Greg Johnson, Editor CHICAGO — It’s the eternal question of produce marketing: When and where do consumers decide what and how much to buy?
If I were to classify my own produce shopping habits, as my household’s primary shopper, I’d have to say more than 50% of my decision is made in-store, according to seasonality, appearance and price.
Then maybe 25% of my decision is based on reading the weekly circular and promotions online for my primary stores, 5% to 10% on advertising/branding, and then rest is insider knowledge from being editor of a produce news organization.
I’d guess the 80% to 85% that doesn’t involve my day job is pretty typical, but how do I know?
Two things I learned this week help confirm that most consumer decisions to buy are made in-store.
As part of hosting our inaugural Midwest Produce Conference & Expo on Aug. 13-15 in Chicago, we held a consumer panel Aug. 13 and a retail tour Aug. 15.
The consumer panel featured 10 people of varying demographics who live in the Chicago area. We required that they be their household’s primary shopper, and, I have to confess, their general lack of ignorance made the panel slightly less fun.
I was really hoping for some stupid comments like buying local bananas or that organic produce is safer.
Most of the panel agreed in-store promotion, price and appearance were the best ways to influence their decision to buy fresh fruits and vegetables, rather than social media, advertising or branding.
Price was a huge factor, half of them said.
That message was reinforced on the urban markets retail tour, which took us to a downtown Mariano’s Market, owned by Roundy’s, and a Southside store of Shop and Save Markets, a five-store chain. Both stores were a little over a year old.
Both also provided excellent examples of effective in-store marketing and competitive pricing.
Ross Greco, merchandiser for Mariano’s, said in-store marketing was a top priority to his chain.
He does all the normal marketing such as circulars and signs, but he said Mariano’s goes out of the way to have sampling every day. In our case, we got to sample five varieties of melons on a tray. But Greco said the fruit and vegetable samples change every day.
He said it’s not uncommon for nearby residents to visit the store five times a week, so it’s important that the location vary displays of its 1,100 SKUs in the summer.
Mariano’s heavily promotes locally grown in the summer, when available.