Shoppers say they are very satisfied with grocery stores overall, but there is one thing they will not tolerate: out-of-stocks. Half go to another retailer to find what they were looking to buy; 38 percent don’t buy the item at all; 14 percent bought something else; and 12 percent bought a different size or brand.
These are among findings reported in an annual study by The Retail Feedback Group (RFG). RFG in conjunction with 210 Analytics authored the 2012 U.S. Supermarket Experience Study, which looks at satisfaction in various departments, offerings, checkout speed, cleanliness and service.
Now in its fifth year, the study found that supermarkets generate high satisfaction among their shoppers, scoring an average of 4.47 on a five-point scale where five is highest.
“This is the highest trip satisfaction rating found in the last five years and this is great news for the supermarket channel in the midst of unprecedented levels of competition from supercenters, limited assortment stores and warehouse clubs as well as other formats,” says Brian Numainville, principal of RFG. “And satisfied shoppers are higher-than-average spenders, more likely to recommend the store to others and more likely to be loyal customers.”
No factor influences trip satisfaction to the extent of out-of-stocks. Supermarket satisfaction among shoppers unable to find all items they had planned to buy on their shopping trip averaged 3.97 on a five-point scale, compared with 4.54 among shoppers who did find all items. Not surprisingly, shoppers who did not find all items they came in to purchase were much less likely to recommend the store to others.
Shoppers would like to let a supermarket know about their concerns, too, the study found, but more than half of them (61 percent) have no idea whether their store has a customer feedback program. A large majority (85 percent) of the one in 10 shoppers, who indicated their store did not have one, said they would gladly use it were it available. The majority of shoppers who had used a retailer’s feedback program felt that the store made changes based on their input.
Supermarkets scored very well for customer service, especially at checkout; a clean store environment; deep assortment in grocery/food offerings; and sales promotion.
More than half of those surveyed (56 percent) acknowledged that the cashier positively impacted the shopping trip. Cashier friendliness registered as the second highest scored attribute on the survey (4.51). Keeping a clean store environment was No. 1, scoring 4.53 on the satisfaction scale.
Overall checkout experience also received a respectable score (4.38). Just 2 percent felt the cashier negatively impacted their shopping trip. There was room for improvement in the general helpfulness of store personnel (4.28), service at the deli counter (4.28) and time taken to check out (4.24), according to the study.
These findings make it apparent just how important excellent service and positive checkout experiences are to shoppers.
The study indicated that shoppers have less favorable perceptions of regular (non-sale) item prices, local sourcing, natural/organics, ethnic offerings and seafood selections. Improvement also could come in supermarkets communicating their community relations efforts. More than 80 percent of shoppers indicated it is important that a supermarket be involved in the local community, but one-third don’t know if their store is engaged locally, illustrating a clear opportunity for retailers to better communicate their outreach efforts.
Supermarkets registered strengths in perimeter departments, demonstrated by high satisfaction ratings for dairy/frozen (4.49), produce (4.38), meat (4.37), deli (4.31) and bakery (4.28). On the other hand, prepared/takeout food (4.15) and seafood (3.93) offer opportunities for improvement.
The variety and selection of grocery items received one of the top scores (4.36) by shoppers, and private brands variety scored well, too (4.29). However, real opportunity lies in expanding variety in natural/organic products (3.93), ethnic/international items (3.89) and locally sourced items (3.85).
In addition, private-label brands still have room for improvement given their use as a tool for retailers to differentiate themselves in center store. Shoppers who participated in the study said they plan to increase their consumption of private-label products in 2013.
The majority of supermarket shoppers patronize the most conveniently located store. Top reasons for bypassing one or more stores are quality and variety of fresh foods (58 percent), lower prices in general (46 percent) and promotions and sales specials (46 percent).
“The recessionary environment of the past few years has had a substantial impact on grocery shopping,” says Doug Madenberg, RFG managing principal. “Developing a keen understanding of emerging shopper perspectives and priorities is critical for the grocery industry to keep customers both satisfied and loyal to their supermarket.”
The study participants also were asked about their shopping and dining plans for 2013. Many reported that they will dine out less and eat at home more next year.
A summary of study highlights is available at www.retailfeedback.com. Grocery retailers can obtain a free copy of the full study report by sending a request to [email protected]. The report is based on a nationally representative study of 1,200 supermarket shoppers.
RFG offers research, consumer insight and consulting services. Its flagship program, Constant Customer Feedback (CCF), is the first automated feedback platform specifically designed and introduced for supermarket retailers, and currently is implemented in hundreds of locations across the U.S. Other services include employee engagement and culture assessments, customer satisfaction surveys, traditional consumer research and market analysis.
In the featured photo at top is Brian Numainville.