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Notes on keynote on food retailer / food and beverages industry / superstores / retail food and beverages / drinks industry / future of convenience stores and specialist retail outlets –  Keynote at SUPERMARKT DES JAHRES 2015, organized by Burda Life and LPV Media GmbH  Huge Ultra-HD wide screen was used at the retail event which is why the format of these slides is unusual.

How to create magic for your customers

The future is about emotion: understand how your customer feels and you will unlock many secrets of future success.

Seven key words will drive the future of food retail and the groceries industry:


It is almost impossible to deliver on all seven and still make a profit.  Food retailers need to decide how they are going to make their own customer magic.  For example, they could go for price, or for quality, or for a combination such as speed, price, experience (corner store), or quality, inspiration, choice (upmarket superstore).  

But it is impossible to succeed without trust.  Trust is the most important thing that any food retailer has to sell which is why reputation is the company’s most important asset.

Need a world-class retail keynote speaker for your event? Phone or e-mail Patrick Dixon now.

Agile Strategy and the 5 Second Test

The world is changing faster than you can develop a new product line or hold a board meeting.  So innovate, experiment, have more than one strategy.  

5 second test: Every audience I speak to tells me that they press the back button on their web browser if a page takes more than a few seconds to load.  Over 90% of executives say they press than button after waiting less than 5 seconds.  In today’s world, 5 seconds can feel like a million years.  What about tomorrow?  A younger generation is already pressing that back button in 3 seconds, as older people will also do by 2020.

This growing impatience has massive implications for how large food and grocery stores are organized, for the entire shopping process. Here is another example:  most audiences tell me that they think call centers are stealing their time when they are asked to press buttons on their phones.  Every second matters.

That is why we can expect convenience stores to grow.  70% of all food retail sales in smaller stores are from customers who live or work less than 800 meters away – because life is too short to walk another 100 meters.

It’s the reason why most people hate self-service checkout.  It takes a few seconds longer, they think, than if a trained human being was doing the same thing.  The only reason they are willing to use self-service is because the wait is too long for a traditional checkout in a supermarket

And it means superstores need to think about faster routes through the store for people looking for not much more than a few basic food items and a rapid checkout. Grocery stores need to stop confusing customers by muddling up where things are.

Demographics really matters to the future of food retail

Show me the demographics of any town or city and I will tell you the future of food retail.

A billion children are alive in the world today, all of whom will be adults in the next 18 years.  1 billion people will move from rural areas to towns and cities, often in other nations, in the next 30 years.  A billion people will be over the age of 60 in 10 years.

At the same time, in Germany and many other EU nations you need 8 great grandparents to product a single great grandchild, because the average couple is producing only around 1.3 children.  Population will either decline or will be offset by more people having babies or by immigration (on a large scale).

Therefore we can expect rapid adaptation of the retail food industry to older customers and to migrants.  That means things like more seats, larger text on food items (what is the point when your customers have to pull out reading glasses as they fill a supermarket trolley?), more toilets – and also more specialist sections in superstores for ethnic foods and other specialist products.

Expect further consolidation and scale

Across the EU, 50% of all food retail sales are taking place in 10 companies.  Expect this consolidation in the food industry to increase.  In Germany for example, 4 companies already account for 66% of grocery sales – and budget food stores are taking 37% of the total.

Sales by grocery chains grew 26% from 2000-1012, but their sales capacity grew by 40% so productivity per square meter of store space actually fell.  There was a 72% increase in capacity of discount grocery stores.

Across the food retail industry we have seen more shopping centers and other new retail outlets built, but for every square meter of new retail space, another meter needs to close and will close. Therefore we can expect pressure on rents for commercial retail space, and huge numbers of second-rate smaller grocery stores to close, replaced by smarter, better convenience stores run by chains.  And that is without taking into account the growth of online sales.

One reason for the fall in food sales over the last 12 years is of course that more people are eating out more often.  That could mean a sandwich in a coffee shop, or a restaurant meal. The fact is that living standards will continue, on average, to rise across Europe, and buying food to cook at home will become less important to customers.

Creating loyalty and customer engagement in food retail

Sadly, many food retail companies have become confused about what they are trying to offer, and are losing customers.  In particular, middle of the market has been squeezed by discounters and by premium food retail.

Touch – Smell – Feel

One of the main reasons that people shop physically rather than online is because they want to inspect what they buy, explore what is available.  But the other day I wandered into a supermarket and found most of their fruit and vegetables in tightly sealed plastic packaging….

Improve the customer journey through the store

Many superstore layouts are specifically designed to confuse customers, so they take longer journeys, which are constantly interrupted by end of aisle special offers.

I went shopping recently into a store I used to visit quite a lot. The entire layout had changed.  Nothing was where I expected.  I had to keep asking where basic things were like bread, milk and eggs.  At every corner, a stack of unrelated products were shouting for attention – wine boxes with the milk and dairy section, chocolates and batteries in the fruit section. What a mess.  Designed to encourage impulse spending, but guaranteed to frustrate and slow down a considerable number of people.

