Can you remember when, some years ago, there was a big hoo-ha in Europe because some crazies in power at the European Union decided that vegetables had to be straight?Of course, it was absolute nonsense… what on earth has happened to all those twisted turnips and curly carrots?Did they all end up in a home for unwanted vegetables in some obscure European country, never to be seen again? I certainly don’t recall having encountered any overly mutant vegetables on my many visits to the supermarket over the years.If the powers that were that bored, they would have been better taking up sudoku. Anyway, what goes around clearly comes around and we are once again facing a veritable vegetable crisis. This time, it is carrots drawn at dawn, with the people versus Asda. The supermarket giant has taken a radical decision to trial axing loose fruit and vegetables. And the public are none too happy about it.
Consumer feedback reported that some stores ditched loose apples, carrots, courgettes and potatoes.
Apparently, research showed Asda officials that customers preferred buying in packs, rather than selecting individual items.
However, the buying habits of customers clearly weren’t analysed in the stores where the changes were unfavourably received by shoppers who claimed that, in buying packaged produced, they were being forced to purchase more than they required.
The outrage at the change also, reportedly, included shoppers tearing off packaging in an attempt to try and continue to buy smaller quantities.
Ok, so I am not one for running amok in the fruit and veg aisle but I can’t really say I blame them.
If Auntie Mabel is cooking a casserole for one, what use has she got for 5lbs of potatoes and 3lbs of carrots? They will be a pile of fur in the fridge by the time she has even contemplated using them all.
And more to the point, how is she supposed to get the huge quantities of pre-packed vegetables home with her on the bus, along with the rest of her groceries?
An investigation carried out by Money Saving Expert last year said the average family would spend £100 more per year if they were to buy packaged vegetables in the same quantities as they would if they bought them loose.
Plus, there’s the fact that the supermarkets now charge us a small fortune every time we need to purchase a carrier bag, in an attempt to work on saving the environment. Yet they are considering switching over to packaged produce that comes in, erm, plastic bags. Yep, I don’t understand it either. And, of course, environmentalists are up in arms.
Listening to customers…. or the ‘ka-ching’ of the cash register?
So, Asda say they trialled the changes based on customer comments. And, give them their due, they have already back-tracked and apparently re-introduced loose carrots (they claim it was always their intention to wait and assess consumer reaction before making any of the changes more permanent).
Yet based on the tirade of complaints they have received, including numerous slurs on social media, one could question whether it really was the customer they were listening to at the outset.
Speculation is rife as to why they went down the packaged produce route. We know it clearly wasn’t in a bid to save our planet.
Some say it was perhaps to prevent food waste and stop people selecting the best looking loose produce and leaving the rest (you know, the older, uglier relatives) to go to waste. Of course, food waste costs the supermarket chain money.
Others suggest it was so they could charge more by selling in larger, packaged quantities.
Wait a minute…. there seems to be a pattern emerging here. Whatever the reason, it clearly boils down to more money in the supermarket giant’s coffers.
Which is understandable…. although cheaper than rivals at the top of the supermarket chain – Tescoand Sainsbury’s – Asda is apparently 15.1% more expensive than discount grocery store Aldi.
With Lidlin the mix too, Asda faces fierce competition and is desperately trying to reverse the trend of falling sales: in the first three months of 2017, they dropped 2.8%.
Which is clearly bad news for them. But, firstly, I personally believe that following in the footsteps of the discount grocery chains isn’t the solution (we can go there if we want packaged produce, but I still want just a couple of carrots every now and then). And secondly, any proposed solution should not impact on the customer, especially if it’s not what they want!
The customer is always right….
And this is the downfall of some firms out there. If you’re looking to keep your customers happy and build loyalty, you really have to understand what they want, listen to them and get their feedback before implementing changes.
Ok, so your bottom line is vitally important – if you don’t look after it you won’t have a business. But you can’t focus simply on the ‘ka-ching’ and gather your research round the boardroom table (Bigwig A: ‘We are losing money team. Packaged produce will help.’ Bigwig B: ‘Ok. Let’s tell the world that it’s what the people want’).
You’re shooting yourself in the foot if you do.
Because once you’ve implemented changes that put you on more of a par with cheaper rivals, you may well be pushing your customers towards them.
What if, in the Asda example, consumers were loyal to you simply because you offered loose produce and they preferred to pick their peppers?
But then you stop offering the one thing that brought them through your doors? Well then, they may as well pop along to a rival store and save themselves 15% on a 3lb bag of carrots.
So take heed: don’t wait for your first loyal customer to abandon you. Contact The Monachie Project team today and let us help you truly understand your customers’ needs and wants and build deep consumer connections will help your organisation to prosper with an army of loyal customers.