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Katerina Kondrenko
Experienced content creator with a passion for research, French bulldogs, and British cats. Katerina has an economics degree but prefers letters to numbers. She has been exploring different audiences for popular culture projects, was involved in the creative development process, and now she’s playing in the CX field.

Retail food customer journey: A taste of experience excellence


Have you ever wondered why customers choose one retail store over another? What makes them leave and never come back? Is it an unsuitable location, a bad name, high prices, or a small assortment? Is it a customer service assistant who wasn’t helpful enough or even rude? Or is it something else?

Well, all of these (and even more) is the answer. That’s why forward-looking brands started putting themselves in customers’ shoes long ago to discover what drives their clients. And the smartest ones found a way to go even further by getting into buyers’ heads, reading their thoughts, and identifying their needs and wants at every stage of the journey.

Have you guessed already that we’re talking about buyer personas and customer journey maps? Creating personas is a valuable initial step in grasping your customers' true needs and their experiences with your business. Once you have personas, you can proceed to develop retail customer journey maps for them.

Defining your personas

To correctly define your personas, you need to start with the research step (e.g., collect feedback from your customers and customer-facing staff), then segment the data into customer groups and turn them into personas.

What can you do as a part of your research?

  • Conduct surveys to gather data on the age, gender, location, income, and occupation of your customers. For instance, use online forms or in-store questionnaires to collect this information.
  • Observe customer behavior in your store. Note what people purchase, how often they visit, and which sections of your store they frequent.
  • Examine customer purchase history using your point-of-sale system to understand their buying patterns and preferences. This data can reveal what products are most popular.
  • Create feedback forms or comment cards in your store, and encourage customers to share their opinions and suggestions. Analyze the feedback for common themes.
  • Monitor online reviews and social media mentions related to your store. Pay attention to what customers say about their experiences and what they like or dislike.
  • If you have an online presence, use website analytics tools to track user behavior. Analyze data on page views, click-through rates, and time spent on different sections of your website, and other data.
  • Conduct one-on-one or group interviews with customers to gain deeper insights into their motivations, challenges, and preferences. Ask open-ended questions to encourage detailed responses.
  • If you have a loyalty program, use the data collected to understand customer loyalty and their purchase habits. Loyalty programs can reveal who your most dedicated customers are.
  • Utilize third-party market research and consumer behavior data to complement your in-house research. This can provide a broader perspective on your audience, as the same people often buy from many companies in the market. That’s why you can even study the customer personas of your competitors, as this can provide insights into what similar customers might expect from your retail food store.

Once done, choose the persona(s) you will build a map for. The choice depends on your priorities. This can be the most profitable persona, or the one who visits your store more often than others, or the one who stops coming to the shop after a couple of visits. Each will have an individual journey and unique challenges. 

Building a customer journey map for a food retail

First of all, you need to define the journey stages of a persona you decided to build a map for. Remember, a customer's journey doesn't start when they step into the store; it begins way before that when they realize they need something. So, if you want to understand the whole journey, don't forget that early part. 

For this article, we built an end-to-end customer journey for a food retail store. Read on to get an idea of what your own map might look like.

Stage 1: Research

Retail food customer journey Research stage

Your persona understands their need in a couple of ways. It could be that their home is running low on food supplies, and they realize it's time to restock the pantry and refrigerator. Alternatively, they might have a special event, like a gala dinner, on the horizon, and they recognize the need to purchase specific ingredients to prepare for the occasion. Or maybe the persona has rented a flat from a real estate agency and moved to it. 

Our persona’s name is Olivia. She recently moved to a new area and, of course, her refrigerator is empty, but she is not yet familiar with the new location. What is Olivia doing? Asks for advice from neighbors.

Notice how the grocery shopping experience of other customers affects Olivia’s journey.

So, what do you need to reflect on at this stage of your persona's journey? The process: how they realize their need, how they fulfill it, through what channels, what emotions they experience, what expectations they have, how they interact with your business.

After writing down all that in the sections of your map, identify the challenges your persona is facing at this stage (if there are any) and do the same at other stages. Even if at some stages you won’t find things to improve, you may identify your business’s strengths, enhance those, and use them to your advantage. 

The same sections should be filled out for all the further stages of your persona’s journey. 

Stage 2: Decision

Retail food customer journey Decision stage

After receiving the necessary information, your persona faces a choice since there is always more than one store nearby. What can work against you? What, on the contrary, will make you stand out from other options?

For example, Olivia chooses a supermarket, although it’s located further away than the local store. Why? Because she needs a rare product that can’t be found in small stores.

Always notice what drives the persona to choose in your favor, as these are your strengths, which you can emphasize in advertising materials. Likewise, address consumers’ concerns, as these are opportunities for growth and improvement.

Stage 3: Getting to the supermarket

Retail food customer journey Getting to the store

It's time for the persona to get to your store. How easy is it to find the right way? Are there any billboard advertisements on the road pointing the way to the store? How can the persona get to you: by private transport, bus, taxi or on foot?

In our case, Olivia is driving her own car, so her key problem is (or isn’t?) navigation. She turns in the wrong direction a few times, so her grocery store experience spoils, although she hasn’t even crossed the threshold of the supermarket.

Stage 4: Arrival

Retail food customer journey Arrival stage

So, your persona arrives at the store. What's there for them? Underground parking? Endless chaos and searching for a parking space? Lack of parking? Paid parking? 

Olivia is lucky — the supermarket has a parking lot. But finding a parking place is not that easy. It’s vital to understand the approximate flow of customers in your store. Is your parking large enough to accommodate all visitors' cars?

