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The Grocery Diaries- AMP Agency Customer Experience Deep-Dive

Buying and preparing food is a huge part of most of our lives and routines. Almost everybody grocery shops – but not everyone shops the same. Strategists Jen Herbert and Greer Pearce recorded grocery diaries for a month and sat down to compare notes on the modern grocery experience.

 

LIFE STAGES SHIFT FOOD ROUTINES

Greer: Jen and I are in different life stages, and one of our big takeaways was not just that our shopping routines are different, but that changes in our lives have acted as triggers for a whole new food routine. Marketers have known for a long time that there are some brief periods in a person’s life when routines are disrupted and shopping patterns are open to change, and we saw that play out clearly in our own lives.

 

When Jen moved in with her partner, Jason, grocery shopping became a team effort. She had to start coordinating weeknight schedules and planning differently. They shop together, so the actual shopping experience became more fun: they make funny faces at each other in the produce section and gamify splitting up the items in their cart at checkout to try and get as close to possible to a perfectly split bill.

 

When I had a baby last year, I also got a new shopping partner – my son, Teddy. Pre-shopping trip, that meant planning more carefully so I could get in and out of the store faster, and new items on our list as he started to eat solid foods. In-store, it meant less time looking at labels or new products, and more time solving the puzzle of how to physically shop with him, a tiny human either taking up most of the cart in his car seat, strapped to my body, or trying to escape from the child seat.  

 

These new routines are markedly different from how both Jen and I shopped as single young professionals, when we made more, smaller trips to the store and only bought food for one.

 

Brand Takeaway: Consumers need different things at different life stages, and there are multiple phases when they’re actively adjusting their routine. Meet them in the moment to offer them solutions specific to their needs.

 

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 Life stage shapes how people shop. Jen and her partner shop together and gamify their routine to make it more fun. Greer looks for items that will distract her toddler.

 

GROCERY SHOPPING STARTS BEFORE THE GROCERY STORE

Jen: What Greer and I came to appreciate as we traded our grocery stories was just how much effort we both spend on “pre-work” before ever stepping foot in-store.

 

Before a list can be constructed, we both meal plan our future dinners, but our sources for drawing meal inspiration are very different. Greer knows that her family will be home and in need of dinners every night of the week. She sits down and plans each of those seven meals, surrounded by her go-to resources: three favorite cookbooks, the New York Times, and Bon Appetit’s online recipes.

 

Meanwhile, Jason and I start meal planning by assessing when we’ll both be home – these are nights when it feels “worth it” to invest time in a homemade dinner. Then, we’ll scan the fridge to see if anything is in need of repurposing, which will often spark a meal idea. In the warmer months, we’ll also check the weather – if there are sunny days ahead, we’ll grill. If we’re still stuck, I’ll head to my Saved posts on Instagram. (When I see an easy meal idea, I proactively flag it for times like these.) Finally, I’ll do a scan of the house for staples – everything from vitamins to eggs to Kleenex – that we are running low on and should also be added to the list.

 

When we finally arrive in-store, our routines don’t stop. Greer follows the same pattern around her store each time, while I go so far as to “code” my list by the section of the store I’ll find each item in.

 

Brand Takeaway: Going in-store with a clear plan of attack helps the shopping experience run on autopilot, guaranteeing the trip is relatively efficient and even free of in-the-moment decision-making. With that insight, we both agree that well over half of our “grocery experience” actually takes place within our own homes. Consider ways that your brand can build relationships with customers outside of the physical store, when they’re more likely to be in an open, “inspirational” mindset rather than cruising on autopilot.

 

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The grocery experience starts with inspiration and preparation. Jen and Jason make a detailed list before heading to the store.

 

SURPRISES MAKE A SHOPPING TRIP BEAUTIFUL

Jen: With all that prep-work, what’s in our basket is often dictated by what’s on our lists. But Greer and I also found we welcome pleasant surprises and unplanned ways to treat ourselves.

 

Greer sometimes treats herself to a pretty bouquet of flowers if they catch her eye, or spontaneously grabs swordfish if it looks particularly good. She distinctly remembers being excited one spring when her store’s typically uninspiring produce section had fiddlehead ferns.

