By Mario Toneguzzi
Longo’s Brothers Fruit Market has launched its latest pilot project which is a meal-based shopping kiosk developed as a strategic response to the changing needs and behaviours of today’s shopper.
The concept is operating inside the company’s Maple Leaf Square location at 15 York Street in Toronto.
“In essence, it will allow for a smarter way to shop. The meal-based shopping kiosk merchandises produce based on recipe ideas, which helps shoppers plan their weekly meals better, and save time shopping around the store,” said Rosanne Longo, the company’s consumer spokesperson.
“We spend an incredible amount of time ensuring we are well positioned for the future of retail and understanding the new consumer who will shop with us. Shoppers today are so diverse, and they are changing constantly so if we are to stay relevant, we need to ensure that we are putting consumer needs at the centre and doubling down on our marketing and execution strategies. The meal kiosk is just one of the many initiatives we are testing to see if we can satisfy this new wave of consumers.”
Longo said the Maple Leaf Square location is located in Toronto’s downtown Financial District and ideal for the launch of the concept.
“Statistically, people who live and work in this area are most likely to use meal-kit delivery services and food delivery apps due to their convenience and ease of use. From our own research, we felt that our shoppers in this area would find the most use from this pilot, and would be the most receptive to a more convenient shopping experience,” she said.
“If successful, we plan to adapt this program into other stores throughout the GTA. If consumers respond well to the program, we would love to see a store dedicated to offering strictly meal-based shopping. Like all other initiatives that we test, we have to see how the consumer responds, optimize accordingly and keep striving to perfect the retail experience 360 degrees.”
Longo said the grocery store model is continually evolving and businesses in this sector must focus on developing programs that are both customer-centric and designed for the future of retail.
The concept includes a kiosk area where fresh ingredients are merchandised according to a specific meal. The kiosk provides customers with one central location inside the store where they can hand-select their produce, meats, starches and garnishes to create a specific meal or recipe. Meal sizing will be adjustable to ensure shoppers have enough to feed a single person or a large dinner party of 10. Recipes and step-by-step cooking guides will also be available in-store and online.
“Today’s consumers are changing dramatically. They want convenience, speed and simplicity but they also want an experience. We had to ask ourselves, how do we create an offering that will allow our guests to have all three elements? We decided to test out the meal-kiosk because it will be automated, tech-focused, convenient, speedy and simple. The perfect storm for the customer of the future,” said Longo.
“Since launching the program, we’ve seen a very positive response from our shoppers who love the simplicity of the design and ease of use but only time and data will tell us the whole picture. We are going to be collecting data and feedback to better understand their experience to optimize it. We will also be launching mystery shopping with a few members of the public to get a fully unbiased view.
“The bottom line is this: For a long time, shoppers were loyal to a single store that would fulfill all of their grocery needs. Today, consumers are far more likely to embrace multiple retail locations and varying formats to ensure they get exactly what they want. It is our firm belief that they will respond well to new ideas and options that show the retailers are truly listening.”
Longo said the concept may be expanded to become a full store concept. It may also be something later offered online through its grocery delivery service, Grocery Gateway. The possibilities are endless.
"Similar to many Longo's initiatives that are currently underway, this program seeks to prepare us for the future of retail. As we carefully examine consumer trends, we know that customers are certainly seeking convenience, but we firmly believe that they also want a human-centred experience where they can browse, see, feel and compare ingredients before purchasing," said Longo.
She said the program has great potential to not only attract and engage new customers but to also help its existing customers discover better ways of shopping that provide both ease and convenience. Longo's plans to expand the model to each of its 33 stores by Spring 2020.
Longo’s is a family-owned business that started in 1956 when three brothers, Tommy, Joe and Gus opened their first fruit market. It was a small 1,500 square foot store on Yonge Street (at Castle field) in Toronto. Longo’s employs more than 5,000 people.
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary has 37 years of experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, city and breaking news, and business. For 12 years as a business writer, his main beats were commercial and residential real estate, retail, small business and general economic news. He nows works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Email: email@example.com.