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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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How To Buy a Sweater in NYC: What four radically new shopping experiences tell us about the retail evolution

Store closures. Bankruptcy filings. A mall turned ghost town. For nearly a decade, we have been told that brick-and-mortar retail is dying, and have seen the effects with our own eyes.  Yet at the same time, digitally native brands are venturing offline. New store concepts are popping up with fresh takes on the in-store experience. Physical retail is in fact making many valiant and creative attempts to adapt rather than succumb to inevitable death.  And while industry coverage highlights how businesses hope to profit from their ingenious new take on retail, as I read article after article I was left wondering: what about the customer?  So, I set out on an ambitious shopping experiment to test the most innovative ways you can buy a sweater in New York City. What does this innovation feel like for me, in a world where so much of my shopping behavior has moved online? Turns out, my exposure to brands on social media made it almost impossible to aimlessly browse without carrying preconceived notions. With browsing and discovery happening online, brick-and-mortar stores are no longer about “shopping” in the traditional sense – they're about a focused hunt for a specific product or a memorable experience. Naadam: The Fast Transaction Store Naadam has two stores in NYC: “The $75 Sweater Store,” which only sells the brand’s iconic $75 cashmere sweater (or, as Glossy calls it, a “hero product”), and another store ten blocks away which offers the larger collection of apparel. I visited both stores, and purchased from the former.  At “The $75 Sweater Store,” my shopping experience was efficient: the store was the size of a hallway, there were three clothing racks with the $75 sweaters hanging, one dressing room, and one largely-silent sales associate. While I wouldn’t call it “shopping”  – there was no thrill of combing through racks – the transaction was refreshing in its own way. As I had already been exposed to the sweater online, I knew what I wanted and my time in-store simply felt like I was running an errand to pick it up – confirming through touch and a quick try-on that what I had seen online was indeed what I wanted to purchase. For this reason, it makes sense why the store experiences are separated – one drives the quick and easy sale, while the other promotes discovery and a deeper relationship with the brand. Top: “These are seventy five dollar cashmere sweaters” - the neon sign at Naadam’s “The $75 Sweater Store” ensures their store concept is crystal clear; Bottom: My ($75) sweater purchase, wrapped in paper printed with the care instructions.   Modcloth: The Stylist Store  Modcloth’s physical locations are branded as “FitShops,” where customers work with stylists to pick and try on outfits and then have them shipped home. From an operational perspective, this is ideal – because associates don’t need to house and manage inventory, the brand can rent much smaller retail locations, and associates can exercise their talents in styling customers rather than sorting product.  While I was there, I witnessed a stylist speaking with a woman who wasn’t sure if an item she was trying on was flattering. The stylist was holding a tablet open to modcloth.com, and was showing the shopper other similar styles to consider. This level of one-on-one attention is working – Modcloth customers using stylists are currently converting at 90%, compared to around 25% for those who don’t. While I myself didn’t end purchasing anything, my willingness to visit again definitely increased – Modcloth’s ability to seamlessly weave in-person interaction with the benefits of ecommerce felt like a value-add that could never be achieved by simply shopping from my couch. Prompts throughout the dressing room encourage shoppers to book appointments with stylists, from providing the booking URL as a sticker on the mirror (Top) to coupon cards offering 15% off all purchases when you book (Bottom).  Lingua Franca: The Courageous Customizer The hand-stitched cashmere sweater company Lingua Franca has found their niche in stitching custom phrases, especially liberal political statements (e.g. “Bad hombre” and “Blessed be the refugees”). I was visiting the store to make a statement of my own, planning on designing a sweater with one of the brand’s more popular phrases, “I miss Barack,” in the colors of my choosing. Before arrival, I was unsure whether the store was built with customization in mind, but I was pleasantly surprised to experience intense collaboration and interactivity. It was a true team process as the associate pulled sizes for me to try and brought photos up online to help me envision various sweater color / thread color combinations.  