Consumer Connection Central to Industry Success

Consumer Connection Central to Industry Success

Michelle Moran, Editor In Chief, Progressive Grocer & Gourmet Retailer

The vendor and retail communities require clarity to see beyond the economic climate of today and embrace the silver lining of the changing behaviors of consumers. That was the key takeaway after 24 hours of in-depth sessions at The Nielsen Company’s Consumer 360 Conference in Orlando. Attendees were handed the tools to succeed and discovered how those tools will be used to reconstruct their relationships with their customers.

“If we just listen to these consumers, they will tell you where you need to go,” said Nick Sorvillo, Kraft Senior VP Consumer Insight & Strategy.

Kraft’s driving mission is to reconnect – emotionally and functionally – with consumers. Sorvillo stressed the path to that connection includes building an image of trust, dependability and value solutions.

“Those of you who understand the value equation for the category you are in will succeed,” he explained. “And value is not all about price.”

Kraft’s Consumer Channel research spotlights the shopping psychology of today’s consumer. The economy has changed the attitudes of consumers – 61% of Kraft’s consumer surveyed said their attitudes have been permanently changed. These consumers are cooking more at home, entertaining at home – with a mantra of ‘back to basics’ and family. They are practicing what Sorvillo termed as “brightsiding” – looking to the brighter side of a situation.

Seventy-two percent of those same consumers will continue to use the same shopping strategies they’ve begun to practice under the present economic crunch. In order to continue to service these consumers, the industry will have to change its own focus and provide solutions.

The emotional relationship with consumers translates into proving that the industry is partnering with them through not only this recession but throughout their lifetime. Retail speakers and attendees echoed the task of breaking down barriers to the customer. Customer centricity is the hub of category management.

Food Lion demonstrated the power of the customer with presentations discussing its own shifts from a decades-long, low price-oriented inventory management to customer-oriented inventory management and store design. In a partnership with Kimberly-Clark, Food Lion SVP Merchandising & Distribution Derrick Penick said they revamped the baby care aisle with a focus on the primary consumer – Mom – with input from shopping mothers, the aisle was redesigned to better suit her shopping needs. The convenience of shopping the store is now a part of the value-proposition of Food Lion’s baby care category.