The return of the Wagyu burger: a lesson in product quality for creating destination brands

Wagyu beef is among the world’s best beef. A genuine Wagyu steak in Japan costs $150 and is a thing of wonder. It has so much marbling it can look like an intricate lace shawl. It melts in the mouth and has exceptional flavour. So, when Aldi recently announced the ‘Return of the Wagyu Burger’ in its UK stores it caused quite a stir.

It was no wonder when you can buy a pack of two Wagyu burgers for £3.49 (less than $5). This takes the quality/price performance right off the scale.

Measured against traditional quality criteria:

  • Fit for purpose – it ticks the box being 85% beef and no nasty ingredients or preservatives.
  • Organoleptic and nutritional - it punches above its weight being succulent and having sensational taste (the salt level may be on the medium/high end!).
  • Authenticity - the meat is sourced from New Zealand grass-fed beef and has ‘a really good depth of flavour and melt in your mouth texture’ according to Simon Rimmer, Manchester, England based chef who was selected by a national newspaper to test the product.

The burger that drives footfall

The Aldi Wagyu burger sets the product quality benchmark of today’s grocery retailers. It is truly a ‘destination brand’, getting consumers to turn their heads and respond positively. It drives footfall exponentially as shoppers act as brand advocates.

I did a search on Twitter for ‘Wagyu burgers – Aldi’ and found hundreds of positive endorsements, here are a couple:

“the waygu burgers that Aldi sell are absolutely amazing, so succulent and full of flavour”

“…absolutely amazing for the price”

“hurry, get down to Aldi, wagyu burgers are back”

“I think my heart literally missed a beat when I saw the Wagyu burgers stacked deep in Aldi”

Aldi are not slow to feed the market frenzy, saving the product’s availability to peak shopping demand at holiday weekends and limiting the purchases to two packs per person. The whole brand experience is exemplary.

Don’t separate product quality from customer experience

I share this anecdote not to over-promote Aldi Wagyu burgers (but I must confess to be fan of the product) but to illustrate what ‘good’ looks like when it comes to measuring and assessing ‘QUALITY’ of retail brands.

Most retailers separate product quality from brand experience. Product quality tends to sit either within the technical team or within production whereas brand experience tends to be the preserve of marketing teams. This is a massive organisational error which dates back to custom and practices of the late 20th century. Today, retailers need a very different model which sets the pattern for success of the future.

This new model has functional and sensory performance at the heart of food quality by assessing and measuring physical and chemical characteristics including food safety, sensory characteristics, health, convenience and production processes.

All these factors are important in determining food quality. But even more important is aligning these quality performance attributes with customer experience by listening to and leveraging brand advocacy.

When this happens, a retailer can transform a good product into a great destination product or brand

I recently came across a rather dry European Commission document with the snappy title ‘Framework for selecting and testing of food products to assess quality related characteristics; EU harmonised testing methodology’ and in the depths a paragraph jumped out at me stating:

‘Consumer expectations are based on quality cues (information stimuli) that are either intrinsic (e.g. inferring the ripeness of fruit from its colour) or extrinsic to the product (e.g. advertising, brand image). The better the match between the expectations consumers have before purchasing (expected quality) and the experience they obtain in using the product (experienced quality), the higher the level of consumer satisfaction.’

When this is achieved or exceeded, brand advocates emerge as cheerleaders for the products and brands which massively accelerates demand. Aldi’s Wagyu burgers are a fine example of this.

Customer complaints are a vital source of product feedback

Once a retailer sets customer satisfaction as a dimension of measuring quality performance, all points of feedback from customers take on a new level of importance. Customers with a complaint are no longer just ‘complaining customers’ that can be fobbed off with a replacement product or a voucher, they become a vital source of product and brand feedback. This requires a rethink of the process for managing customer complaints, the customer engagement and the recording of the data collected.

At the point of engagement with a complaint, the handling agent needs to gain a factual definition of the product AND A FULL PICTURE OF THE CUSTOMER SITUATION – for example it is important to get an accurate record of the product and an explanation of the problem, but also it is important to understand the following:

  1. Is this the first time the customer has bought this product?
  2. How often do they shop at the store?
  3. Have they tried your own brand products?

This extra information at first sight may seem superfluous to the complaint but in fact it provides greater context of the customer situation relating to the complaint and will set the tone of the engagement and how you deal with the customer.

Retailers should take more care when handling complaints

TAKE TIME, DON’T RUSH engaging and recording the information. When a customer goes to the trouble of communicating that there is something wrong with a product, there are two motivations in play. One is for their own wellbeing but a second motivation, and perhaps more important, which is often prevalent among regular shoppers is the responsibility they have for the fellow shoppers not to experience the same problem or issue. If a nappy is leaking, then the parent raising the complaint doesn’t wish the same fault on fellow parents!

The more time and attention to detail the handling agent takes is positive both from a retailer’s and shopper’s perspective. For the retailer it obviously makes for a happy (or happier) shopper and also ensures the information being recorded is correct and accurate which is essential for product and brand performance reporting further down the line.

From the shopper’s perspective, it boosts customer satisfaction and boosts brand loyalty. If they are regular shoppers, it will raise the brand advocacy level.

However, you also need to consider the customer experience. If all they want is their free replacement, feeling they need to get past the Spanish Inquisition will not help. But, to address the complaint and then to ask for more information shows a retailer/brand cares.

If the complaint is a return in store, offer the chance to request more information later when home. Also consider how the experience can be enriched specifically for own brands. As we are delivering software solutions to manage feedback we also consult on protocols around call centre operations to maximise useful actionable feedback in the context of the customer journey.

Customers want relevant information over friendly engagement

FIX THE SHOPPER – whilst it is important to fix the problem it is also important to ensure the shopper leaves the process having had a good experience. This isn’t about being polite and humorous in the engagement but providing relevant answers and sharing relevant information that can benefit the customer and further experience. The greater the RELEVANCE, the greater the brand experience.

Supplier engagement in the complaint process is a key component in getting RELEVANT information for a customer. After all, the suppliers are the experts in their products. With Affinity™, retailers can have the customer engagement and supplier engagement linked to get meaningful information in to the handling agent, increasing the quality of interaction with customer.

BRINGING EVERYTHING TOGETHER TO ENSURE A GOOD FINAL RESOLUTION - By TAKING TIME to understand THE CUSTOMER SITUATION allows the handling agent to gather good accurate information about the product and the customer to enable more focus on building RELEVANT information to resolve the problem and add value to the customer.

Customer feedback is a rich source of product data

Once customer complaints is turned into a data source for measuring customer satisfaction it can be amalgamated with other customer data sources such as online feedback and feedback from in-store sampling to provide a rich treasure trove of insights that are totally unique to a retailer brand.

Customer complaints are not always a sign that something is wrong with the shopper. In fact, it is a sign that something is right, the mere fact they are taking the time to share the information is a sign.

You need to give credence to every message that customers send, every phone conversation and potentially every instore sampling encounter. Collected together and amalgamated with traditional quality performance metrics can turn disintegrated data into a consolidate ‘One View’ of product performance providing data to truly differentiate a brand offering in the future.

Every customer that takes a positive experience away after making a complaint could be the brand cheerleader of tomorrow. They may discover their destination product, their Wagyu burger, and cheer it on from the online roof tops!

As discussed above, Twitter is a source of customer feedback. Download our latest report below: 

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Kieran Forsey

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