Kevin Miller came to The Fresh Market as chief marketing officer after having served in the same role for 4.5 years at Natural Grocers, where he had learned a lot about the grocery industry.
The job of CMO at The Fresh Market was “an opportunity to further apply some of that knowledge. It was a terrific chance for me to apply everything I’ve learned over about 30 or 40 years [in food retail] and to have a really big impact on the company and in the industry,” Miller said.
His career, primarily in QSR, also included time with McDonald’s, Coca-Cola USA, Pizza Hut and ABC Disney-radio division.
“A lot of food, a lot of entertainment,” Miller said. “You put those two pieces together and that’s a lot of what The Fresh Market is about. The entertaining experience of shopping with high quality food and service and value. It’s a terrific combination. I use all of my skills here. It’s a lot of fun.”
Unique in the category
Miller described The Fresh Market as a specialty food retailer that is “unique in the category.” He said it started with the company’s founders, Ray and Beverly Berry, who discovered European food markets and wanted to bring that back to America.
“They wanted to zig while, during that time, most grocery retail chains were zagging – building bigger, gigantic stores…super stores,” Miller said. “But they wanted it to be more intimate, more personal. They wanted to excite the senses and reward you for spending your time [there].”
He spoke of walking into a “cornucopia of flowers,” seeing the “beautiful produce, smelling the coffee” brewing and listening to classical music over the speakers. The lighting is low-key and warm.
“Within the experience is one of, again, discovery where you find some of the world’s best fresh foods,” Miller said. “Our focus is primarily on fresh. We want to really be the place where you get your fresh stuff.
“We search the world to curate some of the hard-to-find items that you would normally not find anywhere else…our curators, category managers look for those things that are really uber premium and [with] taste being the absolute pinnacle of what must be delivered first.”
According to Miller, The Fresh Market wants to have a reputation as the best shopping experience – just as important as the food and products.
“We want that experience to be anchored in joy, anticipation and trust,” he said.
Measuring customer satisfaction
The Fresh Market measures its customer satisfaction with an ongoing tracking study. In the last quarter of the past couple of years, the company has hit all-time highs.
“We actually do measurements where we compare our customer satisfaction scores with our actual sales transactions,” Miller explained. “We can do direct correlations, we append that data and we’re able to see the impact of when our employees give our guests the key elements of impeccable guest service.
“We focus on our e-commerce as well, as we want that experience to match, maybe exceed what our customers get in the store.”
The new curbside program rollout coincided with the first holidays during the COVID-19 pandemic. Miller said company officials knew there would be a strong demand for e-commerce and curbside.
“We set a vision that we wanted to become the friendliest curbside experience in America, and that was the branding umbrella around all the development work,” he said. “Then we looked at the metrics around that improvement, and we created a new position…the personal shopper.”
The curbside service was moved in-house as The Fresh Market team members know the stores, location of items and can turn orders around quickly.
“We integrated all those pieces, and we developed a platform that included personal touches and the IT touches,” Miller said. “We launched it as the ‘Friendliest Curbside Experience in America.’”
He said the company immediately saw its metrics improve.
“It was really successful,” Miller said. “We feel that it is probably the best curbside experience in America, in addition to being the friendliest. The other thing that’s really cool about that is we bring the human touch – that joy, anticipation – and we create unique experiences.”
Loyalty program now offered
The Fresh Market recently launched a loyalty program.
“We were going to build this from the ground up for our guests, our brand,” Miller said. “We again did a lot of research before we launched.”
He said they searched for the world’s best loyalty and e-commerce platforms and hired another consulting firm to assist with the project.
“We were able to benchmark the features, functions, value propositions, orders, structures of all the world’s best loyalty programs. Then we customized some concepts around those features,” he said. “And we talked to our guests across the country, over a two- or three-month period.”
From there, the company was able to develop a program customers sought.
“We built it from the customer up. That’s why we call it the Ultimate Loyalty Experience. It’s an experience, not just about rewards,” Miller said.
Following “really strong” results from a six-month test period, the program rolled out in March. It includes loyalty pricing, member clubs and a free slice of birthday cake.
“The fact that we’re helping them celebrate their birthday, again, brings that connection back to the brand – the joy, the anticipation,” he said.
For more information, visit thefreshmarket.com.
To view the full section on The Fresh Market from The Shelby Report, click here.