What I think about when I do grocery shopping

As I was riding the train home– which is when I get plenty of ideas to write about– I thought about how a consumer shops for groceries and the mental talk he/she goes through at that time. I know many people are brand-centric, but for me, I could care less about a grocery product’s brand. In my grocery shopping adventures, I rotate between Trader Joes or Whole Foods, and I buy comparable products at the two locations. I choose these two locations because they suit my need for wholesome and healthy products in intimate spaces compared to the excess of mega-supermarket Jewel and Dominicks. I feel inspired by the assortment at TJ’s and Whole Foods.

You’re probably thinking, who cares about being inspired when grocery shopping? It is such mundane task that doesn’t take too much time– and most people who go in are out in about 30 minutes to an hour’s time. When I shop, I like taking the time to understand the products that I buy. I read the ingredients, the cooking directions, select certain produce for firmness, texture, ripeness and other signs of being a good piece of fruit/vegetables/etc. I think about the million and one recipes I can make with whatever I have in the basket, try product samples, and then finally check out.

Living alone and shopping for one allows me the time and freedom to buy the best groceries leisurely. Even if I have the choice, I’m pretty frugal. I buy only things that I will eat and are healthy. While I’m open to trying products I haven’t tried before, I’m usually set with what I want to buy so I would take a second moment to think before purchasing a new product or anything I had just tried.

I like grocery stores that are pretty compact, so I don’t have to run a mile just to get to the produce section. I like places where it actually feels human to be there. Whole Foods and Trader Joes are examples of these places I described.

The shopping experience at Jewel and Dominck’s leaves a lot to be desired. First, there’s an antiseptic feel at the store– it must be the lights or the uncanny organization of each product on the endless rows of shelves. It feels like you’re picking up antibiotics instead of actual food (and maybe that’s the case since many foods are laden with animals fed with antibiotics).

If a product is 50 cents less than the other and they’re more or less comparable, I’ll take whichever is more economical by unit price. If the choice is between marinara and alfredo, I’ll take which one is cheaper, since I can cook any of these sauces into more or less the same meal. Yes, there’s a big difference between these two sauces, not just in terms of their product nature, but I think they can both suit a craving for a meal of pasta with sauce. Of course, if an event specifically calls for a particular sauce, I will bring whatever is needed. But on my own, I have enough flexibility to choose which ever of the two, and I take the one that will help me stay within budget.

Target is notorious for having hired lighting designers to create a space for calm and energy that would compel people to buy more. The atmosphere a store is a powerful motivator for shoppers. They also have built out a grocery section to make the store truly a “one-stop shop” for its customers. In reality, when I go to Target, I mostly have specific things I have in mind that necessitates a trip to Target, and these things are mostly beauty or household products and not grocery per se. I’m in the mindset of what non-grocery item I need to pick up, and it would be difficult to convince me to think about what to make for lunch or dinner while I’m choosing between detergent soaps.

The customer’s experience in a store environment and the mindset they’re in as they shop are important to marketers, both retail and consumer goods manufacturers. Shopper marketing is an important niche in the field of marketing, since they are responsible for giving the consumer the experience that will make his or her shopping trip pleasant and can influence his or her consideration set at the point-of-purchase.


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