I recently had a chat with Kevin Stafford, VP of Marketing, K-VA-T Food Stores, Inc., who presented at Xcelerate Retail Forum Las Vegas.
What do you think is the most challenging marketing obstacle for FCMG in today’s competitive, omni-channel grocery environment and how might they overcome that?
A major challenge is that you’ve got different customer types out there. There’s the traditional generation, and in our market, we have a lot of traditional customers. Of course, we’ve got a lot of the baby boomers who like technology, but they still like the service format as well. Then there’s the group of customers from around ages 39 down to 24, how do you reach that group? And millennials. They’re all looking for something different.
The goal is to create an experience that everyone can relate to, whether it be with service, or whether it be things we do in the store. You really have to understand the specific customer. So, the voice in your head says Yes, I’m going to do it all. We’re going to have a great brick and mortar experience. We’re going to have service in the stores. We’ll have great products at a great price. But then, by the way, you’ve got to transition that to the online experience and it must be the same experience online as it is in the store.
But that’s not all. You’re offering buy-online-pick-up-in-the-store or order-online-ship-to-home. You have to have all those things, and so the big challenge for us over the next year to five years is how that mix will change. I think brick and mortar will always have a place, but we have to adapt to the online world as well, and get much better at it than we are today.
You touched on this a little bit already, but where do you see the future of grocery heading and in what area(s) do you think we will see the most innovation and change?
I’ll start off by saying that you need to keep in mind that a lot of people rate grocery shopping right up there with having a root canal. They hate to do it. So, service has to be great.
I think grocery stores will continue to change as a destination place for where people go for meal sources. It’s the whole “grocerant” concept; people go there for a hot solution or cold solution. We’ve invested in fresh bars in a lot of our stores so people can come in and get a healthy lunch or a healthy dinner to go. This will continue to be important.
Then there’s the balance of where ecommerce fits. How does it continue to grow? We’re only about two years into our ecommerce efforts, we see how it continues to grow each month. So, finding the balance there is key.
Last, I think about marketing/advertising and measured success. In our region, print is still a big deal, but more is going to digital and social.
So, the common piece here is having the best data that can be utilized to take actions to serve your customers – through all channels. I think whoever can do that will win in the end.
Why did you agree to talk at Xcelerate?
Over my time in marketing, and before, in operations, I’ve learned a lot about the company and the industry. A key piece of learning is that data is key.
That’s why I love Symphony EYC – the product that it offers us as a company, and it’s one of the reasons why I agreed to speak. We’ve gained tremendous insight into our customers’ buying habits and what influences the way they shop. I’m excited to share the importance of using the Symphony EYC solution for customer-centric insights with others so they can see its advantages. I think it would be beneficial to any company, because, as I said, data is so key to making customer-based decisions. Before Symphony EYC, we had very little insight into our customers. We had a gut feeling, but didn’t have the facts.
The Symphony EYC solution tells us, Here’s what they’re doing. Here’s what changes behavior. We’ve been able to craft some of our marketing to match that and we’re seeing results. At the end of the day, when you can use the data to produce results, that’s what counts.
Can you give attendees a sneak peek at the main themes of your presentation?
I’ll share a bit about a report we created, it’s very detailed and we run it quarterly. It looks at the company, the division, the district, all the way down to store level… and this is big because every store is different! This report enables us to analyze our customers based on their shopping habits. We build a 13-week trend report – all based on scoring customers in every store. The Symphony EYC data is the key to this report – it’s hugely helpful.
In our very competitive environment in retail, you’ve got to have all the details. Is a Walmart opening near one of our stores? What can we do proactively to combat that, and after it’s open, how did it impact us? Did we lose our primary or secondary customers? Price-driven customers? That kind of thing. That’s the kind of critical decisions and actions you can take with good data and systems.
I’ll also talk a little bit about the retail store card and how we use it to really evaluate the effectiveness of some of these special sales and events that we do, including our weekly ad.
To wrap up, I’ll talk about how we’ve changed marketing based on our data. The title of our presentation, “Crawl, Walk, Run,” is significant because we spent a lot of time getting set up, then we started getting the data. Then, we took the data and began to run, because if you don’t react, and react quickly, somebody else is going to react.
Can you share something fun about yourself that people might not know?
Sure. So, several years back, I got to throw out the first pitch in a Kansas City Royals game. Being from Tennessee, in a big stadium like Kansas City, that was a once-in-a-lifetime thing. Quite a thrill to throw the first pitch at a major-league baseball game. My friends were telling me to throw it into the stands as a way to get on the sports news! It was a lot of fun.
Did you throw a knuckleball?
No I didn’t. My only goal was not to bounce it.
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