Musings // From the shop floor - My view on Marketing a Customer Experience

August 6, 2018

From the shop floor 


In my day to day role I look after point of sale and in store customer messages as well as leading on seasonal campaigns and new store openings as part of the Customer and Marketing team.


 {Co-op Food at Barton under Needwood


The last two weeks spent working at Barton Food Store have been an experiment.


I wanted to see if resetting my mindset and being flexible in thinking differently about customer experience in a live environment away from my usual Marketing and Communications Officer role would work.

What outcomes did I want from this?


•    To have a full and well-rounded view of retail which could only be fully completed from being in the environment of a store


•    A view of the customer from a bird’s eye perspective. Is the current work we do impacting the customer in terms of POS, customer messaging, and local marketing and what needs to be done to make this better


The last two weeks have been all about driving capability and understanding the customer.


There is a huge amount we can learn and connect with across the trading teams to help us in understanding trends, consumer behaviour and to find out the ways in which the customer is evolving. 
Customers don’t shop in channels - they just shop


We need to make sure that whether it’s at 2pm on her (the customers) mobile googling what's going on or on offer in her local store or 3pm walking into store, she is having an experience that is tailored to her and that that feels consistent. 


The customer is very fluid. What the customer needs today is not always what they need tomorrow.
The reality is our shops have a broad customer base so it’s about thinking about who we’re talking to from a marketing comms lens. Communicating with a woman in her 60s will look different to communicating to a woman in her 30s, it might be still on social and digital channels but it will be executed differently.
I see retail and online playing different roles – convenience stores are for ‘the now and around the corner’ this includes the POS and the in store experience, while online tends to be where people research, learn about our services or products – this could be as simple as offering a live chat online.


With a lot of initiatives competing in store that can bring new and exciting ways of doing things, I have to filter all of these and think - how does this help the customer journey?


Evolving the experience in-store


A consistent approach is required to to all the customer facing roles to connect and engage with our consumers.


All store colleagues do this very differently. Whether that's a CSA, a Team Leader, or Store Manager. We create a fun and dynamic moment in-store that is unique and make it a destination for customers to visit us.
Working in store at Barton under Needwood  - my first person view

Store Manager Tony is already at Barton when I arrive and he gives me an overview of his role and what he does on a day-by-day basis. A colleague called him to say the Environmental Health Officer had popped in so he needed to be around to ask questions. Everything went well and as all legal checks are completed on a daily basis everything was tip top as it should be! 
I meet a lot of the store colleagues today. I work with Dawn to see what life is all about on the shop floor. She's worked for the society along time and knows her stuff inside out. She's so friendly and has a real energy about her that makes you feel instantly comfortable, a must for a customer facing role. 
I can say the same about all of the colleagues I have met. Gill has not long returned from maternity leave, Janice lives in the village, as do the majority of the colleagues. Gordon, Lynn, Linda (or Bish as she's known) are all Team Leaders. Claire is the fourth. Tom, Alex, Ashleigh, Deb, Christy, Farah, Sue, Diane… I meet them all throughout the two weeks and understand their position here and what else they feel they could add to the customer. 
I jump right in and start on the shop floor as the ambient delivery has just arrived - we've got to get our heads down and get on with working the delivery.  


I get chatting with the team to understand their strengths and Deb is fantastic at merchandising. I support her with planning an ambient relay ensuring we have our planograms, stock and tickets ready for the reset on culinary and international foods. 
Tony and I start thinking about changeover and the rota for the next two weeks.
A weekend trading at Barton under Needwood 



I have observed that Saturday has been far the busiest day with customers coming through the door in a flurry from 10am onwards.


They're picking up the weekend papers, something for tea and planning ahead for Sunday lunch. They want to stop and have a chat with you, and not just the older generation. 


Customers take the time to stop colleagues as we chat about the weather, what's going on in the village and the road closure that's happening this week for four weeks. I start to think if this will impact our offer to customers then sales… trading? We plan ahead as this could have an impact on what time deliveries arrive and getting stock out on to the shelves.
One customer (a lady aged 60ish) has come specifically for a joint of lamb this morning, she wants four for a dinner with the family tomorrow and we luckily have four on the delivery. I just hope that we don't have anyone else wanting lamb for their Sunday lunch tomorrow as we have now sold out until we get the next chilled delivery on Monday (it’s only Saturday) 


There's also a huge demand for fly and wasp spray and ice and ice cream, all of which are now out of stock until the next delivery. I hope we don’t get any disappointed customers looking for any of these products.


This goes to show what a customer wants today they might not be in the market for tomorrow and we’ve missed out on fulfilling their requirement and potentially their loyalty.  
With queues backing up all the way to the bakery we had better crack on. Trading remains like this throughout the weekend.  


