Thriving in A post-Amazon World: A Met Market Case Study

Hello Friends and Colleagues, 

I'm just getting back into the routine after a summer of fly-fishing, camping, biking, and a little work, too. I hope you enjoyed your summer as well!

I wanted to take a couple of moments to share a project I’m really proud of. As some of you may know, I spent the last year and a half working with my favorite grocery store: The Metropolitan Market. 

It was a compelling project for me not only because I’ve been a Met Market customer for years, but I'm also fascinated by the idea of how retailers can survive and even thrive in an Amazon world. As I’m sure you’ve heard, Whole Foods is now owned by Amazon, which was a pretty big shake-up in the grocery industry. And Amazon continues to shake things up with the launch of their Amazon Go and Four-Star stores. The reality for all retailers is that Amazon is never going to stop pushing the edge from a technology and service model standpoint. If you are a retailer, you have to continually push too. 

The project started with a brand sprint where we defined the target customer (or tribe) that is most likely to shop and appreciate Met Market-- the (Greater) Seattle Food Enthusiast. Then we went pretty deep into what makes Met Market unique from all other retailers, and how the customer perceives and shops them versus their other grocery stores. 

Interestingly, we found that most customers use Met Market multiple times a week for a few fresh deli, produce, meat and specialty items. Not the “big shop” that you might find at, say, a Safeway or a Trader Joes. In fact, the majority of them used Met Market to round out their Safeway, QFC or TJ’s shop.

That work led us to a positioning highlighting the marketplace experience. Breaking that down further, we support it though: 

  • Sensory Experience: much like the Pike Place Market, the Met Market is a place to immerse yourself in color walls of produce, tastes, smells (the Cookie!)

  • Legendary Service: People who have been there a long time and know what they are doing. They have real fishmongers, sushi chefs, and sommeliers, trained chefs running demos, and they absolutely abhor a line of more than 4 people

  • Amazing products that you can’t get anywhere else, such as The Cookie, The Bakewell Tart, The Tomato Basil Soup, The Crab Cakes, and the Metropolitan Market private label wine, to name a few. 

By naming, then focusing on each aspect of the marketplace experience-- understanding each point of difference and drawing it out further over time at every level of the organization, they can separate themselves from the conventional shopping experience which feels more like a chore and actually create something that feels closer to joy.

We applied this positioning towards many initiatives, but I want to spend time on one that was particularly interesting to me. One of the first things we did was walk the stores with the buyers and identified the “signature” items that were most unique and compelling at Met Market. We did the same exercise with customers-- asking customers in Sammamish (parents) and Queen Anne (young adults) to go shop for the top five things they would share with a close friend if she were new in town. What we found were consistently recognized amazing items (some of which I mentioned earlier) with inconsistent awareness and trial. In other words, there was an opportunity to introduce customers to the very best the Met Market had to offer. Thus the Best of Met campaign was born. 

Working with the talented Met Market marketing and design team, Kiterocket PR agency, an amazing videographer, and a world-class photographer, we assembled beautiful storytelling content, a social media campaign and an in-store influencer event around introducing these amazing products. You could even taste grass-fed Akaushi steak and shake hands with the cowboy-hat-clad rancher who raised it.

Strategically, knowing that the typical customer shopped a smaller basket of items at Met to complement their conventional store shop, our hypothesis was that methodically introducing them to our most special products would increase their typical basket, and frequency, over time. 

I've included some of the imagery and video links below, as well as some high impact stories in the Seattle Times that were a direct result of the event that Kiterocket led. 

Best of Met Video

Seattle Times Top Four Sandwiches: Met Market Prime Rib

Seattle Times Metropolitan Market Private Label Wines:

Todd Olsen