FOOD SERVICE PROFESSIONS: ATTRACTING AND RETAINING YOUR CUSTOMERS

During Gourmet Selection in Paris in September 2019, Cerfrance, a specialist in corporate consulting and accounting, came to talk about ways of improving customer loyalty. The Cerfrance network has 700 branches, 12,000 employees, and works with 320,000 clients. Due to the increase in life expectancy, today's clientele includes more generations than before. Generation Z, born from the year 2000 onwards, follows on from generation Y and its predecessors. From a macroeconomic point of view, all these generations make customer loyalty complex. They have to be brought together and already the future consumers born in the year 2000 must be made loyal.

THE PORTRAIT OF GENERATION Z

Consumption and purchasing codes have evolved significantly. The head of the family is no longer the only person who decides what to buy. Over the past 25 years, expenditure categories have changed. With the arrival of discount brands, food spending is becoming more limited, the proportion devoted to housing is increasing, and the telephone segment has emerged.

Already today, all these areas are being reorganized. Consumers are changing, they are becoming influencers and buyers. Retailers, whether in the food trade or not, no longer simply have to sell their products. They must attract the potential customer. Today's clientele is fluid. It is paradoxical, hard to pin down and variable, depending on the moment. It is changing faster than in previous decades. The first challenge ahead of customer loyalty is therefore to already entice future customers and keep hold of the current clientele.

The first element to take into account is that Generation Z is the first to have known only the Internet. While generation Y discovered the Internet and its capabilities, generation Z knows its pitfalls and limitations. However, they still have to be approached and dealt with. From 2020, this generation will make up 40% of the food service industry's customer base.

MORE THAN A PURCHASE, A SERVICE

On Millennials’ screens, influencers woo young people who are impressionable, permeable. This Generation Z wants to understand what they are buying. They are sensitive to short videos, the reality of words and direct language.

More than a straightforward sale, visiting a shop is about both a service and a product. While they are not yet regular customers, young adults are receptive to organic food obeying high standards: its traceability must be credible, its story must be part of the customer experience.

Finally, points of sale are still attractive for generation Z; they complement the contribution of Internet channels. In the food industry, visible demonstrations and features are effective eye-catchers. Wineries and vineyards are already experiencing this. Exchanges and sharing appeal to this age group, which is no stranger to good taste.

Professionals in the food trade should not be exclusive. Generation Z does not want to be pigeonholed, nor considered as a tribe. Trust is passed on through networks, not through previous generations. The delicatessen must therefore be talked about by influencers. The consequence for retailers: customer loyalty is built through relationships before, during and after the sale. The work is not done when the product is sold. In order to build loyalty among new customers, you have to be close to the customer, follow them and make them a persuasive ambassador for your products.

WHAT CHANNELS WORK FOR CUSTOMER LOYALTY?

Mailshot techniques works to capture different audiences and to build customer loyalty. On the other hand, for ecological reasons, paper publications (flyers, catalogues, etc.) are no longer acceptable.

The ecological touch must be present, especially since consumers are concerned about the health of themselves and the planet when they make a purchase. Delicatessen professionals must therefore explain the work on the product and on the ground, and reassure customers, across all generations. This story and this traceability make it possible to justify prices without hindering customer loyalty.

In addition, the website must be attuned to the experience and messaging used on the point of sale. Consistency of sales messages is one of the keys to customer loyalty. Gourmet grocers should not hesitate to seek customer feedback or empathize with the consumer. Innovation is essential for this generation Z who wants to be surprised rather than follow a tradition. Targeted promotional codes are an appropriate response to the behaviour of generations Y and Z.

Finally, the food service industry needs to be aware of social network trends to build customer loyalty. Facebook is losing ground among the younger generation. The predominance of images and snapshots puts Instagram in the forefront. Finally, YouTube is appealing with its short videos, and new tools emerge every day to help you become a master of social media.