The Battle for Aussie Supermarket Supremacy

The Aussie supermarket landscape is the most hotly contested in the world. Nowhere else do two supermarket giants control the grocery market as tightly as Coles and Woolworths do. Their stranglehold on the market is so strong that it impacts their competitors, customers and the suppliers of the many products they sell. Both Woolies and Coles seem to be locked in a constant price war, each employing a range of tactics like price promotions and loyalty schemes to win customers and gain an edge. Critics claim the price-war tactics that Woolies and Coles throw at each other are anti-competitive, but the stark reality is that the strategies of the two supermarket giants are unlikely to change anytime soon.

What is changing, however, is the demographic of the Aussie grocery shopper and the tactics that the marketers of fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG’s) companies use to attract new customers. This article will explore some of the insights of the changing Aussie grocery shopper, along with some of the tactics the FMCG marketers out there are using to win the Battle of the Aisles.

10 years ago if you asked a FMCG marketer what the stereotypical grocery shopper looked like they’d respond that she was 35 years old with two kids, a husband working full-time and no paid work of her own. Today however, this ‘shopper Mum’ demographic has halved and now represents only 18% of total grocery buyers. Australian supermarket aisles today are full of Dads, bachelors, retirees, singles and childless families. A 2011 Nielsen study found that 42% of Australian grocery shoppers were now male – back in 2003 men only made up 13% of shoppers.

So what does this mean for the FMCG marketer? Marketers in the grocery space have had to learn to tailor marketing messages to communicate effectively to the shoppers of a product as opposed to the consumers of a product. People take on different buyer roles when they purchase a product – just because you pay for a particular good or service it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are the end consumer of it. 10 years ago when ‘shopper Mum’ was the dominant demographic, most in-store marketing messages were tailored to women. Shopper Mum was the ‘gatekeeper’ to the rest of the family – if Mum wasn’t compelled to pick your product off the supermarket shelf then you wouldn’t make a sale, regardless of how brilliant your product was. But now that more men are taking over the shopping duties, marketers are revisiting their communications strategies to become decidedly more male-oriented.

What does this actually look like? Shopper marketing research has shown that women place a greater priority on having access to detailed product information and the opportunity to research products when evaluating product alternatives. Men on the other hand respond best to ‘experiencing’ products and physically trying them out in-store. If more and more men are taking on the responsibility of the grocery run, you can therefore expect to see more in-store displays and testers of supermarket products.

As the demographics of the Aussie shopper continue to change, there is sure to be some inventive new in-store marketing tactics that come out in the next decade or so. FMCG companies are constantly under pressure to innovate and significant amounts are invested to enhance their product offerings to meet changing consumer needs. The added pressure to explore new marketing messaging to communicate to wider consumer segments is likely to be a significant determinant of ongoing product sales and market success.



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