Most of my thoughts regarding activities in the natural products industry revolve around independent natural products retailers: How does this affect them? Is this good for them? Is this bad for them? And so on.
I recently reviewed a white paper about best practices for grocers regarding shopper feedback that the National Grocer’s Association (NGA) and the Center for Advancing Retail Technology (CART) jointly published. The report focused on using technology to gather and use customer feedback. I thought, "Is this valuable for natural products retailers?" After reading the paper, the answer was an enthusiastic “Yes!”
The white paper, which you can download here, shares some valuable and practical uses for consumer feedback. After all, if you and your staff aren't working to meet your customers' needs and requests, someone else will. Using what you hear from them is what may set you apart from your competitors, no matter the means of gathering the information.
Gather and use feedback
A formal program might be a wise investment. But you can use one of many free or low-cost online survey tools and direct customers to a self-created survey via messaging on your register receipts. (If you have them enter identifying information from a register receipt, you can learn what time of day they shopped with you, how much money they spent, who checked them out, etc.) If you prefer, you can gather feedback without technology through regular conversations in your store.
Whatever methodology you choose, the insights you gain from shoppers are valuable—but only if you act on them. According to the white paper: "How retailers respond to shopper feedback (pro and con) has a material impact on measures of success. Recoveries from service failures and complaints are crucial, but so are simple responses to suggestions, requests, thank-yous and 'valentines,' those rare words of praise."
Ask your customers how you are doing on key metrics. If you, for example, want to focus on your staff interacting with customers, ask about that—"Were you greeted by every employee that you came in contact with?" From there, establish the baseline, the current percent of shoppers who respond with a "yes," and use that as a starting point to increase the level of interaction and contact.
It’s only natural
If this is a valuable practice for a grocery store, how much more so is it for one featuring natural and organic products? How many items are we offering that are new or confusing for many shoppers, especially new ones? GMOs, rBGH, gluten free, organic, Fair Trade, BGA, vegan, Paleo and so on are terms we are well-versed in. But are they in the community you want to reach—and whose business you need for store growth? To them this is a secret code, an alphabet soup that may or may not affect their health.
Having an increased level of consumer contact can make it much easier for them to ask questions and get answers. Once you’ve provided answers, how much easier is it to make sales and create customers?
I don’t know the folks at CART other than from this white paper and their website, which basically reinforces their partnership with the NGA, a group that I know and hold in high esteem. It supports regional chains and independent grocery stores around the country.
I encourage you to download the paper and see how you can adopt its ideas.