I walked into my neighborhood supermarket last week to find the aisle of gluten-free products had disappeared.
Well, the physical aisle was still there, but the products weren’t. I asked an employee where they’d gone and he deferred to the manager, who told me we’ve “integrated them into the rest of the store.” What that means is that instead of having all of these in one place, the gluten-free pasta is now mixed with the regular pasta, the gluten-free crackers are now mixed in with the regular crackers, etc.
I’m sure someone at “headquarters” decided this would be a good idea. But here’s the problem. No one ever asked customers how they felt about this. Having a place where I know to go to look for a particular type of product made this really easy to go in and find what I need. Now I need to go up and down all the aisles and read every package in the cracker section to see which are gluten-free and which aren’t.
When I mentioned this to the manager, he said, “Gee, we never thought of that.” Of course not, because they made a decision without understanding customer behavior–without realizing this would make the shopping experience much more challenging. My first thought was not in what aisle are the cookies now. It was where else can I shop that makes this easier for me.
How do you find out what customers like and don’t like? It’s a really complicated process. Ready? Here goes: Just ask.
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