If a buyer is looking for a parking place for too long, they enter the store in a bad mood, and this definitely affects their grocery shopping experience, as well as the desire to return.

Stage 5: Pre-entry

Retail food customer journey Pre-entry stage

It would seem that nothing can happen on a short stage of a customer's journey from a car, bus stop, or traffic light to the store door? Many will not even include this stage in the map. Too bad. Have you ever thought about the fact that there is a whole minefield of other cars between the customer's car and the entrance?

For example, Olivia is nearly hit by a car on her way to the store. You should probably make a pedestrian crossing or even install a traffic light if the parking lot is too large.

Stage 6: At the supermarket

Retail food customer journey At the supermarket stage

Finally, your persona is inside the store. What do they see? Is it easy for them to navigate? Even in the already familiar supermarkets, there are rearrangements, and buyers, only remembering where their favorite products are, have to look for them. Again. Are there staff members your persona can turn to for help? Are there enough shopping carts? Or small baskets for those who need to buy just a few items?

Olivia is having trouble finding a product. Store employees are unable to help her find it. The sections of the store have no signs. How can a visitor help themselves? For example, you could install a display or a couple of them with an electronic map of the supermarket. It will be convenient to quickly edit it, unlike a printed map. 

Stage 7: Purchase

Retail food customer journey Purchase stage

The moment of purchase. Sometimes shopping is very enjoyable, but the primary headache awaits at the checkout. Are there enough checkouts in your supermarket? Are you increasing the number of cashiers during peak hours? Does the store have self-checkouts? At this stage, another problem may arise, the payment process. Do you accept all credit cards? Can a customer use a discount coupon?

Olivia, approaching the cash register, realizes that she will have to stand in a huge queue. She notices information about the discount program but cannot find out the details until her turn comes up. On the one hand, that's good, as you managed to draw the buyer’s attention to a beneficial part of your service. Adding a QR code, via which the customer can immediately register in the program, will help to while away the time in the queue and the future discount will compensate for the waiting time.

Stage 8: Leaving

Retail food customer journey Leaving stage

Well, the buyer paid for their groceries, and now they somehow need to leave the store and either bring the purchase to the car or even at home. Consider if you have staff to help them carry the bags to a vehicle or if you have special carts. How strong are the bags in which you pack the purchases? Can they tear up while the customer walks home? It would be a good idea to provide a paid service of transferring a buyer to their house, highlighting your store among similar ones. This service can be free for people with huge bills.
Although Olivia arrived in her car, she still needs to put her purchase in the trunk, and the bags were quite heavy. There are no assistants among the staff, and she has heard that the carts couldn’t be taken out of the store. Olivia may turn to other buyers for help, but her grocery store experience with you will be spoiled.

Stage 9: Bonus program

Retail food customer journey Bonus program stage

Let's say you have a bonus program or some other loyalty system. The buyer finds out about it and tries to register. What could go wrong? Everything. The application may not launch, it may contain bugs, and the loyalty system itself may be too complex, so the buyer decides to give up.

Olivia finds more detailed information about your bonus program on the Internet, and wants to install the application, but it is not compatible with her device. She doesn’t plan to change her smartphone in the near future, but she also wants to get a discount. 

How can you help? Offer customers to register their personal accounts not only in the application but also on the website. Accrue bonuses by the buyer's phone number or issue plastic cards as an e-card replacement. This way, you will cover the maximum number of your customers, including not very tech-savvy people, or children who were sent to the store by their parents, and so on.

Stage 10: Coming back

Retail food customer journey Coming back stage

This stage is no less significant than all the previous ones since the buyer can always change their mind and not return. Will the persona want to return to your store? 

Everything that we talked about above influences their decision. But additional factors may appear. For example, the persona enjoyed their grocery store experience, but in a conversation with friends it turned out that they were less fortunate in your service. Someone else’s problem may affect this persona’s opinion. Or pretty ripe apples from your store turn out to be not so pretty on the inside. Or maybe your work schedule will not fit into the rhythm of the buyer’s life.

Olivia decides to return. After all, where else would she buy quinoa? She already finds it easier to navigate the supermarket, but the long queue at the checkout is still annoying. Olivia came during the hours when the bulk of people were at work, but this did not affect the queues in any way.

How many chances will Olivia give your store? How soon will she know that there is another large supermarket nearby? Are you sure she won’t become their client?

Analyzing a customer journey map for a food retail

Once the map is ready, use it to understand what needs to be improved to encourage your customers to choose and stay with you. Put this information into action, and it won’t take long to see the result.

Sustainable lines

If you want to go beyond the usual customer journey map and pay special attention to some aspects that matter to your case, feel free to add custom sections. In this template, we introduced sustainability-related lines and considered how a retail business interacts not only with the buyers but also with the environment. 

Sustainable lines

Summing up

You might have little to no experience with customer journey mapping, but it’s not as difficult as it seems. Check out our updated Retail food customer journey map template to learn what a customer persona and a customer journey map for your store might look like.

Retail food customer journey map template

You can easily turn this CJM template into your map if you want by using our CJM tool. And it’s absolutely free.

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2 years ago

We’re thinking about building a food and beverage customer journey, so this article was useful. Especially the dramatic episode of Olivia nearly getting hit by a car. A bit over the top, but a good reminder that no interaction or opportunity in the customer experience is too small.

2 years ago

Great template. I think there’s a common misconception that the only companies that should be building journeys are digital-only. It’s nice to see an example for a grocery shopping customer journey that’s almost exclusively offline.