Brands change their packaging: “New look. Same great taste!”
Companies change their tag lines: “Have it Your Way” became “Be Your Way”.
And grocery stores improve their customer experience.
Within walking distance of my place, there were two major grocery stores for people to choose from. Harris Teeter was the higher-end, upscale option and Food Lion was the more affordable, save-some-cents-with-us chain. Then the plot thickened.
Suddenly, Harris Teeter starts doing around the clock remodels to their store that (in my opinion) looked just fine. About a week into the remodel, I get a piece of mail announcing the grand opening of a Publix grocery store…right across the street from Harris Teeter. Now the renovations made sense; they’ve got to keep up with Joneses.
But was adding an olive bar, a fresh-made pizza station and some new doors in the dairy section really necessary to maintain clientele? We would see…
So Publix opens; my wife and I go check it out. There are taste tests comparing Publix brand to Harris Teeter brand, free samples of practically everything and (most notably) every employee in the store strikes up a conversation with us. At check out, the guy bagging our groceries shares his whole story of moving to Charlotte from Boston (because I told him I recently moved to Charlotte).
It felt so odd.
People at grocery store don’t make conversation like that (at least not in my experience). They don’t check in with you every time they pass you in the aisle. Publix wanted to be different. But I wasn’t the only one to notice.
The next time I went to Harris Teeter? Their check-out folks all of a sudden became super friendly and eager to start conversations. And Food Lion? Albeit a little delayed, began their own remodeling. This was a local arms race for customers!
I know that making strategic shifts based on the competition happens every day, but I can’t say that I had ever consciously experienced it on such a micro level. Each chain became hyper-aware of the experience they were giving customers because of the new kid in town.
So what is there to take away from this? Have you recently taken the time to consider best-practices of your competition? Is there anything you can learn from them to take into the new year instead of insisting you’re superior in every way? It doesn’t have to change the core business, but it might not hurt to do a little introspection for course correction.