And piles of stuff in the aisles on special offers may sound a good idea to the team trying to shift that product line, but then you see customers bashing trolleys into each other because the food aisles are partly blocked.  These kind of errors may have worked in the past and you may think you are being rewarded with additional sales, but take care that the customer experience as a whole is not being undermined.

Smart clustering is a win-win:  all the ingredients to make a particular meal for example, combined in a special offer, great.

Smart offers at great prices

Every large store should be using Big Data to create clusters of special offers, vouchers, discounts, sent to customers at home or on email or in SMS, based on things that we “know” that they will like.

Companies like Tesco in the UK are now printing price comparisons on every receipt, showing every customer how much their bill would have been at the 3 other main competitors.  If they saved money, wonderful.   If they have spent more than they would have done elsewhere, Tesco prints a voucher equal to the amount they are “owed”, to spend against their next shopping bill. 

In this way, Tesco has completely removed one of the main arguments for trying another chain. This is a hugely threatening step to some large superchains, who will find that their "we compete by being better on price" offer is completely wiped out.

Specialist food retail outlets – many opportunities

Specialist food stores are likely to do well in higher income areas, satisfying customers who are looking for expert advice and inspiration from genuine food lovers – eg cheese shop, traditional premium meat shop and so on.

Street Markets for selling Food

Street markets will continue to be popular places to browse for inspiration and value in food shopping: providing life, energy, “street atmosphere”, local variety, niche experts, constant variety.  Expect larger chains to experiment further with trying to create market-stall atmospheres in parts of their larger retail areas, and large shopping malls to also look to create street markets.

Street markets score high on price, convenience, quality, experience.  And the next step up is of course a cluster of related small, specialist retail outlets, each run by experts who are passionate about what they stock.


Two key things will really matter in future food retail in traditional stores, as well as online:  CONSISTENCY: of layout, brand, experience.  EXCITEMENT: hard to deliver with total consistency since doing things the same each time means familiarity and easily leads to a huge risk which is BOREDOM.  When every store in the chain is identical.  Every large chain becomes similar.  Not only across a nation but in some ways from nation to nation.  Retail food buying is easily reduced to a boring, non-inspiring and routine process which wastes time, is exhausting and tedious.  And that is exactly why online food shopping is growing: save sit, saves energy and is less tedious because once the basic food list is set up, repeat food purchases take only an instant. 

Future of online food shopping 

e-Commerce sales of all items will be more than $1.5 trillion globally in 2015, and an increasing proportion in future will be food retailing.

Nations vary but the trends are clear.  For example, UK food retail sales online are 10 times that in Germany, a reflection on the fact that 12% of total retail sales (every kind of product) are now online in the UK.  In Germany only 7% of people shop for food online every week, but 16% are interested in doing so.  50% of online food sales are on Amazon and another 25% are on eBay – both potentially major competitors to traditional food retailers.

Expect growth of same-day home delivery of online food retail goods – following example of companies like ShopWings.

In many nations, most online sales (whether consumer or business to business) are already taking place on mobile devices.  The vast majority of food retail online transactions will be on smart phones by 2020 across many European countries.

Need a world-class grocery and food industry keynote speaker for your event? Phone or e-mail Patrick Dixon now.

Location-based marketing is the next Big Thing

The most important thing to know about someone on a food or groceries website is where they are at the moment:  are they in your store right now?  If so, in what aisle?  Are they at home or at work?

Location-based marketing is sensitive to situation, using Big Data to deliver just-in-time, sharply relevant messages, based on a good guess about how the customer may be thinking and feeling.

We are talking about a fundamental shift in retail marketing strategies:  moving from shouting the same, largely irrelevant messages to millions of people, to whispering little messages in the ear of a customer as they progress on their journey of life.

Case Study of Waitrose – source Planet Retail

Top 10 players count for 90% of market in the UK.  In a difficult climate for food retail sales in the UK, Waitrose has strongly outperformed in sales – although profits were hit by bitter price wars in early 2014.  Waitrose is a relatively niche player, 7th place with 5.4% of the market compared to Tesco at 30%.  Waitrose is likely to add more than £2bn in sales from 2015-2019, growing 6% a year.  Their success has been built on a premium customer experience, firmly rejecting the budget outlet pressures.

They have recently entered the convenience market with 60 stores opened from 2010-2015, and do not have huge out of town hypermarkets.

They have adopted a multi-format approach. Waitrose online is one of the fastest growing food retail web outlets in the UK.  Core format, then there are 6 Waitrose Food and Home stores.  Then Little Waitrose convenience stores, with modest growth rate.  Little Waitrose railway stations with a unique brand within a brand, and finally a convenience motorway service station approach.  Each has its own character.

A key to success is probably their ownership structure (staff own the company) which encourages better customer service and a longer term approach to investment, innovation.

They segment the whole of a nation into groups like professional, active retired, claimant culture, ex-council community, small town diversity and so on – and are clear about which segments they are targeting.  They have a loyalty scheme. Members get free tea or coffee in-store and a range of special members offers.

They have successfully developed a wide range of own-brand products including Essential Waitrose and Premium., Healthy Eating and so on.

Need a world-class retail industry keynote speaker for your event? Phone or e-mail Patrick Dixon now.

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