Everything just seems to run like a well-oiled machine which is down to incredible planning and leadership not just from Tony and his team leaders but everyone who is involved in running team Barton. 


Tony recruits on personality, capability and attitude and trusts every single person in his team to deliver great service and product availability to his customers. 

My key takeaways from the last 2 weeks:
The customer

•    Customers want to be rewarded for what they buy the most
•    They want a chat
•    One of the most important things I have learnt is the art of having a two-way conversation with a customer is the most valuable thing you can offer any human being. No matter who you are, whether you’re the cleaner or a manager. Being human is all that matters and being able to talk to people from all backgrounds and walks of life, it's actually very rewarding to stop what you are doing and give someone the time of day
•    The Barton customer demands quality and they do not like change! They feel it happens too often, as soon as they get used to a product i.e. coronation chicken we remove it and don't supply an alternative. We’ve lost their loyalty to the shop as we cannot give them what they want
•    They want us to solve their problems - and quickly. If we don't have what they have come for then find me another product. I don't care what it is I need it to do this so help me! I’ll pay whatever it takes!
•    Value is not a contender in this demographic. EDLP doesn’t wash here
•    They demand a decent shopping experience, trollies by the front door, water in the dog bowl, baskets ready to pick up, flat beds and cages out of their way! As a convenience retailer, one of our main goals is to make shopping easier and more pleasurable
•    Customers don't want to navigate around boxes of stock and they shouldn’t have to, especially in a store of this size
•    They want options on how we make contact with them. I spoke to more than 20 customers about this in my time here and not everyone wants an email, text message, or leaflet. Some are quite happy for us to tell them what's new or what's on offer via a piece of POS on the shelf it all goes back to understanding who that customer is and what their preferences are
•    They demand the best. The best product, the best price and the BEST service - shop after shop

Customer experience POS


•    The expectations of customers continue to grow and if their experience is not truly convenient or right for them, they will walk away 
•    Loyalty is driven by the authenticity of store teams and the shop format its self. Does it offer me what I need? If so then I will shop. Shop after shop. If you can’t fulfil I won’t be loyal and I will go elsewhere
•    We have more than 260 stores we understand that our customers visit us little and often, so we need to make that journey around the store as easy as possible
•    Numerous innovations are becoming available to grab customer attention, however bombarding customers with irrelevant messages that are not local or timely are dismissed by the customer
•    We want to inspire shoppers to encourage incremental sales as well as show that we can satisfy all their needs - from a meal for tonight, something new and interesting, food on the go or a fabulous bottle of wine and some flowers to take to a party
•    Convenience is the key battleground for meeting customer demand, and one where store formats and in-store communication is a vital component
•    If we truly put the customer first, and adapt to how customers interact with their store, I believe we will see the biggest rewards in the next few years 
Format of store 

•    On a practical level, strategies have translated into trying to locate a till near to meal deal cabinets, clear price messages, adjacencies such as locating gift bags near to wine, and meal solutions for ‘no cook’ nights
•    The design of the store should smooth out and hone in on the friction points our customers have. If we keep on top of consumer insight and continue acting on what customers tell us they want, we know we’ll be on the right track
•    Technical innovations have a role to play in the very near future. High-tech solutions need to replace paper displays with screens, for example, this can help us to put the user experience first and test iterations of most viable products in alpha and beta trials
•    Thinking bigger, the methods of display screens can help our business push through change that might ordinarily have stalled as we wait for insight, or to trial a concept store
•    Priority for the customer experience over the temptation to simply be at the leading edge of technology 
•    You can have the most tech-smart tills in the world but if shoppers have to queue to get their lottery ticket, the feeling of annoyance is still the same



•    The team are the building blocks of the success of this store. They're a self-motivated and talented bunch of people - some of the best I've met in my career
•    Tony and the team leaders shine a positive light which engages other colleagues and, most importantly, customers
•    Structure but not hierarchy 
•    Cross-functional team - Barton has a diverse team but they all work together and trust each other to be the best they can be
•    Hire personalities and real people - Tony has smashed this and recognises good people who can add value on the front line. Amy started off as the cleaner but quite clearly was great at interacting with customers so he gave her a job where she can add real value to customers 
•    Empower your best people with the right personality that resonates with customers to make the customer experience outstanding- see above for details! 
•    Know the strengths in your team. Gordon works BWS like a champion and is quicker than anyone else. Right employee, right place, right time - positive outcome for the customer

•    Right range for the right store
•    Promotional change SBO 
•    Overspills - change of customer mission over holidays mean reducing certain lines (SBO doesn't allow for this so increased risk of wastage) i.e. sandwiches as kids are off.
My main learning is - Be close to our customer and we won’t go wrong.



{These are my thoughts and opinions and not that of my employers. A special thanks to Tony and the team at Barton for letting me loose in their store for 2 weeks.} 

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