July 7, 2017
Today, as I often do, I visited a grocery store. This one happened to be in a low-income neighborhood in Queens, NY. Before going to meet with the store managers about marketing their newly launched online store I walked the aisles and took note of a few things: the cleanliness of the store; the wide aisles; the clever wording of the specials playing over the loudspeaker; the diet sodas absent from the cold beverage cases near the cash registers. But mostly I noticed a cashier by the name of Michelle. We struck up a conversation as she was ringing up my tea (not being able to find the aforementioned diet soda, as apparently it does not sell well in this neighborhood). I said something about the rainy weather and she replied cheerily “well it’s better than a dirt nap.” I roundly laughed, never having heard this particular euphemism for death. Michelle laughed with me.
As the industry contemplates all the possible consequences of Amazon’s pending acquisition of Whole Foods, I hope we all keep in mind the impact on workers like Michelle. Not to discount the looming possibility that a combined Amazon Whole Foods will drive down grocery prices across the board, or permanently change consumer behavior -- those things most certainly will happen.
But the grocer I visited today has something Amazon does not: a long-standing personal relationship with the consumer. And that relationship is best epitomized in the everyday interactions of hard-working employees like Michelle.
When I met with the management team a bit later, I told them about Self Point’s vision for cashiers like Michelle. As part of our standard online marketing package we train cashiers and other store employees to be ambassadors for the online channel, to encourage the grocery’s consumers to shop wherever and whenever they want. The management team agreed with me, at least on this point, that their best marketing is word of mouth starting with their best employees speaking to their best consumers.
The independent grocer’s of America have a relationship with their customers that Amazon cannot replicate no matter whom they buy. If those grocers can adapt their shopping options to the needs of today’s consumers (buy online pickup in store, free delivery, and so on) then they have a fighting chance in Amazon’s War on the Independent Grocer. And that, my friends, is better than a dirt nap.
CMO, Self Point