Appetite for Wellness
Supermarkets are increasingly folding nutrition and wellness into loyalty programs and the overall customer experience, from on-staff nutritionists to all-natural store-branded products. Here are four trends we should expect more of in 2017.
If supermarkets strive to realize healthier margins in 2017, they would benefit from measuring the ingredients that define the supermarket experience of today.
Nearly four in 10 shoppers (38%) buy natural products because they are concerned about their health, according to the 2016 Generational Research Study by Precima, LoyaltyOne’s global retail strategy and analytics company. Forty-two percent rank the availability of organic and locally sourced products as very important reasons they choose a store.
As a result, supermarkets are increasingly baking nutrition and wellness into the customer experience, and the trend is gaining heat as consumers seek healthier ways to eat well, fast and affordably. Today’s efforts, in fact, may represent the early stages along a continuum of movement that could change the supermarket experience in 2017, experts suggest.
“The continuum is how people feed themselves,” said Jim Hertel, senior vice president at the supermarket consultancy Willard Bishop, an Inmar Analytics company. “They can buy ingredients at a traditional supermarket, or they can have a sit-down meal at a restaurant. And much of the space in between, if not all of the space, is open to supermarkets.”
And all opportunities are open to loyalty tie-ins. Among healthy options shaping customer experiences:
- Points toward health: Indiana-based Marsh Supermarkets, operator of the Fresh IDEA card program, oversees a healthy-label rating system called Guiding Stars. The program emphasizes smarter food choices at the shelf, taking the confusion out of food labels.
- Pure private-label: Kroger’s Simple Truth and Simple Truth Organic lines are free of 101 artificial ingredients. Similarly, ALDI’s Never Any! Line of meat products is without antibiotics, added hormones, steroids or animal byproducts.
- Kiosk meal planning: The company ShoptoCook supplies retailers with in-store kiosks that provide recipes, meal-planning tips, coupons and loyalty program access so shoppers can better plan supermarket trips and meals.
From wallet to stomach
Winning in the supermarket wellness race requires more than a single program, however — it requires a shift in approach. Instead of vying for share of wallet, supermarkets should aim for “share of stomach,” said Allen Mason of the loyalty and customer strategy firm Allen Mason Consulting. “They really need to step back and think about their customer strategy,” said Mason, also the former vice president of strategy in Kroger’s data division. “The intent of the offering has to improve the life of their customer.”
Essential to making the healthy-customer relationship, well, healthy is data use, said Mark Heckman, a retail consultant with extensive experience in loyalty marketing. Analytics could enable food retailers to identify shoppers who are health-conscious (or curious) and then segment them on the basis of their interests.
“I think it is plausible for continuity programs, point programs and other reward mechanisms to be used specifically to drive healthy consumption,” he said.
What to expect in 2017, in four courses
Plausible, sure. But a health-specific loyalty strategy, much like a multi-course meal, requires inspiration. Food retailers can expect to see more of these four trends in 2017:
Healthy apps: Retailers should look for apps that provide ingredient information and scoring mechanisms that rank a product’s healthiness. The app Fooducate is a good example. Hertel, from Willard Bishop, expects such ingredient- scoring capabilities to be built into retail apps and include alternate product suggestions. “What so many consumers crave is really straightforward information about what they’re eating,” he said. “That can generate loyalty in a way that’s far better than discounting.”
Pharmacy tie-ins: More supermarkets will connect in-store pharmacy counters to grocery shelves through web and in-store seminars on topics such as diabetes, hypertension, gluten-free diets and weight control, said Heckman. Mason, too, sees healthy experiences stemming from shopper health and the brand as a trusted source. “I believe that putting nutritional-based promotions in the mainstream of the merchandising and promotional calendar will do more to move consumer acceptance than any other single initiative,” he said.
Lastly, retailers should plan to continually pipe fresh ideas into loyalty program efforts. This means including a dash of surprise to keep the experience relevant through 2017.
As Mason put it: “The premise of loyalty is, ‘How can you do the unexpected?’” As healthy eating competition heats up, no other ingredient may add as much.