Morrisons’ revival strategy: listen to customers

Morrisons chief executive David Potts admits the supermarket became “distracted” and needs to “rediscover its identity” and has put listening to customers at the heart of its strategy.


Speaking to Marketing Week on a call following the company’s results announcement this morning, Potts said the supermarket has implemented a “customer listening programme” run by the marketing team to help it understand what customers value about the brand and how it can improve.

He said the scheme aims to cover around 80 stores this year and speak to individual shoppers about the experience not only of the store in question but the brand overall.

“What we are getting is a richness and texture of shopping experience at a particular store – so we’ll hear about the time the freshly made in-store burgers weren’t available. The trick or the joy is that you draw all those insights into the centre and find ways of individual stores improving their performance and take the insights and reflect them across the company.

“This has the potential to be a very important programme for the company.”

Potts himself has also been visiting stores and speaking to customers. He is also stepping up the search for a marketing director after former marketing boss Nick Collard left in March as part of a wider management reshuffle.

The aim is to “rediscover Morrisons’ identity” and what resonates with customers and use that information to inform the way the company presents itself both overall and in its advertising.

“If we listen very hard to customers they can give us a lot of clues as to what they value and find unique about Morrisons. From that emerges the identity.”

Morrisons CEO David Potts

“If we listen very hard to customers they can give us a lot of clues as to what they value and find unique about Morrisons. From that emerges the identity – the way the company presents itself to millions of consumers.

“Anybody’s identity has to, in retail, follow the customers but also resonate with what customers always trusted about a retailer. From time to time any retailer can find itself distracted… and it then benefits [them] to listen very hard to consumers and work on those values that customers respect and enjoy,” he said.

While the listening programme is still in its early days, Potts said areas such as the importance customers place on fresh food had “come to the fore”. He also said the supermarket had started to make improvements such as getting more stock on shelf after complaints about availability, particularly around special offers.

“We are working hard at pace so it feels a bit sharper in stores. In the end if you can get those things to run the right way consistently you should be rewarded. The listening programme has only just started and those things that we heard we’ve responded to,” he added.

Morrisons is showing signs of pulling back sales. Sales at stores open for more than a year were down 2.9% in the 13 weeks to 3 May, an improvement on the 7.1% decline a year ago. Total sales fell by 1.1%.