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Customer Advisory Board (Consumer/End-User)

Revamping an Important Business Component

The Challenge

A regional chain of grocery stores with annual sales of $70 billion was planning a major overhaul of its value-added precooked "meals-to-go" sections. The company's percentages-of-sales from these areas, which are sold at a premium, were significantly below the industry average. The company had conducted several of its own customer focus groups, which were later deemed to be inadequate for the task. Senior management remained uncertain about the specific direction to take. The company needed to have a highly selective group of "customers" and industry consultants scrutinize its ideas and provide answers to key questions put forth by their Board of Directors.

The Solution

The solution decided upon was an intensive 6-hour Customer Advisory Board meeting comprised of 12 carefully profiled consumers - 5 current customers, 5 competitors' customers, plus two consultants. These included: 1 male and 1 female single young professionals with undergraduate college degrees earning $40,000-$50,000; 1 70-year old widow; 1 60-year old wife of a retired couple with pension income of $55,000; 2 wives of two-income families with 2 children and having a combined income of more than $80,000; 2 wives of two-income families with 2 children and having a combined income of $50,000-$80,000; 2 single parents (2 children) with income of $45,000; 1 grocery demographic expert; 1 industry consultant.

All moderated discussion was driven by a series of "starter" questions developed as part of a comprehensive Discussion Guide. They included:

  1. What are the 3 most significant drivers of your decision to purchase meals-to-go?
  2. Where have you had the best in-store meals-to-go experience?
  3. How important is the convenience of such products? Do these products help you with personal time management?
  4. How frequently did you purchase in-store prepared meals-to-go 5 years ago? How frequently do you today?
  5. How often do you eat out (lunch, dinner, average check)? What are the key reasons for eating out (convenience, pleasure, diversity of food, quality of food, ambiance, other)? How would you rate meals-to-go as a substitute for dining out?
  6. How does esthetic theming in the meals-to-go section affect your buying decision?
  7. What do you prefer in ethnic meal selections – do you accept these as being  authentic preparations?
  8. What is the price point where meals-to-go represent acceptable value?

The Outcome

From the very detailed and insightful discussion, and from the prepared Report and Analysis of the meeting, the company was able to respond to its Board of Directors and thereafter create a formal strategic plan for the re-launch of its meals-to-go section that incorporated theme, product selection and quality, authentically prepared ethnic choices, and price.