Larkin: Communication, Education Help Drive Shopper Satisfaction

Peter Larkin

Peter Larkin

by Peter Larkin/ president and CEO, National Grocers Association
Special to The Shelby Report

Independent supermarket operators are raising their games within the fresh and local categories, but effectively communicating these efforts and educating their shoppers can be key to optimizing these points of differentiation.

According to survey results from the NGA consumer behavior study, conducted by Nielsen and The Harris Poll, 71 percent of respondents said they associated their local independent supermarket with providing high-quality fruits and vegetables, and nearly 60 percent said their local supermarket offered locally grown produce.

Although shoppers said location and price were the main reasons for switching stores, a majority (2 in 3) were very satisfied with their local independent grocers and, in the past year, only 14 percent changed supermarkets. A total of 3,008 shoppers—aged 18 and older who self-identified as spending 50 percent or more of their grocery shopping at an independent grocery store—were surveyed for the report from Nov. 13-Dec. 8, 2017.

Areas that drove the most satisfaction for shoppers with their local independent supermarket included low prices, followed by efficient customer service, high quality of fruits and vegetables, and offering locally grown produce and other packaged goods.

While all food retailers are working to capitalize on the fresh boom and local bounty, especially during the summer months, the research identified some strategies that independent retailers should consider regarding how they communicate their offerings. For example, more than half of the survey respondents indicated that they wanted their local supermarket to clearly indicate what items were fresh and in season. Further, 33 percent of shoppers said they would like fliers with recipes in the store, while 30 percent indicated that they’d like in-store demos for seasonal items.

Motivated by more access to information than ever before, a thirst for knowledge, and a desire for transparency, consumers want to engage in a conversation rather than being talked at. And these days, conversations and connections with shoppers go well beyond the limits of a store’s four walls. Whether it’s communicating through a store circular, in-store signage, email newsletter, videos, special events, mobile app, social media, etc., those independents who are utilizing a wide range of platforms, from traditional to emerging, as well as leveraging the expertise of knowledgeable associates in-store (from dietitians to store directors and category managers) are positioning themselves to not only get credit for their efforts but also foster important connections with their shoppers that lead to high shopper satisfaction.

A great example of how independents are creating an atmosphere that opens lines of communication and creates community is the “Meet the Producers” event held by Newport Avenue Market in Bend, Oregon. Newport Avenue Market describes this event as a “celebration of ranchers, farmers, producers and makers who supply products to the locally- and employee-owned Bend store.”

Now in its fourth year, the event offers shoppers a chance to ask questions, taste samples, and learn more about the products they buy from local suppliers and producers. The store puts the word out through social media, radio ads, print ads, in-store fliers, etc. Not only did the event help to drive foot traffic to the store but build customer loyalty. For these reasons and more, the store previously was honored with an NGA Creative Choice Award.

With their strong community roots and deep understanding of what their customers want, independent grocers across the nation are implementing the sage advice behind an often-used saying, with a bit of a twist: “think global but execute local” and cultivate community.


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