Whole Foods Enlivens Shopper Experience At Its 'Store of the Future'

The grocery business is tough and it’s getting tougher by the minute. Wal-Mart, Amazon — with its new “AmazonFresh” same day grocery delivery — and others are working to make shopping easier and more efficient. But what has really caught my eye is the innovative digital work by Whole Foods to remarkably enhance the in-store experience. 

Have you seen the company’s “Store of the Future” yet? Whole Foods recently rolled out its first national ad campaign, a “values matter” series aimed at health-conscious people concerned about where and how their food is sourced. The educational campaign features TV spots, but it’s the in-store that really shines in regard to customer engagement. The grocer opened a beautiful new market in Alpharetta, Ga., a couple of weeks ago, and they’re using it to showcase the groundbreaking work. I took a peek via these two videos that detail what they’re up to, and I was very excited to see a new bar for creativity and engagement being set in-store by the use of technology, coupled with a celebration of on-trend, and passionately held consumer values. I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say they’re pioneering a whole new model of shopper engagement.  



Here’s what Whole Foods is doing: Working with SapientNitro's Second Story, they’re tapping the latest shopper marketing technology in truly innovative ways to substantially up their game. Specifically, the Alpharetta store has a wall of interactive windows that provides customers with a view of the farmers and fisherman who grow and procure the food. The windows reinforce their sustainability messaging via compelling images, videos and Instagram feeds. Another phase of the campaign utilizes a digital mirror to engage a generation of selfie-obsessed shoppers and to offer customized product recommendations. Shoppers confused about what wine to pair with their beef and quinoa meatballs can utilize touch screens that serve as sommelier. They also have a 12-foot tower with wooden knobs that enables customers to physically interact with sustainable farming. For example, pulling "Energy Conservation" gets a set of wooden windmills moving.

We work in the beauty and food spaces and strategically frame the in-store experience in four pillars: Inspire, Educate, Explore, and Celebrate. Blending these pillars provides the optimum shopper experience — appealing to rational, emotional and sensory levels of decision making in unison. The new Whole Foods work really exemplifies how powerfully these four pillars can be brought to life for a total 360-degree user experience. They’re balancing the use of digital interaction in-store and online shopping (via their Instacart same-day ordering and delivery) for convenience and efficiency, while still providing the entertaining physical experience for more leisurely exploration-oriented weekend visits.  

What it means: This work reflects the fact that shopper marketing experience is no longer the last media channel considered for vibrant, personally relevant marketing campaigns. Whole Foods is recognizing that and using their physical market as themost powerful media outlet to reinforce messaging about a brand that is up close and personal, and really cares about what their shoppers value. And the company is doing it all in a fun, tech-savvy and energized way.

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