This is how brick and mortar retailers can survive the disruptive wave of on-demand supermarket start-ups.

With the introduction of near instant grocery delivery in big cities in Europe, traditional supermarkets face another threat to their business model. Innovative German start-ups like Gorillas and Flink conquer big cities in the Netherlands with the promise to deliver your groceries within 10 minutes. Even though the assortment is still small and they only operate in and close to the city center, the price is very similar to what you would pay in traditional grocery stores. Which begs the question; if you can get your groceries delivered near instantly for the same price, why would you still go to the supermarket yourself?

This question is the result of a trend that has been going on for longer. With the advances in delivery infrastructure and ‘on demand’ services, you technically don’t have to leave your house for anything anymore. Everything can be delivered to your doorstep, often even the same day, or — god forbid — the same week. And for anything that cannot be delivered yet, a hundred startups race for the spot to fill this particular void in the convenience industry.

The Food Experience

Source: Jumbo

So if there is no tangible upside for anyone to physically visit your store anymore, what do you do? Well, you make an upside. We see some examples of grocery stores making their store an experience worth it in itself. Jumbo and Albert Heijn are opening XXL supermarkets with food courts and cooking studios. After or during shopping you can order dishes and eat them in the cafe. If you like the food, you can find the recipes and ingredients in the store to make it at home. 

The Artsy Immersive Experience

Source: Design Museum, London

Another angle is an immersive, artsy approach to your regular supermarket trip. Design Museum in London opened an exhibition that doubles as a supermarket; you can actually buy the ‘art’. Granted, the museum is not primarily in the retail business. But this immersive, interactive experience is still a great example of how to draw people to your ‘supermarket’ whereas you would normally lose to the convenience offered by competitors. 

The Social Experience

Source: Jumbo

Another angle might be the social one. For some people the little trip to the grocery store might be the only time they leave the house for the day. These trips function as an essential bit of social contact and connection, for example among older people. That’s why Jumbo opened a ‘kletskassa’. A checkout where, in contrast to the contemporary efficiency race in retail, people like to take their time and have a little chat. Some other supermarket also have community reading tables and corners where people can hang out and chat. Effectively taking on the function of a coffee bar.

Experience vs. Convenience

To conclude, if you have a physical store, you will most likely not win the battle of convenience. As a matter of fact, the simple fact that people have to come to you means you already lost. This means you have to make it worth their while. And there are plenty of angles to do so. People look for meaningful experiences. Show them how taking the effort is still worth it and offer them something an app platform can’t; how your in-store experience outweighs their on-demand convenience. Make the experience primary and the utilitarian aspect secondary. 

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