How to Be a Community Grocer in the COVID-19 Era

The following is an excerpt of our eBook “What Does It Mean To Be A Community Grocer?” To download your own copy of this eBook, visit our resource page here.

The future of grocery is changing.

In many senses, it always has been. This industry is anything but stagnant, adapting to new technology, customer behavior, and retail trends as they evolve. In order to remain relevant in a digital age, it’s more important than ever for grocers to immerse themselves in what’s new and what’s next. You must be ready to adjust your business practices to meet the needs of today’s consumer or be left in the dust.

One of your customer’s most important needs: a sense of connection. Looking again at our culture’s digital obsession, there is a distinct lack of person-to-person interaction that occurs in daily life. We have become ingrained in the use of social media for communication, turning to our screens for connection that is lacking substance and is, frankly, disappointing.

If the past decade has been about a shift toward digitization, the next decade will be about a return to authentic connection – especially after COVID-19 has passed. 

What is a community grocer? A community grocer is a person who sells food and small household goods while maintaining a commitment to the wellbeing of their community and a personalized customer experience.

In a time where options for consumption are endless, community grocers need to real- ize that loyalty is the most important currency that they can collect from their custom- ers. According to Narvar, “acquiring a new customer is at anywhere from 5 to 25 times more expensive than retaining existing ones, and increasing customer retention rates by just 5% increases profits by 25-95%.” To be a true staple within your neighborhood, you’ll need to develop a consistent connection with each of your customers through a tailored experience that will make them want to keep coming back.

Going forward, you can’t expect to build loyalty within your customer base simply by having the best prices or a famil- iar name. For a customer to become loyal to your stores, they’re going to be looking for a few things in return.

You can use the current state of customer loyalty to determine what you need to change in your business in order to be up to speed in 2020. These are the factors that you need to take into consideration:

In-Store Experience:

The mass shift toward digitization in retail has left consumers with only a few places that they can turn to for connection and a unique experience – specifically grocery stores. To maintain and build customer loyalty within your community, take a look at these statistics about the importance of a superb in-store experience.

  • 74% of consumers think knowledgeable in-store staff is important to their brand experience (Oracle)
  • 56% of Gen Z says a fun in-store experience influences where they shop (NRF)
  • 50% of millennials said that positive customer service interactions with a brand are very important in contributing to their brand loyalty (Morning Consult)
  • 50% of baby boomers would be unlikely to return to a store that was messy or disorganized (Smile)


As a community grocer, your advantage is your ability to know more about your customers than your competitors. Utilizing technology to give your community per- sonalized offers not only increases the likelihood of their purchase, it also generates loyalty.

  • 56% of consumers value personalized offers in the retail shopping experience (Oracle)
  • 80% of consumers say they are more likely to do business with a company if it offers personalized experiences (Edelman)
  • Consumers who believe companies are doing very well on offering personalized experiences shop more than three times more frequently (Epsilon)

Ethical Business Practices: 

Consumers are no longer solely concerned with how you conduct business within your four walls. Upcoming generations want to know that you’re having a larger, positive impact on the world at large. Think: transparency, sustainability, and taking a public stand on societal issues.

  • 70% of millennials would buy less from a brand they’re loyal to if they found out that the brand doesn’t pay their employees well, and 69% would buy less if they learned the brand relies on unethical labor practices (Morning Consult)
  • 52% of consumers state that a key influence on loyalty is knowing that retailers are acting sustainably, especially for grocery (56%) (Oracle)
  • 62% of consumers want companies to take a stand on the social, cultural, environmental and political issues they care about the most (Accenture)

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