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The writing is on the grocery store wall, scrawled by impatient, unimpressed millennials, who now even have their elders nodding along: “It’s easy to get good food from any number of places today – so shopping at your place better be an awesome experience if you want us to keep coming.”

Welcome to the age of brand experience. Research shows that it’s no longer enough for supermarkets to simply offer good quality food at good prices. Now you have to make shoppers feel good about the whole experience of being your customer.

There’s even an annual survey to track what makes a great trip to the grocery store – and it found that, while the combination of quality and freshness is still the top “must have” for a good grocery store experience, the second most important dimension isn’t about the food at all. It’s about cleanliness.

Do you have a super clean, super green supermarket?

In this increasingly complicated age, the consumer expectations of “clean” go well beyond keeping the aisles mopped and the shelves tidy. Here are five ways that a comprehensive commitment to cleanliness can make your supermarket brand experience shine.

One: Put cleanliness at everybody’s fingertips.

Over a decade ago, The Wall Street Journal reported that “shopping cart surfaces had exponentially more bacteria than what had been measured in about 100 public restrooms, from toilet seats to flush handles.” At that time a host of remedies sprang up, from shopping cart liners to disinfecting “baths” that carts would go through as they returned to use. Today, a simpler solution predominates: provide wipes for shopping cart handles, and disinfectant dispensers for shoppers’ hands, as soon as they enter the store. It’s simple, effective, and a great way to get your customers’ shopping experience off to a confident, comfortable start.

Two: Keep shopping surfaces safe.

Service locations at grocery stores, from the bakery to the fish counter to the deli, are perfect for spreading both human and food-born germs – some of them quite serious, such as salmonella. In addition to daily cleaning, consider routine wiping down surfaces throughout the day, using disinfectant wipes to simplify the task and eliminate any disinfectant “over spray” around the food.

Three: Green up your clean up.

Consumers want their grocery shopping experience to look and feel clean – but not at the expense of “dirtying up” the planet. They’ll be looking for a demonstrated commitment to sustainability, which means you should be looking for providers who are also devoted to green practices, from sourcing to transportation to recyclability.

Four: Communicate your cleanliness.

Dirt gets noticed, but clean goes unseen – so don’t hesitate to tout your efforts. Use engaging signage to encourage customers to use the sanitizer and wipes you provide.

Post “Just Cleaned” signs for department managers to update several times a day. Use newsletters or in-store video displays to educate them on your support of sustainable practices. Get creative with how you get credit for providing a clean and healthy place to shop.

Five: Train, motivate, reward.

The first line of defense against germs and dirt are your employees – but unless they are properly trained and incentivized, they can also become your first line of offense for customers. Emphasize cleanliness – for themselves as well as the store – from on-boarding to on-going employee meetings. And recognize those who exemplify your standards, using rewards that can range from cash to time off to simple, public praise.

Yes, online offerings, delivery services and cut-rate competitors are cutting in to your business – but offering a better experience, from quality to cleanliness, could be your best way to cut them out.

Sources
Business Hygiene
Winsight Grocery Business
Chain Store Age: Food Quality, Cleanliness Key to Supermarket Experience
Wall Street Journal: Taking the Gross out of the Grocery Cart