Tuesday May 20, 2014

Natural Grocers and Missed Opportunity

Full Natural Grocers historic location with Cow image

Natural Grocers (NG) opened a store near my home recently. They're kind of like a mini Whole Foods minus the high ceilings, hot deli and sushi bar. 

They had a pretty interesting launch strategy. Every couple weeks they sent out a large, bold postcard that could be redeemed for a *free* product. One time it was a 16oz bottle of Bronner's Hemp Soap, another week it was a lb of organic, grass-fed beef. Every time it was something of at least $8 or $10 in value. And I redeemed almost every one. 

The coupons have stopped arriving in the mail though, and I've stopped going. Why I've stopped going is actually a pretty interesting case study. 

No doubt NG hypothesized that many of these coupon-redeemers would convert into regular shoppers. 

From everything I've seen on the local social web, and heard anecdotally from friends and family, the campaign worked fantastically to move free product. But so far as I can tell, it's resulted in zero follow-on brand buzz or increased mindshare locally. 

Why is that? Poor follow-thru. Or you could also conclude they just out-did themselves. 

The subconscious message they sent with the freebie campaign was, "We're so enchanting, we know if you come to our store, you'll like what we do so much, you'll become a shopper. We're confident that we're going to make way more than we're spending on this freebie."

So when I go to get my free cheese or bottle of vitamin D, what happens when my experience is entirely vanilla?

I conclude there's nothing to see here and return to my usual shopping habits. 

So NG was either far too bold for their existing service culture, or this particular location just isn't reflective of the awesomeness that permeates the rest of the chain. Either way, they didn't maximize their dollars the way they could have. 

Here's three things they could have done to woo me/catch my attention- 

1) Greet me as I come in and make eye contact. It's remarkable how rare this is, but it still matters. 

2) Know your product and store layout- and ALWAYS walk with me to the item I'm looking for, versus pointing out directions. 

3) Always suggest a favorite product. For example, let's say I come in and I'm looking for bacon. The clerk walks me over to the meat display where there's four different kinds of bacon and says, "Have you ever tried the Applegate Farms pasture bacon? It's my favorite". 

Not PhD level stuff, but it doesn't happen accidentally. And remarkably, no one in the grocery space is really doing this. 

I'm just waiting for someone to really disrupt the grocery space. No one has really innovated in the up-market from a service standpoint. Lot's of room for someone to differentiate and dominate.


Chris Nordyke is an integrated marketer and strategy consultant. He works with owners and senior business leaders to transform and grow service companies via a unique holistic approach that drives referral business and client retention. Click here to schedule a complimentary consult with Chris.


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