Price is right for Lidl as it aims to build loyal customer base by offering value for money
Sian Gray, Lidl Ireland head of marketing, tells John McGee why it strives to 'do everything better' in a competitive market
With 150 stores in the Republic of Ireland, another 38 in Northern Ireland and over 5,000 staff, the German discounter Lidl has carved out a lucrative share in the Irish grocery market. According to the most recent Kantar Worldpanel figures, this stood at 10.3pc in January, marginally behind fellow German rival Aldi on 10.5pc.
Heading up the retailer's marketing department is Sian Gray, who has held senior marketing roles with a number of big Irish and international companies and brands such as Vodafone, Reebok, Nokia and Doc Morris/Lloyd's Pharmacy before joining Lidl in September 2016 as its head of marketing.
Describe your role and what it involves
"I oversee all the marketing activities of the company, ensuring the team effectively fulfils our marketing and business strategy. We create all campaigns locally using in-house production and local agencies in Ireland and Northern Ireland.
"My role is a challenging and exciting one where, working with my team, we are tasked to grow market share and engage on a deeper level with Irish customers."
What are the key marketing priorities for Lidl in Ireland?
"To continue to deliver our brand promise and disrupting the grocery market in Ireland by delivering quality products at the most competitive price.
"At the moment, we are focusing on promoting our increased range within Lidl, especially our range for babies and young families."
In a highly competitive market, how does Lidl try to distinguish itself from the competition, including the likes of Aldi?
"Simply by trying to do everything better. We constantly evaluate our prices to ensure we are always offering the best value to our customers. This is enshrined in our vision and mission statements and is at the heart of everything we do.
"We also look to our international colleagues to see what international products we can bring to the Irish customer and offer them something different - such as Italian products under our own labels like the Italiamo range from Italy or Sol y Mar from Spain.
"But we will continue to challenge the top three to deliver even better value, quality and an ever-increasing range to Irish customers and by always going the extra mile for them.
"In addition, we are also fortunate to have a board of directors in Ireland which means we are able to make decisions in a quick and efficient manner and react to the market."
How would you describe conditions in the Irish retail market?
"Very competitive. When we entered the market 17 years ago, we disrupted the status quo and offered Irish customers incredible value while not having to compromise on quality. The discount retail model is now very much accepted by the Irish public and Lidl is recognised as a suitable destination for a full shop. We have, over the last 10 years, increased our Irish sourcing tenfold allowing us to really celebrate local Irish suppliers and this will only continue in the future."
Given the upturn in the economy and the fact that consumer sentiment is at a high, where is the Irish customer mindset at the moment?
"Irish customers are very savvy and they have accepted and embraced the discount model. They know that with Lidl they can do their full shop for less and never have to compromise on quality.
"But we have also noticed the request for new and innovative products that we can source locally and products from our international colleagues in the French, Italian or Polish markets."
Both Lidl and rival Aldi are the only large retailers that don't offer a loyalty programme to their customer. Why is this?
"Grocery-based loyalty programmes are simply a way to mask the high prices charged by what you refer to as the main retailers. Our model is different - we simply give this value back to our customers with every single purchase.
"We may look at customer programmes in the future to allow us to deliver targeted offers to our customers, but it will not be like the standard grocer loyalty model."
Lidl's sponsorship of Ladies' Gaelic Football is now into its second year - how has it worked out for the company?
"Last year, after 16 years in Ireland, Lidl embarked on our first high-profile sponsorship, a three-year partnership with Ladies' Gaelic Football. We were looking for a partnership that would further strengthen our links in localities all over the country- and the Ladies Gaelic Football Association was a perfect fit. To date it has been a great success, raising the bar in terms of awareness and interest in women's sport.
"The challenge now is to deepen that connection with our customers and make the sponsorship work even harder for us at a local level. With 150 stores in the Republic of Ireland, there's a Lidl in every community and that's where serious support starts. As sponsorship is still a very new marketing tool for us, we will be carefully considering how we invest further. We are very happy with our marquee sponsorship with ladies' football."
Sunday Indo Business