with more millennials identifying as co-shopper households. Rather than focusing on moms as the primary grocery shoppers, supermarkets can cater to a broader spectrum of consumers.

In the same article, Retail Dive emphasized the desire for stress-free shopping. Food retailers are already accommodating a smoother path to purchase with improved signage, sensors to monitor foot traffic and increase customer support, self-checkout and price check kiosks.

Other in-store technology advancements include interactive shelves that deliver targeted digital coupons and personalized offers. And of course, grocers are developing apps to make shopping fast and easy for customers.

Another Self Point technology that supports stress-free shopping is the upgraded Scan and Go. The new product allows consumers to scan items as they shop, utilizing in-store way-finding and shopping lists, and then bypass checkout lines.

Despite the tremendous competition for grocery dollars, locally-grown grocers can take on the competition by promoting what makes you special.

Contributed by Mike Haaf, Member of the Board of Directors – Aptaris

Mike Haaf serves on the Board of Directors of Aptaris and is a retail executive best known for driving top and bottom line results. With more than 20 years of experience in marketing, business strategy and leadership roles, Mike has served in executive positions at Lucky Supermarkets, Food Lion, LLC, Office Depot, Inc., GE and more. As executive vice president and general manager at Lucky Supermarkets, a Save Mart Company, Mike led the turnaround of the business, growing the topline and delivering profitability for the first time in 15 years. During Mike’s tenure as senior vice president of sales, marketing and business strategy at Food Lion, LLC, he led the turnaround and then growth of the business by fundamentally reorganizing around the customer, contributing to the more than six times growth in the market cap of the company. Mike has an MBA from Columbia Business School and serves as an advisor, as well as a member of the Board of Directors of several technology startups.


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