By Dom Coleman, Senior Director, Strategy, T-Mobile
No one knows better than you how grocery shopping changed over the last year. How long this change will last and how quickly things will revert, if ever, is anyone’s guess, and grocers need to be prepared to evolve to capture consumers in an increasingly competitive environment.
Last year, at the 2020 NGA Show, Neil Stern delivered a keynote advocating for grocers to be extreme in how they approached market change to address omnichannel competition and a consumer drive toward convenience. That was before the pandemic brought market change to an entirely different level. For grocers, the pandemic accelerated omnichannel adoption and improved the sector’s health.
But, for many retail organizations, the pandemic created a very difficult environment. For example, the pandemic exacerbated trouble in an already embattled shopping mall industry. Exiting the pandemic, there will be industries that can tell success stories and ones who will provide cautionary tales – just like before and during the pandemic. How can grocers ensure they’re among the winners?
The good news for most retailers is that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. With multiple vaccines on the market and more availability of them, people are eager to re-enter the world, retaining their newly adopted good habits and discarding any bad habits they picked up along the way. Covid “reinvented the way America eats,” and for grocers, there is an opportunity to keep consumers shopping the shelves instead of relying more on menus.
How is this related to Stern’s keynote? In it, Stern recommended grocers take three things to the extreme: value, convenience and experience. Here, I’ll focus on the latter two. When Stern is talking about convenience, he’s talking about making stores easier to shop. He’s talking about making it easier to find products and making it easier to pay for them, and grocers are already finding ways to deliver on that.
In addition, grocers around the country offer other convenient products and services. Many of you probably have a bank branch in the store or a café. Those are conveniences you offer to your community.
Pre-pandemic, grocery experiences relied on tools like sampling to enhance experience. Other tools are designed to increase the amount of time people spend in a store. If consumers are lingering, they’re buying. Aside from food, what other items or services might engage consumers to repeatedly stay longer in a store?
Before I answer that question, there is one more pandemic trend unrelated to grocery I’d like to discuss: an exodus from city living as office-based professionals became remote workers in small towns. They are used to the convenience of shops, restaurants and services on every street corner. Can hometown grocers provide additional conveniences to better serve their residents, both new and existing?
At T-Mobile, we think the answer is yes. Grocers are the retail backbone of small towns and rural communities, and that’s why we’ve created T-Mobile Authorized Retail. It’s designed to create convenience for your community, increase the number of visits people make to your store and increase the amount of time your neighbors spend in your store. We’ll give you everything you need to sell wireless services. All we need is your local expertise. You already deliver an essential service – why not add another?