by Eric Richard/education coordinator, International Dairy Deli Bakery Association
As a professional in the food industry, what comes to mind when you hear the word “experience”? When it comes to your profession, it could be attending an industry event and learning about (and tasting) new food products that your shoppers may be interested in purchasing, as well as testing out new store technologies. It also could be a visit to a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility, where you can view firsthand how the products you sell are developed.
On a personal level, an experience could be a vacation to a far-off and exotic land, where you take in the sights, sounds, tastes and smells of the local cuisine and culture.
Now, put yourself in your customers’ shoes. What types of experiences might they be seeking? And how might your company and stores create these types of experiences?
As we’re all aware, today’s retail food landscape is evolving. Shoppers now have numerous options when it comes to purchasing food, from traditional supermarkets, discounters and convenience stores to online purchasing and delivery. They’re looking for services, convenience, quality and freshness.
Today’s shopping behavior correlates directly with an economic model we’re seeing more and more of: The Experience Economy. Authors Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore first used the term in 1998 to describe a concept whereby businesses engage customers not only through products and services, but also by adding an experience to shopping occasions. To accomplish this, the Experience Economy model relies on four quadrants: entertainment, education, esthetic and escapism. Each of these plays an important role in delivering engaging and exciting opportunities for attracting customers to brick-and-mortar stores.
At first glance, it might be difficult to envision how these terms might be applied to retail, especially food retail. As mentioned, these are words some would associate with a vacation or life event, not a trip to the local supermarket. However, supermarkets can be the perfect environment for creating experiences with shoppers, as the very nature of enjoying food goes hand-in-hand with the principles of the Experience Economy. Here are a few examples of opportunities:
• Entertainment. In the supermarket setting, this quadrant could be represented by cooking and pairing demonstrations, as well as beer and wine samplings.
• Education. Many shoppers—especially Millennials and Gen Zs—are eager to learn more about the foods they eat—where they came from and how to prepare meals. This quadrant could be represented in-store through cooking classes, meal ideas and “telling the story behind the food,” such as where it was sourced and how it was developed.
• Esthetic. This quadrant can include the way food is merchandised, as well as services found in the store where customers can conveniently purchase and eat prepared food and drink items, such as in-store restaurants, wine bars and cafes.
• Escapism. How can you create a way for shoppers to “escape” to exciting, faraway lands? Through tasting the food! Excite their senses through new cuisine and flavors that can transport them to adventurous locales.
As you can see, opportunities abound for supermarkets to engage with their shoppers; in fact, some retailers may already be doing this. For those looking for ideas to implement in their stores, they should consider visiting the Show and Sell at IDDBA 17, June 4-6, in Anaheim, California, for takeaways, concepts and ideas that virtually any store can implement.
Ideas at Show and Sell 2017
Show and Sell—an interactive marketplace of merchandising ideas, displays and education—has always had a goal of creating a true experience for show attendees. This year, our teams of Show and Sell volunteers are considering the Experience Economy model as inspiration when developing this year’s displays and concepts.
• A breakfast bakery and coffee bar: Fresh-baked products have always been synonymous with one’s senses, including smell, taste, sight and sound. The very nature of in-store bakery departments creates ideal opportunities for in-store experiences for shoppers. This includes the enticing aroma of freshly made bread and baked goods, made-to-order coffee and drinks, and breakfast sandwiches (made with bread baked in the in-store bakery). An added seating area allows shoppers to enjoy their meal or meet with friends and colleagues on-site. It also will engage on-the-go, health-conscious shoppers with a variety of single-serve and on-the-go food and beverage options. Other concepts include a focus on the allure of fresh-baked bread; another is a donut station where attendees can experiment with a variety of different flavored dips.
• A cheese pub: Per capita cheese consumption in the U.S. has increased 27 percent since 1995, making cheese an ideal food to position within the Experience Economy model. The Show and Sell cheese pub will provide attendees with a small-plate and snacking experience through its toast and melt concepts, featuring open-faced melted cheese sandwiches on artisan bread and artisan toast topped with combos like Manchego/artichokes/roasted red peppers and prime rib/Gorgonzola/arugula/balsamic glaze. Small-plate and on-the-run eating also will be highlighted through tapas and portable food ideas. Attendees also will be educated on tastes and flavors through samples on cheese boards, as well as cheese and beverage pairings. Pre-made cheese trays will give attendees ideas on entertaining options for their stores.
• Foodservice evolution: Prepared meal options not only are becoming increasingly common at food retailers, but they also can play an important role in attracting and engaging shoppers through sights, sounds and smells. In-store foodservice can provide the experience more and more shoppers are looking for. On trend with the emerging grocerant model, this year’s Show and Sell will feature the BOOM! Kitchen, a concept where shoppers can select quick, made-to-order cuisine and enjoy it in a special seating area. Another concept this year is the Pop-Up Wok, a flexible station that could feature different on-trend cuisines or local chefs every week to give shoppers a unique experience.
• Deli exploration: A store’s deli department can be at the forefront of exciting, new and fresh flavors and tastes, providing numerous opportunities for shopper exploration. Attendees at Show and Sell will get ideas on a variety of sandwich concepts and varieties to take back to their own stores, including wedge sandwiches, wraps, breakfast-anytime options and sliders (which support the growing demand for snacking choices). Many of these concepts will feature an ethnic/international flare, such as Italian Piadina, Cuban, Bahn Mi, Korean pulled pork, Num Pang and vegetarian options. Customization also will be a theme with deli, highlighted by a build-your-own lunch/snack service whereby shoppers pick two, three or four hot or cold grab-and-go, snack-sized products; there’s even a build-your-own salad service. New takes on charcuterie—including pizza, salad and sandwiches—also will be on display.
• Cake design and “cakescape”: Entertaining is a key driver of cake sales in retail stores; it’s also a main component of the Experience Economy model that can be brought to the home, office or an event in the form of cakes. This year’s Show and Sell Cake Studio will feature captivating and creative cake ideas designed for both traditional occasions (like birthdays and graduations) as well as more everyday celebrations like a work anniversary or a small recognition cake for a child’s accomplishment—a trend that’s becoming more common. Attendees will be able to co-create and experience the fun of designing their own personalized cake by mixing and matching flavor combos like salty, sweet and bitter.
Also new this year is a “cakescape” display—an interactive creation with a California theme that will grow and transform during the show.
In addition to offering ideas for creating an experience at your stores, Show and Sell will provide additional experiences—in the form of the education quadrant. Attendees will learn a variety of techniques and concepts, ranging from how-to cooking demonstrations from celebrity chefs to informative sessions on how to energize your staff. Slated for this year’s Show and Sell Workshop lineup are:
• Giada De Laurentiis, chef, writer, television personality and Food Network host.
• Harold Lloyd, recognized speaker, presenter and mentor in the retail food industry.
• Doug Rauch, founder of Daily Table and former president of Trader Joe’s.
The Experience Economy model need not be an intimidating or hard-to-achieve concept; it’s something that all retail food stores can implement. Make IDDBA’s Show and Sell a destination for ideas on creating experiences in your stores.