Lingua Franca is so clear about who they are and what they believe in as a brand. And due to a made-to-order business model with sweaters as the hero, the store, like Naadam’s “The $75 Sweater Store” or Modcloth, is fairly easy to operate. They can instead turn the space into a little jewel box for declaring their brand identity and building relationships. As a customer, I felt like I was joining a tribe of like-minded individuals while also enjoying the satisfaction of a personalized piece. Top: A corner of the Lingua Franca store; Middle: thread is laid out and customers are provided with a card of popular phrases to help with customization; Bottom: My sweater arrives at home.  Showfields: An Experience to Instagram  I had to conclude my sweater excursion with a trip to Showfields, after reading an article declaring it “the department store of the future.” Showfields describes themselves as “the most interesting store in the world” and “an immersive theater experience that bridges art and retail.” To be honest, the mystical vagueness of it all made me a little nervous. While there, I walked through various conjoining spaces, each temporarily owned by a brand and beautifully decorated with the help of Showfields to tell that brand’s story – Boodles Gin and Book of the Month created a library lounge area, and DTC toilet paper brand No. 2 took over the public restrooms (naturally.) It all felt a bit awkward and confusing. My mind raced with questions such as, Am I allowed to touch everything? (Yes.) Where do I try stuff on? (The one fitting room, disguised to look like a shipping container.) How do you pay? (Approach one of the associates/docents who check you out on the spot using a mobile device.) It looks like I’m the only one actually shopping – how in the world does Showfields make money? (Brands pay $4000+/month for the exposure, without much expectation of actually selling anything.)   I eye-rolled a lot, stopped in a few corners to take photos, and seemed to be the only person around who bought anything – in a space that was seemingly built for Instagramming, I ultimately felt uncomfortable making my purchase. Top: One of the brand’s spaces, produced to look like a bodega; Middle: One of the many corners seemingly designed for Instagramming; Bottom: My purchase, a sweater with a print of two romantic robots In the words of President Lincoln, four stores and several sweaters ago…  If online shopping has evolved in-person shopping into a focused hunt for a specific product or memorable experience, three things need to happen:  The brick and mortar concept must be unique and play a clear role or provide specific value to shoppers that they couldn’t get at home. Brands must then use their digital marketing channels to set clear expectations of what the store experience will be like, build excitement for that experience, and drive foot traffic.  Ecommerce, digital marketing, and physical retail must continue working together to learn and optimize towards the most positive customer experience possible. Ultimately, retailers need to ensure that their brand personality shines through their store concept. By thinking of the space as a magnet that will attract and build relationships with “on brand” consumers, it expands the definition of a “store” from a place that encourages a sale, into a marketing platform that ultimately helps visitors align themselves with a brand and its values as they search for, Snapchat, and shop the space.

Google Search Trends Insights December 2019 - AMP Agency

In our continuing series of examining Google Search Trends to gain insights into the top keywords queried in the USA, we present our findings for December 2019. Every day, we capture the top three keyword phrases in terms of search volume as reported by Google Trends (US Only). Each term has an estimated query volume attached to it, which we also record. The number scale tops out at 10,000,000+ with a lower limit of 200,000+. After the conclusion of the month, we look at the phrases we collected along with their volumes to get an understanding of what drove queries for the month. ‘Tis The Season For Holidays and Impeachment December had a large number of queries that reached the 10+ million mark. The majority of the phrases were relevant to the time of year, particularly about the end of the year. Here are the top queried phrases of the month: Impeachment - Dec. 18th - 10 Million+ queries Winter season - Dec. 21st - 10 Million+ queries Holiday season - Dec. 23rd - 10 Million+ queries New Year’s Eve - Dec. 30th  - 10 Million+ queries New Year’s Day  Dec. 31st - 10 Million+ queries With the exception of the query about the president’s impeachment, all of the phrases above were initiated by Google Doodles. It’s interesting to think about the possibilities for a brand or company to get into the search results that these Doodles trigger. Since these are Doodles that Google produces every year, is there a strategy to get a piece of content that’s relevant to the season into Google’s news carousel? The other 10 million+ queries were as follows:  Camille Claudel - Dec. 7th - 10 Million+ queries Juice WRLD - Dec. 8th - 10 Million+ queries Clemson vs Ohio State - Dec. 27th - 10 Million+ queries Like the majority of the aforementioned queries, Camille Claudel was the subject of a Google Doodle. As for the other two queries, both were driven by current events. The passing of American rapper, singer, and songwriter Juice WRLD drove users to query his name, while the college football game between Clemson and Ohio State became a top keyword phrase in December. The Search for the Perfect Gift Continues Shopping around the holidays drove queries in December. Like we saw in November 2019, brand names became keywords for people looking for deals. Since Thanksgiving happened late this year, Cyber Monday occurred on the first Monday of December. 