 

Jason and I typically “allow” ourselves one or two surprises when we do our weekly shopping. This could be, like Greer, a spontaneous bouquet of flowers, a fancy candy bar or pastry, or a new flavor of protein bar or ice cream (usually one with eye-catching packaging!). Another welcome surprise is when large grocery chains begin carrying beloved brands from the Northeast. Just the other day, we happily discovered coffee from our favorite roastery in Maine, which we typically had to purchase on-vacation or online! It’s moments like this that infuse a trip that could feel like a chore with a sense of fun.

 

Brand Takeaway: Basket-building moments center around beauty and reward. While the idea of grocery shopping is quite beautiful – fresh, colorful produce, nurturing loved ones, etc. – grocery shopping in practice is often anything but. Finding small opportunities to encourage customers to treat themselves to something beautiful is a reward for an accomplished store trip.

 

PROXIMITY ISN’T THE ONLY FACTOR

Greer: It seems obvious that where we grocery shop is dictated by where we live, and to some extent this is true. But within a person’s grocery options, several factors might trigger them to buy at one store over another:

 

  • The List: Jen’s list dictates where she’ll shop that week, and she doesn’t decide where to shop until it’s complete. If the recipe’s she’s making calls for hard-to-find produce, or she’s craving the fancy yogurt she likes, she’ll drive a little farther to get to a store where she knows she can find what she needs.
  • Physical size of items: Greer gets all her bulky items like diapers, paper towels, dog food, and toilet paper via Amazon so she can avoid carrying heavy items home from a physical store.
  • Price: Both Jen and Greer have price compared the stores in their area, and make the less expensive store their go-to for staples.
  • In-store experience: Both Jen and Greer sometimes go out of their way to find an experience that offers elements of fun, beauty, and excitement.
  • “Type” of grocery visit: Different grocery occasions call for different stores. Greer does her weekly, well planned trips to one store, but goes to a smaller, closer store for an unplanned mid-week trip.
  • Season: In the summer, both Jen and Greer completely switch up their routines to incorporate farmers markets and CSAs where they can get fresh local produce. This means less trips to the grocery store overall, and meal planning driven by in-season items.

Brand Takeaway: The need for food drives a grocery visit, but many factors go into where and how you shop. While shoppers may have a default routine, they are open to deviating from it – or redefining it when it will make their lives easier or more enjoyable. Brands should consider how to meet the needs of multiple types of grocery occasions.

AMP is on a quest to humanize the total customer experience. This article is a part of AMP’s  Customer Experience Deep Dive Blog Series, where we take a first person approach to understanding the modern shopping experience.

 

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Lessons from Dr. Pooja Lakshmin on Burnout & Boundaries

Last week I had the opportunity to attend Ad Club’s Women’s Leadership Forum. It was inspiring to hear so many accomplished women share their knowledge and experiences with us. As a young female professional, early on in the grand scheme of my career, it was refreshing to hear about a topic nearly everyone is impacted by but few speak about: burnout. The session, poetically called The Betrayal of Burnout, was led by Dr. Pooja Lakshmin, a psychiatrist and author specializing in women’s mental health.   Burnout is a word that feels all too familiar to many of us — especially in this past year and a half during the pandemic, where it’s been challenging to separate work life from home life when they are taking place in the same space. Dr. Lakshmin poignantly suggested the term ‘burnout’ itself exonerates a system that does not do enough to support mental health, working parents, or child care. According to Dr. Lakshmin, the most frequent response to an individual expressing burnout is “Are you going to therapy?”, or “Are you doing self-care?”. This, she claims, places the burden of responsibility onto the person, and not onto a system that is evidently flawed. Faux self-care practices like yoga, meditation and spa retreats will not solve the problems that come with burnout. Those are privileged solutions that many people do not have access to, and oftentimes are not long-term solutions. The only thing that worked for her was learning how to say no and setting proper boundaries. Below are a few important lessons that Dr. Lakshmin shared to help women set boundaries in their professional lives. The outcome? Increases in quality of work and client satisfaction are just a few of the benefits that stem from women in the workplace setting boundaries and avoiding burnout. No one is going to make the choices for you and your best interest — you must make those for yourself.  As women, Dr. Lakshmin says, we tend to put ourselves last. She warns that getting into a “martyr mode” comes with a cost. In order to truly prioritize your mental health, you need to make space for yourself. Whether it’s setting your Slack status to “Away” to take that midday walk that gives you a mental reprieve, or declining to take on a new project that would strain your already tight bandwidth  — these are the decisions we can make for our own mental health that help make us more focused while we are working and more easily unplug when we aren’t. Communicate your priorities to the people in your life.  Dr. Lakshmin encourages women to decide what your values are in your current season of life. Different seasons bring different priorities. Some seasons, she suggests, are for prioritizing your family, and some are for your professional work. You can communicate those to the people in your life. For example, if it’s important to you to have dinner with your family, then let your colleagues and clients know that you’ll be offline at 6pm. Setting those expectations creates clear boundaries your team and clients can respect. Sharing these priorities also humanizes us and can encourage our team and clients to do the same, creating a more empathetic workplace for all.  Feeling guilt does not mean you’re making the wrong choice.  Dr. Lakshmin recognizes that sometimes when we set boundaries as women, we feel a sense of guilt for putting ourselves first. In a society that conditions women to be the caretakers, this is an all too common reaction. She instead offers to think of your guilt as a faulty check engine light: just because you feel guilty does not mean something is wrong or that you’re making the wrong choice. Reframe it as building up your muscle to tolerate self-care.  Most importantly, Dr. Lakshmin reiterates, when you’re feeling burnt out, try to remind yourself this is a systemic issue. This is not something that we as women are creating for ourselves; instead, we are simply reacting to it. We must remember self-care is a verb, not a noun, and the real work is internal. We need to get our feelings out in a trusted space whether that’s with our partner, mentor, or friend. Holding those feelings inside will only work against us. Just like Dr. Lakshmin, when you take the risk to advocate for what you need and want in the workplace, you're empowering the women that are coming behind you as well as making yourself a better employee and partner to your clients. 

