Walmart, Dollar General, and Kroger are juggernauts in the grocery space, but each operates a very different format and each can provide its own lessons for other retailers. A study by Coresight Research and Swiftly found that all three are among the top food retailers chosen by shoppers in 2023, and other grocers can learn from the strategies that have kept them on top during this turbulent time.
Focus on Technology & Convenience
Walmart can attribute much of its success to its size — it has a massive number of stores in areas that can serve large populations. It also drives loyalty with extremely competitive pricing, and its wide selection beyond grocery makes it a convenient one-stop shop for many customers, according to Sean Turner, Co-Founder and CTO of Swiftly. While other grocers can’t match Walmart’s footprint or purchasing power, however, they can learn from its friction-busting technology and retail media business.
“First and foremost, grocers need to follow Walmart’s lead and focus strongly on technology solutions that connect them with their customers,” said Turner. “Today’s shopper is very digitally savvy, and they expect a personalized experience that delivers savings on the specific products they want and need. A strong digital presence — complete with a loyalty program — gives retailers the opportunity to connect with customers at every touchpoint, which inspires return visits and bigger spend.”
Stress Necessities During Difficult Times
Dollar General has risen to prominence due to the current economic conditions — Turner noted that 69% of shoppers struggle to pay their grocery bills and 74% have changed their grocery habits in the last year, making its rock-bottom prices very compelling for shoppers of all incomes.
“Dollar General has been able to use this shift in behavior to capture market as consumers trade down,” said Turner. “First, they prioritize according to changing customer needs and focus on providing the essential products customers are looking for, such as food and household items. Their customers still have access to the same preferred brand name products and quality private-label brands, just at highly competitive prices. Add to that the greater savings they offer through coupons, rewards, and other loyalty-focused programs, and you get increased store traffic and frequency.”
As with Walmart, it can be difficult for other grocers to compete directly on price. That’s why both Dollar General and Walmart have been investing in retail media, which represents a new revenue stream that aids their ability to offer low prices, according to Turner. Other retailers must also make investments in technology that can unlock these high-margin revenue streams as well as deepen relationships with customers and brands.
Leverage Customer Data
These investments can also help grocers build their data collection and analysis capabilities, which has been one of the ingredients in Kroger’s success. The retailer’s myriad banners attract shoppers from all income levels, which provides deep insights into their habits and demands. Other companies may not be able to match its breadth, but they can learn how to better understand their own shoppers.
“Kroger has focused immensely on gathering data and machine learning to better understand and target their shoppers,” said Turner. “They enjoy strong penetration with their loyalty program. Improved performance can be enjoyed by other grocers by leveraging the first-party data acquired through their digital properties to segment customers, then partnering closely with suppliers to provide timely communications and offers that generate the highest sales in return.”