Are Sainsbury’s being too ‘smart’ for their shoppers?

This month saw Sainsbury’s pull the plug on their first ever till-free store.

SmartShop has been the latest in a long line of innovations designed to bring the 150 year old retail giant in line with the needs of the 21st century shopper.

But trialling their first ever SmartShop exclusive in London’s Holborn has proven a disaster – with never-ending Helpdesk queues on launch day, and a decision to reinstate manned checkouts less than 5 months into the trial.

With shoppers simply ‘not ready’ for this kind of innovation, could Sainsbury’s vision for the stores of the future already be on shaky ground?

We revisited the key takeouts from this year’s IGD Trade Briefing to see which we feel will stand the test of time…

Live Well For Less

Over many years, Sainsbury’s iconic tagline has become synonymous with providing top quality products, at great value for shoppers.

But will it be enough to overturn rising negative perceptions against them, such as being rated a poor 2/5 on value for money? (Which, 2019).

For 2019/20, Sainsbury’s will be demonstrating ‘Live Well For Less’ through value-driving initiatives instore. Expect to see more feature space; WIGIG (When it’s gone it’s gone) deal bins, convenience pricing, big packs to provide wholesale style value, and LOCKED DOWN price stickers – a real focus on being shown as an everyday value retailer.

Future Brands

If Sainsbury’s truly want to become a destination for a new generation of shoppers, they need to differentiate. Their Future Brands initiative will help to set them apart, with a range of diverse new products that are exclusive to Sainsbury’s. The 100 brands rolled out so far have delivered £130m in sales, and are targeted to hit £200m by year end – so it’s no wonder it’s a continuing focus for them.

A Digital Future

Beyond SmartShop, Sainsbury’s are continuing to digitise their future in a way that better serves shopper needs. With Nectar app sign-ups rising 8% YOY, Sainsbury’s believe shoppers are ready to embrace an integrated and seamless retail experience. Mobile pay is already active in 8 convenience stores; mobile Nectar is being trialled in Wales; and SmartShop is being rolled out nationally as a complementary service to staffed checkouts, allowing people to ‘shop their way’.

Generating Efficiencies

As the Amazon threat continues to loom, Sainsbury’s are building their retail empire with Sainsbury’s, Sainsbury’s Bank, Argos & Habitat all under the J.S. umbrella. 2019/20 will see them look to generate cross-brand efficiencies with joint digital platforms and shared logistics, all in the aim to create a true one-stop shop for their shoppers.

Friendly and Helpful Service

Sainsbury’s have always championed their colleagues as the beating heart of the business. Over the past year, Sainsbury’s have introduced ‘leadership teams’ at store level; they are now the market leaders in base rate of pay (£9.20); and they have introduced a new real-time shopper opinion initiative called ‘Lettuce Know’. Closing the loop between shoppers and colleagues will help to build stronger service-driven relationships in-store.

With their proposed ASDA merger out of the picture, Tesco continuing to take great strides in retail domination, and discounters hot on their heels, Sainsbury’s need to be thinking with ingenuity to stay one step ahead of the game. ‘But’, observes our Senior Retail Planner, Sam James, ‘ingenuity is nothing in isolation. At the heart of true retail ingenuity is an intuition for the evolving needs of today’s shopper’. The radicalisation of their till-free trial was too far removed from shopper needs. Reaching Destination Sainsbury’s is not just about bringing shoppers along as passengers, it’s letting them drive.

If your brand is on the journey to Destination Sainsbury’s and you want to hear more, get in touch with us on 0161 833 4300 or email