Most Popular House Plants Based On Search

We have all had different coping mechanisms since the pandemic began. Stuck inside, many of us realized how lifeless our living spaces were. Some of us opted to adopt a living, breathing, loveable dog (see Sean Adams’ article on the top quarantine pooches), but for many who were not ready to take that plunge – we chose another way to bring life inside. Yes, I’m talking about houseplants. Houseplants became a newfound passion for many during their days in quarantine, and existing plant parents only seemed to expand their brood. Time seemingly has ground to a halt for the past year, and new leaves on my plants remain one of the only ways I am convinced that any time has passed at all.  To a pedestrian, keeping a plant alive may seem like child’s play. However as many of us new plant enthusiasts have learned, it is anything but. Many plants are sensitive, needy, and dare I say dramatic (looking at you, polka-dot plant!). As always when in doubt about really anything at all, troubled Americans turned to Google for help in their plant-parenting journey. THE MOST POPULAR INDOOR PLANT DURING THE PANDEMIC: BATTLE OF THE PLANTS We pulled historical data for the most searched houseplant keywords to see if the supposed quarantine plant craze is real (it is), and after that we set out to determine the ultimate pandemic plant. What was the most popular indoor plant during quarantine? Read on, reader. N.B. We have done our best to account for data related to Seth Rogan’s new business “Houseplant”   First, to prove I am completely normal for acquiring over thirty plants since last March, we looked at thousands of the most searched queries for the past several years that contained the phrase “houseplant” or “house plant” (yes, it makes a difference to Google). You can see plants were enjoying some popularity in 2019, but their moment in the sun truly arrived right as quarantine began. They saw some drop off over the winter, but are on the rise again this spring. This may be because plants don’t do as great in the winter, or because this winter was particularly depressing and we could all barely take care of ourselves, let alone our plants. All in all, house plant queries increased 97% between February and May 2020, when they began to total over half a million searches per month.  So, lots of folks decided that watching plants grow was more entertaining than anything else they were doing. Any millennial could have told you that. We wanted more; we wanted to know the absolute hottest quarantine plant. We wanted to know, if put to the test, who would prevail in a(n epic) battle of the plants? MOST POPULAR HOUSE PLANTS To start our investigation, we first gathered a list of common houseplants and plugged them into our search listening tools to find out the most searched plant types. We didn’t stop there, because we wanted to know not only the most Googled house plants in general, but the one that saw the biggest spike in popularity during quarantine. Of our list of 60+ common plants, the only one that did not see an increase in search interest between March and May of 2020 was aloe vera (go figure).  The most searched overall during May of 2020 -- the height of the plant craze -- was lily of the valley, followed by orchid and snake plant.      HIGHEST QUARANTINE SEARCH INTEREST   When we looked at which plant had the most dramatic change of search volume from the pandemic, certain plants stood out.        Although searches for lily of the valley skyrocketed during quarantine (+307% from March to May!), other plants made it out better with sustained interest post-spike. Notably, snake plants (+124%) and philodendrons (+124%) have held onto their newfound popularity quite well. Begonias (+233%) and hostas (+307%) and the lily of the valley both enjoyed lots of spring interest, but searches fell off in the winter. Today, they are rising once again to easily beat 2019 numbers.  Why are people searching for these particular plants? We took a deeper dive to see what questions people ask Google about their photosynthesizing friends.   ARE LILY OF THE VALLEY POISONOUS? You may be asking yourself: How cool even is lily of the valley? In short, it’s cute, smells good and will bloom in the off season if you keep it inside. Sounds good on the surface level, but we found there may be a dark side to this sweet lil’ plant.  https://s7d1.scene7.com/is/image/terrain/53318663_000_a?$zoom2$    It turns out the most searched question related to Lily of the Valley did not have to do with their soil preferences or water schedule. Instead, searchers wanted to know: Are lily of the valley poisonous? (yikes!) Well, are they? Yes! Lilies of the valley are very poisonous to humans, dogs and cats. Do not, we repeat, do not chop up some lily of the valley for your next summer salad. If you don’t have kids, pets or you are just trying to go full Breaking Bad, Lily of the Valley might be the perfect fit for you. If your life is otherwise fulfilling and you don’t want to casually keep poison in your home, maybe consider another plant.   