When my wife and I first moved to southern California a few years ago, she told me about shopping in a “California supermarket.” She raved about their selection and fresh vegetables, and said she was going to be a new, loyal customer of Ralph’s.
- She didn’t like it when I told her she was, basically, still shopping at Kroger’s.
As someone who grew up in a family grocery store, I was interested to note the announcement earlier this week that Kroger had acquired legendary grocer Harris Teeter. And, even more interestingly, Kroger CEO David Dillon said, ““We’re not going to come in and change these stores into something people won’t recognize. These are going to be Harris Teeter stores, and they’re going to stay Harris Teeter stores.”
With good reason — Harris Teeter has something to teach Kroger, according to Dillon: “[Harris Teeter has] a stronger fresh reputation, and by fresh I’m really referring to all the perishable departments, than some of the Kroger operations,” Dillon says in the New York Times. “Our intent is to learn from them, ‘How do they get that reputation? What are some of the things they do that create that?’ It won’t be as much, I think, in the actual products as in the methods by which we get the products to the market.”
However, Harris Teeter also has VERY loyal customers. For Kroger to come in and paste their logo over a place where customers have been consistently shopping for many years won’t enhance sales or customer commitment. So, just as they do with Ralph’s, Fry’s, Food4Less, and more…customers won’t even know, in most cases, that they are shopping at Kroger’s.
- What does this have to do with you?
It raises this question: What are you doing to be closer to your customers?
Are you projecting some kind of “local” commitment? The “local” aspect could be geographic. However, in today’s hyper-connected, online world, “local” could mean a speciality in a niche market that a select group of customers and prospects are passionate about…or, perhaps it could be a specific skill or service that appeals to a market segment.
The point is that the Kroger lesson teaches a very important aspect of business that is easy to overlook in our desire to grow:
Being perceived as “local” — in other words, highly engaged in a local community…whether that’s geographically or interest-based — is critical in creating distinction in a crowded marketplace.
Final side note: What made you distinctive in the past won’t guarantee you remain unique. According to Marketing Daily, the Charlotte Observer’s Ely Portillo wrote, “The company says an early Harris store that opened in 1949 was innovative for the time, in offering air conditioning and staying open until 9 on Friday nights.”
How are you innovating to continue to create distinction?