The Marketing Corner: Grocery Industry Update

March 22, 2015 Updated: March 22, 2015

French leader Napoleon Bonaparte immortalized these words: “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.”

If you are associated with the grocery industry, that statement takes on some very real implications. Consumers don’t realize that a war is being waged.

To the untrained eye, the grocery business seems like a relative simple business. Everyone has to eat! If you have good prices and right products, people will come in and buy, right? But like with every other industry, the business of doing business has become very complicated and the grocery industry is no different.

Consumers have managed to even take the mundane task of buying food to another level. When you think of retail clothing outlets, consumers have their go-to choices depending on what they are shopping for. And, this list could be as short as a few to several deep. The same applies to grocery stores now. It is the norm to expect consumers to have several stores in their consideration. This puts many stores in a parallel mode versus consumers replacing one grocery store for another one.

For small business owners in this industry, it’s clear that marketing tactics need to be a focal point to understand consumer-purchasing behavior. If a consumer is price-sensitive, it is likely that stores falling within their consideration set lean towards outlets that messages price and value, such as Walmart.

Those shoppers who frequent discount clubs (such as Costco) will typically begin their shopping at a national/regional chain first. With all of these choices, what should one deliberate first to set oneself apart from competitors? One should review product mix, evaluate consumer behavioral data (proprietary and/or third party), determine how best to demonstrate points of difference, and capitalize on attributes important to the consumer.

Many specialty grocers have concentrated their efforts on the shopping experience where service is top priority. Conversely, national/regional chains have focused their attention on loyalty reward cards to encourage repeat business. If you still are puzzled about where to begin, Napoleon’s advice may help you glean insights from the mistakes your enemy (competitor) has made, in order to execute a better marketing program.

Adele Lassere is a marketing/advertising consultant with 20+ years experience, freelance writer and author of “Elements of Buying” (self-help advertising guide), available at Adele was listed as Black Enterprise’s 2011 Top Execs in Marketing & Advertising and Black Enterprise’s 2013 Top Women Executives in Advertising & Marketing. Contact: