Fresh is best. It is a mantra repeated by supermarkets to consumers time and again. Freshness speaks of provenance, nutrition and quality. It also suggests speed, with that bowl of strawberries seemingly plucked from a pastoral field just a day or two ago.
The launch of Amazon Fresh in London last week certainly appeals to this latter point. With Amazon Prime customers able to have fruit and vegetables (along with household goods) delivered to their door the same day they submit their order, the online giant is moving seriously into the regular, everyday shopping space and it will be interesting to see how this plays out.
Amazon Fresh launched in the US three years ago. Online shopping, however, is still worth just 6% of the UK grocery market and promoting freshness in-store continues to be a seductive proposition.
At GDR, we have seen a number of excellent campaigns that promote a product’s freshness. Polish fish brand Milo’s in-store campaign saw the packaging of its frozen fish flip and jump like a live catch, while food packaging by Insignia changes colour to indicate the freshness of produce. By contrast, British supermarket Waitrose live-streamed content from its own Leckford Estate in Hampshire to large screens in UK train stations.
Some retailers are seeking to have more ongoing and in-depth conversations with their customers about freshness and quality. To do so, the dialogue is being integrated into the stores’ retail design.
Irish supermarket SuperValu claims that it is all about “real food, real people”. The fresh food counters are the focal point of the store for storytelling and theatre. Demonstrating staff knowledge, expertise and authority around food, the brand hopes to communicate the quality of its produce to customers.
The butcher’s block is brought to the front of the counter to act an interactive celebration of the butcher’s skill, with demos throughout the day. Above the new counters there are hero shots of the real people working at them, demonstrating their commitment to employing skilled staff who are experts in their craft. The food is not just sourced fresh but prepared with care on the premises. Following SuperValu’s redesign by design agency Household, 86% of customers say the shopper experience has improved and 85% have a better experience of in-store staff. The change in brand perception found that customers are 30% more likely to shop at SuperValu.
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US grocer Target is opting for total transparency to compete with its opponents. Trialling an initiative in its Edina Minnesota store, the brand is allowing customers to pay for some items based on how fresh they are.
Labels above the produce lets customers know when items arrived in store, with a 50-cent price difference between fresher and older produce. Not only highlighting the freshness of its produce, the brand is also hoping to cut back on food wastage by offering older, but still perfectly edible goods at a reduced cost. In addition the store is trialling a set of ‘smart scales’ that provide customers with information such as calorie content, if it is organic, and how it was produced.
We have also been noticing a number of grown-on-the-shelf initiatives being trialled. Berlin-based supermarket Metro has placed a small specialty green house structure at the end of an aisle so that customers – a lot of whom are chefs – can see the fresh produce growing and select their ingredients at peak freshness.
“It really engages people,” said Infarm co-founder Guy Galonska, the company responsible for the setup at Metro. “You’re used to having kind of a boring experience in the grocery store. You come and get your things. Here you see a farm…we call this farming as a service.”
What these examples have in common is that they provide customers with a sense of reassurance. With freshness can come great provenance, skilled staff and a memorable customer experience. These are three things that Amazon is yet to deliver on.
Guardian columnist David Mitchell puts it well when he says: “The Amazon announcement made me realise how much comfort I derive from knowing the name and whereabouts of the shop from which online groceries ostensibly come.” So why not make your customers as comfortable as possible?