HOW OFTEN TO WATER SNAKE PLANT? Ah yes, the forgiving snake plant, also known as “mother in law’s tongue” (rude!), is a favorite among those who struggle to keep a pet rock happy. First-time snake plant owners want to get down to basics, (probably hoping to keep a plant alive, for once) so their most popular question was how often to water a snake plant? Snake plants like dryness and do not need much water at all. In fact, it’s more likely you will overwater your snake plant than the chances it will perish of thirst. Adjust accordingly, but a snake plant really only needs to be watered once every two weeks. Make sure you give it a good drink!    https://www.thespruce.com/thmb/3ZzeafMMYBupme3O5dodMz3uoxI=/2048x1545/filters:no_upscale():max_bytes(150000):strip_icc()/snake-plant-care-overview-1902772-04-3f69d04885af4613bf2eda197704fe20.jpg    HOW TO GROW BEGONIAS?  Begonias are hideous (I said it) yet still somehow achieved huge popularity during the initial months of quarantine. Yes, they have beautiful flowers. Yes, they come in a huge variety of size and shape. However, if you aren’t ready to wait for it to bloom (could be years if you are a mediocre plant parent), you’re gonna get real sick of looking at those misshapen crinkly hunks of leaves. Trust me.    https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/91awtOV4jTL._AC_SL1500_.jpg They happen to look pretty cool in this picture.   Popular questions searched about begonias are quite innocuous compared to the deathly lily of the valley. In fact, one of the most popular questions was simply how to grow begonias? To which I would say, the only thing you have to remember is to not water it too much. Or too little. Also, it needs a good amount of sun, but also do not put it in a window with too much light. Oh, also, I’m sure you’ll do great at the whole plant thing, but don’t forget to fertilize it. But be very careful to not over fertilize! Prune it in the summer, but not too early. See? Plant parenthood is a piece of cake.    HOW TO PROPAGATE PHILODENDRON?  Philodendrons are the standbys of the plant world. Picture any plant right now, and there’s a good chance it's some variety of philodendron. Some of them have vines, some grow straight up and collectively they are all the craze. There are so many varieties, all seemingly unrelated to the next. There are the ultra-trendy monsteras, with their huge swiss-cheese leaves. Then there’s its cousin, the silver philodendron, that has shiny metallic patches on its leaves that cascade down vines.   http://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0150/6262/products/the-sill_silver-satin_variant_small_grant_terracotta.jpg?v=1621860945 https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/cheese-plant.jpg  Seriously, how are these plants related?!   Philodendrons are living in their golden age; everyone wants a piece. So it’s no wonder one of the most popular questions was how to propagate philodendron? To propagate a philodendron, the primary thing you need is courage, especially if it’s your first time (listen, I know it is scary chopping up your babies). With clean scissors or a knife, you’re going to need to lop off a leaf node from somewhere on your plant. Anywhere a leaf grows out of is the magic spot that needs to come with your new plant cutting so it will grow new roots and can be healthy by the time you gift it as a thoughtful housewarming present to your friend. Once you’ve secured a chunk of plant that includes a node, it will have to be placed in soil or water until it grows those oh-so-important root systems. Usually after a few weeks your plant cutting will grow roots and can be replanted!   SO WHO WON THE BATTLE OF THE PLANTS? We officially decree a tie between lily of the valley and snake plants as the ultimate champions of quarantine plant battle. Although lily of the valley had stronger overall interest during the height of the plant craze, the snake plant has managed to hold on tight to its increased popularity and benefitted the most from our collective suffering. Essentially, the winners are “poison” and “an outdated joke about mothers in law.” Congratulations! Now, only one question remains: will these two plants reign supreme in 2021? We’ll have to wait and see.   A BIT ABOUT AMP SEO Every day, there are 3.5 billion Google searches about everything under the sun (including plants). Google is everyones’ most trusted adviser, strategist, and confidant. To know what people search for is to know their true concerns. After all, why would you lie to Google? And if enough people search for the same thing, our search listening tools can pick it up, and we can analyze the inner workings of American minds. By utilizing our Search Intelligence services, AMP can help you unlock a trove of valuable market intelligence data sourced directly from the Google queries of your customers. If you have an interest in analyzing search data to drive brand & business decisions or in monitoring search data on an ongoing basis for up-to-date audience insights, you may want to learn more about our SEO agency services.

