Paving the Customer's Path to the Competition

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Growing up, we often become accustomed to particular brands because of our family's own attachment. Certain families prefer Pepsi over Coca-Cola, while others enjoy McDonald's more than Burger King. In my family, when it comes to Bologna, we've always relied on Deutschmacher. (No, that's not spelled O-S-C-A-R.) That is, until our local supermarket stopped carrying our beloved bologna brand.

Growing up, we often become accustomed to particular brands because of our family's own attachment. Certain families prefer Pepsi over Coca-Cola, while others enjoy McDonald's more than Burger King. In my family, when it comes to Bologna, we've always relied on Deutschmacher. (No, that's not spelled O-S-C-A-R.) That is, until our local supermarket stopped carrying our beloved bologna brand.In our area, Stop & Shop is the dominant grocery chain. (There are three locations within a 10-minute drive from our house, so it's pretty unavoidable.) When my sister and I were little, our mother frequently purchased deli meats, including bologna, for our school lunches. Feeling nostalgic (and hungry), my sister decided to start packing bologna for her work lunches, too. But, once our number was called at the deli counter, we were told Stop & Shop no longer carries Deutschmacher, only the store brand and Boar's Head--what a selection! (We opted for nothing.)

Upon our next visit, we explored the deli kiosk at the front of the store to see if Stop & Shop still listed Deutschmacher in its inventory, which it did. (Perhaps we had simply encountered someone who didn't know their stock the last time?) We submitted the order out of curiosity and shopped until our number was called. We returned to the deli counter only to find they had filled the order with the store brand. They did not offer an explanation, or ask us which substitute we might prefer. Instead, they simply pushed the Stop & Shop brand on us without a second thought. (Suffice it to say, we opted for nothing again.)

Luckily, on a trip to Big Y, my father discovered our long-lost bologna brand and purchased enough to satisfy our needs for the week. Unfortunately, Big Y isn't quite that close to home, but Stop & Shop's manipulative tactics pushed our buttons just enough to send us running into Big Y's arms at full speed. Consumers know what they want, and they want variety. If your store isn't willing to serve the customer's needs over its own monetary desires, shoppers won't hesitate to search for what they're looking for elsewhere. Stop & Shop thought they'd profit from limiting its offerings and promoting its own brand, but the move backfired and paved our path to the competition instead--and we're probably not the only example in the store's history. Our resulting behavior may not have been part of Stop & Shop's ultimate plan, but our case certainly offers one small lesson all stores can learn from in the end.

EXPERT OPINION
EXPERT OPINION