Foodie Friday: Experiences that Engage–My IDDBA Message, Part 1


Happy Foodie Friday! This past week, I had the privilege of presenting at this year’s IDDBA Show and Sell Workshop on a favorite topic of mine: Experiences that Engage. Today, I’ll be sharing part 1 of a 3-part series based on my message about the importance and power of creating memorable experiences that will keep customers coming back to your store again and again. Enjoy!

These are challenging times in the Supermarket industry.

There’s an intense battle for share of the consumers’ food dollar. On the one front, there are the relatively new guys like Amazon Prime. Did you know that nearly 2 out of every 3 homes in the U.S. (63.6%) are Prime members? And while they aren’t huge players on the grocery field right now, they are poised for tremendous growth along with other online retailers. In fact, the FMI estimates that by 2025 the share of online grocery spending could reach 20%.

Then there are meal kit services like Blue Apron and regional and national meal-delivery services, such as Uber Eats and Postmates.
We also still have to contend with traditional competitors such the restaurant industry—which outpaced supermarket sales for the first time ever last year.

How is the Supermarket industry responding? Much of our focus has been on convenience. Some stores are offering curbside pickup and some are partnering with delivery services such as Shipt or Instacart. Now, these may be great solutions for the overall store, but as dairy, deli, and bakery departments, what problem do we have with them? The problem is these customers are not coming inside our stores! They are, for the most part, purchasing center-of-the-store items and a limited number of dairy, deli, and bakery items.

We are missing out on the opportunity to cross-sell, to up-sell and to capitalize on the high rate of impulse purchases that people make in our departments. So what can we do to get customers into our stores and then into our departments? One of the best ways is by creating and staging experiences.

Why experiences and why now? 

Let’s take a look at what’s been going on in the economy—where we are and how we got here. Joe Pine and Jim Gilmore describe this Progression of Economic Value or “POEV” in their book, The Experience Economy.

We’ve gone from an agrarian economy (based off commodities) to an industrial economy (based off goods) to a service economy. What happened when we got into the service economy is that goods became commoditized, meaning they’re now treated as a commodity. The main thing people care about when purchasing goods is the price.

We are seeing services increasingly commoditized as well. For example: What is one of the main things we look for when stopping at a fast food place for a quick burger? Price.

We are moving to a new level of economic value—Experiences. In the Experience Economy, goods and services are used to design experiences that create memories for your customers. Experiences are a higher value offering than goods or services. And you can charge more the goods and services wrapped in these experiences than you could ever charge for them alone.

One of the best examples of this progression of economic value is with coffee. Coffee beans are a commodity. Enough beans for a cup of coffee costs just a few cents. But when those same beans are turned into the experience at Starbucks, you can charge anywhere from $2 to over $5.

Obviously, commodities, goods, and services are all still important, but it’s experiences that are currently drawing customers in and are commanding top dollar. We’re seeing this shift to the Experience Economy in the way people choose to spend their money today. Study after study shows that Millennials (born between 1980 to 1996) prioritize experiences over stuff.

Remember the bumper sticker saying? “He who dies with the most toys wins.” Well, for Millennials their bumper sticker—or meme—would read: “She who dies with the most experiences wins.”

A recent Harris poll discovered that more than 3 in 4 Millennials would choose to spend money on a desirable experience or event over buying something desirable like cars or even clothing. But they also found that this demand for live experiences is happening across all demographics—not just millennials. Since 1987, spending on live experiences is up 70%.

What do most of these consumers have in their hands at these live experiences? Smartphones to share their experience on social media. And when they see social media posts from friends and family about some awesome experience, they want to experience it, too. They feel something called FOMO—or the fear of missing out—and it’s driving their cravings for new experiences.

Most attendees at IDDBA produce and sell goods and services. For the last 30 years, we’ve focused on transactions that are quick, efficient, and convenient—and that was working for us. Yet we’re increasingly finding that if customers can get our products more easily and at a lower price somewhere else, they have no reason to come into our stores. As Dairy Deli and Bakery departments we must give consumers a reason to come into our stores and into our departments, and we must give them something worth sharing and talking about!

Retail futurist Doug Stephens puts it this way, “To adequately compete with Amazon, you can’t attempt to be like Amazon. They’ll eat you alive. To win, you have to be the best at everything they are not.”

It’s important to create experiences, but not just any type of experiences. You must stage experiences that showcase what you do best and what your customers value most.


How do we do that? Read the next Foodie Friday to find out!

Posted in: Food and Drink, Food Experiences, Food Trends, Foodie Friday

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