Tesco's 'new conversation with Britain' must be more than a slogan

This week, Tesco announced that it hopes to have ‘a new conversation with Britain’ and focus on customers, the people that work there and the communities its shops are in. Chief marketing officer Matt Atkinson is clear that the focus must be on ‘Every little helps the customer,’ rather than helping the supermarket, which was the original focus of the strapline.

Lucy Handley

But I wonder how this will be received by all of the people it works with - not just staff and communities, but suppliers and shareholders too.

Atkinson also states that he wants to do ‘good things with our size’. That is a tough nut to crack. Yes, Tesco can buy things in giant quantities and get good deals - and they can be passed on to shoppers. But it is known to be a very tough cookie when dealing with suppliers, which perhaps suggests that little things don’t really help all of the people it has a relationship with.

Shareholders might be pleased that there is going to be an increased focus on customers and more so that Tesco is now matching market growth for the first time since 2011 - and maintaining its market share of 30.4 per cent. Yet I think that getting more people to shop there - or to spend more - is a mammoth task, especially when economic times are tough.

Research to be published in the next issue of Marketing Week will show that 19 per cent of those that shop at Tesco are ‘strategic savers’, those who are canny about how they spend - and this is the same proportion as at Asda.

However, more people who shop at Sainsbury’s are seeking out quality - 17 per cent - than at Tesco, where 13 per cent are ‘quality crusaders’. This could be where the opportunity is for Tesco, because good quality is still high on the agenda for 4.5 million people, compared to price alone, which is key for 5 million, according to the data from TGI.

Tesco is still clearly a strong brand and a huge business force, but I don’t agree that it is all about killing the competition with brute force, as our columnist Mark Ritson suggests. As one commenter says of the media buying industry: “I know it was not the 1980s muscle power of big buying that built the sector, but the art of planning and insight.”

To borrow a phrase from another comment: conversation is a mentality, not a slogan, and it will be hard to get this to filter down to every person behind every till at the supermarket. Hopefully the insight that people are out of love with Tesco will help it build its reputation with shoppers and shareholders alike.

Readers' comments (2)

  • Problem is, as my father used to say "s**t rolls downhill" and if you don't give your staff and managers the time to spend on customer service, then they become as cynical and disengaged as the customers.

    So grandstanding with bold statements from the Chief Exec is all very well and makes shareholder feel warm and cuddly, but "talk is cheap" if his lieutenants are not implementing the it and giving the front of house staff and store managers the resources or time to do it.

    I know for a FACT that many store managers (inc flag ship stores) just play lip service to all this and roll their eyes to the latest brand marketing and customer service initiatives. This is because managers from the supervisors upwards are forever fire fighting, between the needs of the store, filling shelves, sitting in on the Dot Com phones and jumping on the tills, along with all their other jobs and often not having breaks or lunch - which is not the best use of managers time! And when they have head office inspections, they just do a quick session with their staff the night or morning before to make sure they give all the correct answers to questions asked from a crib sheet. ...Box ticked as far as head office are concerned, which probably explains why they get the worst customer reviews of any of the leading supermarkets.

    As I said, ..."talk's cheap" and I'm sure this won't change anything, but as they say, "every little helps" lol!

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  • Good to see my comment section thoughts quoted, thanks. :)

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