One of the most-discussed trends in retail is the collective shift toward seeking customer loyalty over a one-time sale. There’s good reason for the conversation: according to a study by Edelman, loyal customers will spend up to 67% more with your brand than new customers. It’s not about bringing new faces into your store in 2019 – it’s about convincing them to keep coming back.
Grocers are aware of the impact of customer loyalty, and are turning to unique business strategies in order to develop that connection. One such strategy is becoming food waste-free.
What does food waste-free mean?
Food waste-free is a term used to describe a business, organization, or lifestyle that has intentionally eliminated practices and routines that cause food waste in order to have a positive environmental impact.
In a grocery store, this translates into behind-the-scenes business practices like expiration date management and repurposing of close-dated or damaged food product, as well as public-facing eco-friendly discount initiatives.
For customers, a food waste-free experience is more about what they don’t see than what they do. When walking through a grocery store that is focused on reducing waste, customers won’t see carts full of expired product getting ready to be thrown in the trash. They won’t encounter rotting food, or unacceptable standards of hygiene. When they aren’t bombarded with negative visual cues, customers are able to have peace of mind knowing that they are shopping at a store that has taken measured steps to become best-in-class when it comes to food waste.
How a Food Waste-Free Experience Creates Loyal Customers
Now that we’ve defined the term, you may be wondering: how does becoming food-waste free create loyal customers? Will my customers actually notice if I put these initiatives into place? Is this just a ploy to get me to become more environmentally-friendly?
We’re not exactly saying no to the last one (after all, we all need to do our part to reduce our industry’s contribution to food waste), but the research is there when it comes to the connection between customer loyalty and signifiers of food waste such as expired products and a lack of commitment to sustainability.
We’ll put it bluntly: customers don’t want to find expired products on your shelves. First and foremost, they are coming to your grocery store with the intention of purchasing fresh, healthy products – they don’t want to see that you’ve fallen behind in your date checking. Second, maintaining expired products on your stores’ shelves conveys the message that you are unconcerned not only for your customers’ health, but also about the waste created by over purchasing and lack of inventory management.
If your customers find expired products in your store, they’ll understand that the next step in that product’s journey is likely to the trash. That notion isn’t going to help you develop loyalty with any customer.
In a recent study conducted by Pinpoint Software, 17.5% of respondents said that they have switched their primary grocery store after discovering expired products. That’s right – finding an expired item in your store is all it takes for a customer to realize that you’re not serious about reducing food waste, and subsequently finding a new place to shop.
When finding expired products on your shelves becomes a trend, customers become even more quick to dismiss their connection to your stores and your brand. In the same survey from Pinpoint Software, nearly 30% of respondents said they would be extremely likely to stop shopping at a store if they repeatedly found expired products. It’s a chance that you just can’t take if you’re hoping to capitalize on customer loyalty this year and beyond.
Sustainability goes a long way with grocery customers, as evidenced by the above survey results. This stat corroborates that point: in a study by Oracle, 56% of grocery consumers surveyed said that a key influence on their brand loyalty is knowing that retailers are acting sustainably. When you take steps toward becoming food waste-free, and you share those efforts with your customers, they’ll likely consider you over other grocers when making their next purchase. In a world where our society’s environmental impact is under the microscope, every grocer needs to keep sustainability at the front of their minds.
How to Become Food Waste-Free: 3 Tips
So you understand the importance of becoming food waste-free for customer loyalty, but how exactly do you go about it? What are the steps that you can take to get yourself and your business closer to this monumental goal? We have a few ideas.
Repurpose close-dated or damaged food in your deli
Meal kits are growing in popularity, and prepared foods in your store’s deli section are some of your best-sellers – why not utilize foods that are close-dated or damaged to create your prepared products? Not only will you be reducing food waste, you’ll be creating new, profitable streams of revenue for your business. Your customers will be drawn in by your unique, convenient offerings, and they’ll keep coming back when they find out that they’re a product of your sustainability efforts.
Donate close-dated food to those in need
When food on your shelves becomes close-dated, it’s the perfect time to consider whether you should donate it to a charitable organization. Perhaps your customers have lost interest in a specific item, or you over ordered – either way, you don’t have to end up with a black mark on your P&L. We created a special Food Donation Guide that breaks down the legalities surrounding corporate food donation, the tax deductions that you can benefit from, and what charitable organizations can benefit from your donation.
Utilize a discount initiative to get customers involved in your efforts
To bring your food waste-free efforts to the forefront, consider implementing a public-facing discount initiative for close-dated products in your store. Stop Waste Together is a nonprofit initiative that was created with the express mission of cutting down food waste in grocery stores through the use of Date Check Pro’s expiration date management software. When your date checkers are running through their daily tasks, they’ll receive a notification that an item is close-dated, prompting them to mark down the product with a Stop Waste Together coupon. The coupons are boldly branded to convey the message to customers that by purchasing a close-dated item at a discount, they are saving the item from a landfill and helping you become food waste-free.
When considered from a 30,000 foot view, becoming food waste-free can be an intimidating undertaking. However, even the smallest steps can have a major impact, particularly if you’re a grocer who has many stores under your control. When you commit to reducing your food waste, your customers will take notice – and become more loyal to your business because of your commitment to sustainability.
Want to dive into other strategies that foster customer loyalty? Click below to download our eBook, which breaks down what the grocery customer is looking for in 2020.