Takeaways from The 2021 Women's Leadership Forum

On the eve of AMP’s quarterly mental health office closure, a group of AMP’s female associates virtually gathered to attend 2021 The Women’s Leadership Forum hosted by Ad Club. The tagline of this year’s event, Nevertheless, She Persisted, was a foreshadowing of the primary theme throughout each session: persistence. By extension, this stands out as a reflection of an AMP core value: growth.  Fighting Invisibility   Gender and ethnicity also served as contextual backdrops for the stories told within each session. Award-winning author Gish Jen discussed her experience of becoming a novelist as an Asian American woman and the outside responses this frequently evoked. Being questioned as to why she wasn’t writing stories set in China was a common occurrence for Jen, and she explained that experiences like these often leave Asian Americans feeling invisible. But instead of playing the role of “professional victim”, as Jen puts it, she chose to stand her ground. Her decided response: “Do Asians write about these topics? They do now.”    Making Intentional Choices  This notion of choice recurred throughout several sessions, with speakers explaining that having intentional responses to negative situations has profoundly shaped their journeys. Former NWHL Player & Pro Scout Blake Bolden owns that her successes have always come from the choices that she’s made. Growing up as a Black female, she had to rely largely on herself to make these choices as the sport lacked other Black females whom she could look up to. Now, Bolden is able to be that role model for other young women. “When you decide to wake up an choose to be better every single day, you’re not just making in an impact on yourself, but you could also be making an impact on someone else,” she noted while retelling the story of meeting a young Black girl who’d been inspired by Holden to play hockey. It was then that Holden realized she wasn’t just playing for herself, she was also playing for the people that she inspires. “You always have an option to choose,” she says.    Being Kind To Yourself  That said, getting better every day doesn’t mean working around-the-clock and ignoring burnout. To visual artist Nancy Floyd, giving herself permission to reflect and reset has allowed her to rediscover her passion for artistic endeavors that she’s become disinterred in. “Take baby steps,” she advises. “You don’t want to work out? Drive to the gym, and if you still don’t want to work out, drive home.” While she certainly isn’t a procrastinator, self-forgiveness and kind inner talk live at the center of Floyd’s creative process.    Staying The Course  During another session led by Wendy Ong, U.S. President of TaP Music & TaP records, listeners learned about her unconventional journey from a small apartment in Singapore to leading record labels and discovering top talent in the U.S. After moving to the U.S. with her then-husband, Ong did everything she could to land a job in the music industry, including blindly knocking on doors at record companies in NYC. After finally breaking into the scene, Ong experienced several years of success before a particularly disheartening experience at a label that left her wanting to quit the industry and return to Singapore. With the encouragement of her parents, she decided to keep marching towards her dreams. Now, as the President of a major U.S. record label, paving the way for other young women in the industry has become one of her primary passions. Noting that she wouldn’t want others to face the same struggles, she goes out of her way to “dust off the path for others so they can start their journey a little easier”.    Becoming Unstoppable  Each of these women come from vastly different backgrounds. Unwaveringly, though, throughout their stories we are met first with persistence and then with growth. We quickly learn that when determination is combined with intentional choices, self-forgiveness and the understanding that actions can lead to positive change for not just the person taking action but others who look up to them as well, we become unstoppable.