It is always interesting to analyze international companies who expand into your country. Aldi is an example of a German company who expanded into the United States and has become one of the fastest growing grocery stores in the country. The most interesting part about this story is that they made little to no adaptations to consumer behavior in the United States. Instead they used their successful style from Europe to create an entirely new shopping experience for consumers in the United States.
You can notice the difference in how they prepared for consumer behavior immediately as shoppers approach the store. The shopping carts require you to insert a coin in order for them to detach so that you can use them. Shoppers are used to just being able to grab a cart upon entry, so they will have to remember to have a coin on hand so that they can shop. Once the cart is returned, the coin is released and the shopper can take it. Most shoppers return the carts to designated areas in the parking lot, or simply leave them around the parking lot. This requires the grocery store to employ staff to collect the carts and return them to the front of the store. Using the coin allows Aldi to “force” customers to do this job for them. This choice really requires consumers to adapt their consumer behavior when shopping at Aldi.
The next consumer behavior adaptation is based on the size of the store and the variety of products they hold. In the United States we are used to having many different brands to choose from and having multiple options of those products. Our grocery stores are big and we often purchase more than we planned and shop for longer amounts of time. Aldi’s stores are much smaller and have limited options. This completely changes the shopping experience for American shoppers. The focus of this format is to get consumers in and out of the grocery store as quickly as possible. Consumers will have to adapt their shopping style by only going to Aldi to get specific items that they know they will find there.
Another interesting difference in the shopping experience is the bagging process at Aldi. In the United States, consumers are accustomed to attendants bagging their groceries and even sometimes helping them bring it to their cars. At Aldi, the cashiers will scan the items and put them right back into the cart. The customers then have to take the cart to a bagging station to bag it themselves. This motivates these consumers to bring their own bags that are well suited for them to bag their groceries. Again, this is a new adaptation that shoppers will have to handle when shopping at Aldi.
Aldi’s focus with their operations is completely based on decreasing their operating expenses so that they can offer very low prices. Despite ignoring traditional consumer behavior in the United States, they are still successful and growing. This is likely because of their very competitive price that offers an appropriate value proposition to consumers despite the different experience.