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“Through Their Eyes” Digital Ethnography Series: Multicultural Thanksgiving

In 2019, the Strategy team at AMP went on a mission to better understand marketers’ most sought-after consumer segments. Each week, individuals from these segments took over @AMP_Agency Instagram stories to give us a peek into their world as part of our digital ethnography series, “Through Their Eyes.” To wrap up the series, we took the opportunity to celebrate different cultures, and saw Thanksgiving from the perspective of Alicia’s family, from Guangzhou in China, Dana’s family, from Calabria in Italy, and Andronaelle’s family, from Les Cayes in Haiti.  If you surveyed all Americans and asked them what the most American holiday was, our bets are on either the Fourth of July – naturally, it’s our birthday – or Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is a celebration of the most American Americanisms: apple pie, lively family debates, and the NFL. Yet, we must not forget that our country is projected to be “minority white” within the next 25 years, and the very definition of what it means to be American looks quite different depending on who you ask. So, on the day that maxes out on all things America, we decided to celebrate what might be the most American Americanism of all: our diversity and our rich, beautiful variety of cultural traditions. We encountered mouth-watering food. While all of our participants still made a turkey, there was also incredible, delectable variety in the accompanying dishes served. Alicia’s family ate prime rib, grilled octopus, and steamed shrimp. Dana’s family had salad with homemade vinegar and drank homemade wine, and Andronaelle’s family had mac and cheese as well as traditional black rice. Top to  Bottom: Alicia’s mom made comforting doughy rice ball soup; Andronaelle’s auntie utilized traditional Haitian seasonings in all dishes; Dana’s family tossed salad in homemade vinegar. Matriarchs were celebrated. All of our participants took time in their Instagram Stories to honor the matriarch of the family. Alicia’s family made sure to cook their grandmother’s favorite dish, pork knuckle and lotus stew. Andronaelle wrote about her Auntie Marie, “the matriarch and the best cook in the family,” and many of Dana’s Stories featured her nonna, who kept busy peeling potatoes, greeting guests, and playing games. (We’ll get to the games below!)  Top to  Bottom: Alicia’s family makes sure to cook their grandmother’s favorite dish; Everyone gathers at Auntie Marie’s immediately after breakfast; Nonna and Dana share a selfie Fun was had. A lot of fun.  Most of all, what we could truly sense through these Stories was the sheer fun, and dare we say craziness, that ensues when large families reunite for Thanksgiving. For Alicia’s family, even the morning food prep is made fun, as they make a tradition out of picking up dim sum takeout from Chinatown each Thanksgiving morning. Andronaelle’s family took a big group photo and had the little ones pose for pictures. Dana even convinced two nonnas at the party to play a round of beer pong – the nonnas surprised with a sneaky bounce play that forced their opponents to take two cups off the table. Top to Bottom: The fun starts early at Alicia’s over morning dim sum takeout; Thanksgiving is a time to compare how much the cousins have grown at Andronaelle’s; Two Italian nonnas were shockingly skilled at beer pong And so our “Through Their Eyes” series concludes.  This year, we started our Instagram ethnography series with Gen Z college students, moved into soon-to-be-wed millennials, and then millennial moms. Each time, walking in a segment’s shoes for the day revealed surprising insight that’s useful to brands: Gen Z kept themselves dizzyingly busy and are motivated by hustle, soon-to-be-wed’s use food as a vehicle for expressing and celebrating the love they have for their partners, and millennial moms have much more of a sense of humor than marketers would lead you to believe.  Yet it’s perhaps fitting that we ended with multicultural Thanksgiving celebrations, and the reminder that despite how different we ensured our participants were – Chinese, Italian, and Haitian – what came through most strongly were the values that we all share, despite “segment” or ethnicity or age or what have you: an obsession with food, a respect for our elders, and the chaotic fun that ensues when we’re all together.