Losing Customers? Just Add Value!

By , January 16, 2013

Colin Smith had a serious problem. As CEO of Great Britain’s legendary Safeway supermarket chain, he was seeing how his loyal customers were gradually being wooed away by competing supermarkets.

Determined to resolve the situation, he authorized his marketing team to spend time analyzing the situation and come up with a solution to tackle the problem. After speaking with hundreds of Safeway customers, the team gathered in his office, presented their findings, and proposed that one of the following three solutions be implemented:

  1. Entice customers to come back to Safeway by redesigning the stores and aisles.
  2. Offer more sale items each week to attract customers looking for bigger savings.
  3. Tell customers that they won’t ever have to step into a Safeway Supermarket again.

Can you guess which option Colin Smith chose? He selected the very last one. Yes, the option that told customers that they won’t ever have to step into a Safeway supermarket again.

And here’s why – because that’s exactly what customers wanted.

You see, after studying the marketing team’s research results, Colin realized that his customers didn’t want to spend precious time maneuvering bulky shopping carts through cluttered aisles or waiting on long checkout lines. They wanted an easier way to shop – one that would meet the needs of their busy, fast-paced lifestyles.

As a result of this epiphany, Safeway rolled out an award-winning “Shop & Go” self-scanning system that allowed customers to scan any product label in their kitchen cupboard to build up a shopping list. Utilizing a Palm Pilot-like device, orders were wirelessly sent over the internet, fulfilled by employees at the nearest Safeway supermarket and delivered by van on the same day.

Although this story took place over a decade ago, the results are still considered amazing. Within one year of rolling out the program, repeat sales shot up from 16% to 26%, and the brand gained over 25% more market share. The influx of profits pleased executives and shareholders alike, and the Safeway brand was acquired by the WM Morrison supermarket conglomerate.

Why am I telling you this story? Simple.

To succeed in business and maintain profitable relationships with your clients, you’ve got to paraphrase the late John F. Kennedy and say: “Don’t ask what your clients can do for you; ask what you can do for your clients!”

Colin Smith went out of his way to find out what his clients really wanted and give them a tangible, valuable solution that nobody else offered.

Sure, it would’ve been easier for him to boost short-term sales by making his prices a bit lower than the competitions – but would that really enhance the overall experience and create loyal clients for life? True, he could’ve hired an interior designer to design a beautiful new supermarket lobby – but could that really connect with customers and add lasting value to the brand?

You don’t have to be the CEO of a supermarket chain to see how these principles can easily apply to your own business. Here are a few Ptex Practical Pointers to take away:

Always Add Value – It became obvious to Colin Smith that merely rolling back his prices by a few pennies or giving stores a colorful makeover wouldn’t create more customers for life – he needed to add an element of genuine value that would actually benefit clientele.

Create The Experience – By transforming the way customer’s bought their groceries, Safeway redefined the traditional supermarket experience and instantly raced ahead of the pack, turning what was originally an ordinary transaction into a memorable experience.

Build Better Relationships – The self-scanning system did more than just place orders; it tracked previous purchases and then generated “personalized” shopping lists for customers, leaving the competition grasping for a way to match that unique “Shop & Go” advantage.

In a nutshell, better business is all about adding value – and that’s precisely what Colin Smith successfully did. So after reading this article, please feel free to borrow a page from the Safeway playbook and give your business a more competitive, value-oriented edge… the profitable way.


Onwards and upwards,

Meny Hoffman

Meny Hoffman

Meny Hoffman is the Chief Executive Officer of Ptex Group, an Inc. 500/5000-ranked marketing and business services firm headquartered in Brooklyn, NY.

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