I find working with supermarket retail clients really interesting. The fast pace and the sheer amount of consumers visiting single store is mind-boggling. Actually one of my first projects when I started to work in Singapore was around retail clients (having done my share of retail clients back in Finland). Although I do not currently work with retail client, I am still learning every time I go to my near store. You learn from the actual store, the products and especially how people go berserk in the queues.
Last Saturday I started to count my lessons during one (not brief, not pleasant) trip to my nearest hypermarket, Giant. There were five major ones:
1. Your habits change only when you are forced to it
As we know shopping habits are hard to break. Usually it requires quite drastic change for person to change his everyday shopping habits. One of those drastic changes is moving to another country.
In Helsinki my shopping habits was probably best described as wanna-be hipster yuppie being extreme hurry. Weekday groceries were done in the fast and convenient nearby store. On weekends I was mostly shopping in overpriced organic artisanal specialty shops spending my hard-earned pennies in hyper-expensive bread, beers, charcuterie and probably some superfoods (although I do not even know what that means).
After moving to Singapore, I took a drastic time travel and suddenly became middle-aged suburbanite who goes to hypermarket every week. What the hell happened to me? Suddenly I also became super price-conscious and am currently comparing the price development of guavas weekly. I am ashamed of myself, but there is practical reason for this change.
2.Identify the key products that drive the shopping decisions
Behavioral psychologist would probably find different traumas attached to my moving, but actually the sudden shift of my shopping habits was tied to one single product: yoghurt. Although I appreciate my hokkien mee as the next man, I still need my western breakfast (yoghurt+muesli) every morning. Smaller convenience stores do not stock bigger yoghurt packages, so the closest option was the nearby hypermarket. It is always truly educating experience to get lost in there.
3. When you learn the floor plan, you do not want to change your store
It took me last weekend almost 20 minutes to find light bulbs!
You think that the floor plans of the hypermarkets are logical, but they are not. They are deceptive mazes, where you get lost and end up buying candy and dental floss even though you do not need either one. Messy floor plans are good way to increase the loyalty. You do not want to search another 20 minutes of light bulbs in a strange store. Once you learn the floor plan of your designated store, you shop there forever. Even if the store would close down.
4. Not every promotion is an effective one
Back to the yoghurt: my main brand Marigold has the creepiest promotions and promoters. Last Saturday they handed me this:
What the hell is this? Turtle with udders? Also it was super odd situation in general. I was stacking the yoghurt when promoter suddenly came and handed me this item (+coasters as well, which I could understand). How weird is that? You have promoters stalking the dairy shelves and attacking the person who is buying certain brand. Truly disturbing, but on the other hand I got a Christmas present for some lucky bastard.
5.Do smart innovations
I am all for innovative solutions, but sometimes too much innovation does not make sense. I tested out first time the self-service check out in Giant and it was a complete fiasco.
Majority of the products I was buying were. Fruits do not have barcodes. Barcodes are quite essential for self-scanning. I was not the only one messing up the fancy new technology. I actually took certain pride of being the only customer who did not double scan any of the items.
Because of this design flaw, every self-service check out kiosk actually had one person to help people to go through the tedious process. How in the hell that makes business sense? How can you even call those kiosks self-serve?
Eventually the self-checking of the products took way longer than the normal route. Sometimes it is better to innovate more modestly. Good way to start in Singapore would be to introduce self-packing and start charging for the plastic bags. Nevertheless what I buy I always end with over 20+ plastic bags and every single item in different bags. In environment like this self-service is just too big step for an average consumer like me!
I learned so much last week during my hypermarket visit that I can´t just wait to skip the whole process this week. I rather live without my yoghurt.