Letter from the street supermarket


October 2015, article published in El Periódico de Catalunya

Letter from the street supermarket

Hello, Amazon. I am the street supermarket. I have many shapes, sometimes I am a multinational (like Carrefour), others a national champion (Mercadona) or a local leader (Condis). Occasionally, I am even a local small chain (many cases) or even an independent business (the popular “pakis”(1), regardless of the nationality of the owner).
And, of course, I read that you intend to open a supermarket in Spain, and I am frightened, because you are a giant. The world’s shop, it is said. I understand it is just another step in the path you have decided. Your offer is to start shivering: home delivery, even free of cost with your yearly delivery, a powerful recommendations engine, browsing your website is easy, first brands…, Ugh, scary. How are we to fight bits with molecules… it is not simple. Perhaps we should look at context facts (not opinions): 60-70% of purchasing time happens in the physical world, not online. Besides, when you translate this time into actual purchases, the physical is 90-95% of total value. In fact, supermarket online purchases worldwide are around 1-2%. Ah, and when people buy in a brick-and-mortar shop, they buy more.

Immediate delivery

I am not suggesting that it will not grow, because it will, but I want to stress what I have. For instance, I have the entire range (fresh included) and immediate delivery (you can wear it home, if you wish). I offer the possibility of touching the product, and compare on site. I also have a mister or misses you can talk to, ask questions about the product, and chat with (I noticed that customers sometimes like to have human contact, what a thing). The option of buying on the shop and going out with their shopping right away makes me interesting to the consumer. Some people consider it important to be free to choose the products as they like – for instance, two water bottles of one size and two of another size (the website’s rigid offer is not always accommodating). Lastly, depending on the type of supermarket I am, I have products of what is commonly called “private label brands” or “distributor brands”, which are highly appreciated and have few of private and a lot of brand. Not to talk of the habit of strolling the supermarket just to check what’s new. Therefore, I have tools to put up a fight, at least on the short term.
I am not saying this makes me invulnerable – tallest trees have fallen (2) – but it gives me strong roots. Now it only takes developing the flexibility of a reed. We will have to work harder. I have read what some experts are saying. A couple of ideas stand out. First, I must understand that the final target of my business is to bond with the client, and to do it I will have to be good on the online side. There are no shortcuts. Sales will follow. Second, it is about hyper-service, which is a belief that I can do more than what I am doing now (more delivery time, better packaging, give warranties, …). I am willing to try it, with enthusiasm. So, Amazon, I wish you the best and I welcome you. Hello, Amazon.
(1) “Pakis” in Spain is the common denomination for the convenience stores
(2) Spanish expression that means something, although not highly probable may indeed happen (a bit like “stranger things have happened”)
Photo: Bradutch

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