There's a real and palpable concern among bricks-and-mortar retailers that the Australian public, seduced by the likes of Amazon, is eschewing traditional shopping channels in favour of online experiences.
But what if grocery retailers can make the bricks-and-mortar shopping experience dreamy enough that Australian consumers will still hold a place for it in their hearts?
The grocery giant recently opened its doors to a truly customer-first, newly updated store in Marrickville Metro Shopping Centre, Sydney.
Walking into the store this Saturday, it was impressive to see a number of key areas where Woolworths have clearly demonstrated that they’ve listened to, and acted on, the changing wants and needs of their customers.
Upon arrival, I was immediately greeted by a helpful, smiling employee who filled me in on some of the improvements the store has made.
It turns out Woolworths haven’t tried to guess what their customers might like. They’ve spoken to them directly and responded in a number of ways which have really enhanced today’s Woolworths shopping experience.
Store employees have been re-trained and instructed to focus on making customers feel looked after and special.
A number of staff t-shirts now read ‘I’m here to help’ and even the signage is focused on humanising the team and Woolworths’ suppliers. Across the store there are posters showcasing ‘Cameron the sheep farmer’, the store’s head baker, and more.
Cooking advice is dotted around the shelves, showing customers how to cook with different cuts of meat, pair prawns with white wine and create tasty stir-fry flavour combinations.
Customers are even advised to ‘ask the butcher about how to cook pork to perfection’.
The lighting feels soft and the timber used throughout the store helps the shopping experience feel more luxurious and ‘natural’.
Numerous screens around the store rotate helpful messages and promotional offers, making the store feel up-to-date and modernised.
However, this doesn’t detract from the personal feel, as chalk notes (with employee photos) on blackboards advise customers to ‘check out the bag’n’bake seafood’ and highlight the new location of eggs, organic vegetables and milk in-store.
The deli section, too, has been expanded and made to feel more premium.
It features a variety of creative salads, a big cheese selection with large traditional European-style cheese wheels, fresh rotisserie chickens, ‘restaurant quality sushi’ and an open-plan seafood kitchen.
Sustainable and ethical.
The meat section reassures customers that the animals have been ‘ethically raised with tender care’ and are ‘RSPCA approved’.
The fruit and veg section offers recyclable bags for organic produce in a bid to reduce the use of plastic.
The staff are even wearing t-shirts featuring ‘the odd bunch’ - a section of the store dedicated to ‘non-perfect’ fruit and veg (similar to Harris Farm in NSW).
This initiative encourages people to buy at a reduced price to ‘save a bunch’ and reduce wastage of fresh ‘imperfect’ produce.
Nutritional information is highlighted on signs above food items explaining, for example, how seafood can be used as part of a healthy diet with ‘omega 3 salmon’ and how eggs are a source of ‘protein in a dish or on their own’.
Advice is also displayed about the number of fruit and vegetable servings that people should be eating each day.
The new macro whole foods market is filled with healthy options and products for various dietary requirements. It even provides a break-down of which nuts and grains offer particular health benefits and features a large sign drawing you towards the ‘high in protein’ quinoa section.
Local and fresh.
The store has a distinct focus on local and fresh, featuring ‘cut today, sold tomorrow’ fruit and veg, and Aussie farmers photographed out in their fields.
The grab-and-go yogurts at the front of the store even detail the exact farm the ingredients originally came from.
All in all.
The pleasant shopping trip was completed by observing the familiar rotating bag-packing machines and spacious areas for customers to bag up their shopping… no anxious clambering to move out of the way quickly before you get railroaded by the next person in line!
So, amongst all the industry chatter about Amazon’s grocery offering and Australian consumer trends moving towards healthy, local, sustainable, fresh, personal and premium - it seems like the team at Woolworths are actively adapting, and I think they’re nailing it.
Over to you.
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