I first discovered Aldi two years ago through gin. Possibly too much information but hey!

My local gastropub started selling ‘special’ G&Ts at a bargain price. They freely admitted it was Aldi gin and waxed lyrical about its botanicals, its nose, and the fact they got through 20 cases a week to complicit punters. They recommended a visit to Aldi, at which point, I, like so many others got hooked on the discounter bug.

Cycling special buys? You betcha! A whole leg of serrano ham? Why not? Hashtag #lidlsurprises indeed. The customer service is non-existent with the staff working at full tilt the whole time. The shopping experience is rushed and crowded, with queues halfway up the aisles on every single visit (tip: go with someone else, do half the shop and then send them to get in the queue) and there’s very little consistency of products but the allure of the hunt continues. And while you may not be able to get precisely what you want, I’ve never seen an actual availability issue, thanks to the reduced number of lines in store.

I recently attended a brilliant FDIN seminar on Omnichannel Shopping. Unsurprisingly a huge amount of the talk over coffee was around the seemingly unstoppable rise of the discounters. How should one trade with them? Should one indeed trade with them? What should a brand’s strategy be to differentiate its discounter offer from its grocery offer? Much was made of McVities’ decision to cease manufacturing Aldi’s own label digestives. I wonder, if the discounters are almost too popular for their own good? At some point a tipping point will come, where store capacity, the car parks or the supply chain will not be able to cope with the volume of customers coming through the doors. Which, if you are a discounter, is a wonderful problem to have.

The point was made at the FDIN that the mults really need to start to worry if the discounters start a delivery service. “Unlikely”, was the view. “Hard to turn profit by adding complexity to your supply chain”… But then announced this week, Aldi will launch online wine sales by the case early next year. Which is a brilliant solution to the capacity problem. Take high value, fundamentally simple-to ship products and deliver them direct. Takes some congestion out of the stores and ensures a high value order, profitable to deliver. Wins all round. Discounter slowdown unlikely to be imminent. So the challenge remains – how do you differentiate your grocery offer from your discounter offer. Pack size, weight breaks and value ranges are part of the answer. But our clients are telling us the grocers are looking for bespoke and differentiated campaigns – no ‘one size fits all plus TV’ – but an up-weighted offer, what’s the reason to bring shoppers to a big box Tesco than a local Lidl?

The key, we are finding, on behalf of our clients, is to truly understand what motivates the grocer, or that category. Is it calendar events? Experiential? A bespoke offer or competition? Gift with purchase? An exclusive SKU? What’s the digital play? It differs by category, and working collaboratively with our clients, asking the right questions of the right people at the right time, we can create competitive advantage. And with no sign of the discounter slowdown, and Aldi accelerating its delivery service, brands should consider their offer.

Only one question remains – will Aldi deliver me gin?

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