UK food and grocery businesses must engage with shoppers on a much more emotional level than they currently do in order to deliver growth, according to new research unveiled today by IGD chief executive Joanne Denney-Finch.
Speaking at IGD’s Big Debate conference in London yesterday (October 18), she urged delegates: “In a business environment, we pride ourselves on thinking rationally. But let’s stop thinking so rationally all of the time and build our emotional intelligence.”
IGD’s new research studies shoppers’ feelings in detail, using an emotional gauge developed by research agency ABA. The “5Drivers” model identifies five clear emotional states: control (feeling on top of things and confident you won’t be let down); desire (sensory pleasures of sight, sound, touch, taste and smell); belonging (social connection, feeling welcomed, comfortable and part of a group); immersion (being lost in the moment); and freedom (feeling unconstrained and liberated).
Denney-Finch said: “We’ve tested grocery shopping for all these emotions and it came out okay – but it could do better. It got high scores for ‘control’; scored around halfway for ‘desire’ and ‘belonging’; but didn’t score well for ‘immersion’ and ‘freedom’. That tells us time tends to drag and we’re rarely surprised in a grocery store.”
IGD’s research found that the fastest-growing formats of online and discount are the best at triggering positive emotions, while many shoppers view the biggest retailers as ‘the establishment’.
On the “critical battlegrounds” to decide the future of food retail, Denney-Finch explained: “The real crunch battles are ‘cook it at home’ versus ‘food to go’; discount versus full range stores; and physical versus online shopping. And these battles are also critical for manufacturers.
“‘Cook it at home’ versus ‘food to go’ is usually viewed as a trade-off between price and convenience. But I think the single biggest reason why food to go is surging ahead is the way it engages our emotions. It is fun, varied, immediate, a treat and generally low in stress. Home cooking can be inspiring too, but the centre of an average supermarket is a pretty uninspiring place.”
Meanwhile, the discounters scored highly in the research for “desire”, “freedom” and “immersion”.
“Between discount and full range stores, the trade-off is between price and range – or so we usually think,” said Denney-Finch. “But shoppers told us that shopping at a discounter is quick, easy and better for new products.
“On another big battleground, in-store versus online, we usually think this hinges on cost and convenience – but again, our gauge provides another view. Online services engage the emotions better. It’s easy to get absorbed in the Aladdin’s Cave of possibilities online. And that emotional gap will keep on widening unless you get to work on it.”
Greater automation of grocery retailing in the future will leave shoppers with more time to hunt for inspiration, according to Denney-Finch. “Food stores will focus more and more on fresh and new products and here emotions really will rule. For suppliers, it means if you’re not fresh and you’re not new – and you’re not bringing excitement or helping the retailer to differentiate – you’re going to get marginalised in tomorrow’s food stores.”
She concluded: “Food, drink, health and beauty are some of the greatest pleasures in life. They should really stir the emotions – we shouldn’t be halfway on the gauge. We don’t have to sacrifice excitement for efficiency – we need both. So let’s engage differently with our customers and build a stronger and more powerful relationship.”