by Peter Larkin/ president and CEO, National Grocers Association
Special to The Shelby Report
Keeping up with the pace of change in the retail industry can be a daunting task, but independent grocers have faced shifts in the marketplace for decades. And while we are in a period of significant disruption, there are a number of areas where independents can differentiate themselves with great success.
Findings from the third annual National Grocery Shoppers Survey, which was presented at this year’s NGA Show, identified new winning strategies for independents, based on in-depth consumer research. The research, conducted by Nielsen on behalf of NGA, includes results from both The Harris Poll consumer panel from more than 3,000 self-identified shoppers who spend more than 50 percent of their grocery dollars at independent grocers and Nielsen’s panel-based Independent Grocer Shopping database, a new subset of the Nielsen Homescan panel. This combined dataset represents the largest and most developed view into today’s independent grocery shopper.
According to the latest survey, two-thirds (64 percent) of independent shoppers are very/extremely satisfied with their local supermarket. Additionally, independent grocers are strongly associated with friendly employees, quality meats and produce, and easy-to-navigate layout.
That’s good news for our sector, and because independent grocers are nimble enough to respond quickly to what customers need and want, in addition to providing great service and their strong communities ties, the independent supermarket industry has the advantage to stay ahead of the consumer trend curve.
Key findings of this year’s research include:
• E-commerce insights: More than 80 percent of shoppers prefer their local store to an online alternative, and for those who do grocery shop online do it in addition to shopping in-store (68 percent), with the majority of their purchases (75 percent) done at the store. Convenience is the main reason for shopping online for groceries, while the need to see items and concerns about freshness are the biggest barriers to online shopping.
While a small group of shoppers (11 percent) shop online, food delivery is the preferred method of shopping. Over three quarters (76 percent) of shoppers who have purchased groceries online have used food delivery compared to 39 percent who have used the “click-and-collect” method. The most commonly purchased food is packaged foods (14 percent), followed by general merchandise/health and beauty care (10 percent) and cleaning products (10 percent). Nearly three in 10 (27 percent) shoppers indicated that they anticipate an uptick in their online grocery shopping over the next five years.
• Driving health and wellness: The majority of independent shoppers (63 percent) expect their grocery stores to support them with a healthier lifestyle. The top recommendations included: instructions on how to cook with certain foods (28 percent); help with label reading including ingredients and nutritional claims (25 percent); and general guidance on food that gives good nutritional value for the dollar (23 percent). Shoppers were nearly split on where healthy foods should be displayed, with 58 percent saying that healthy food alternatives should be shelved alongside other food items, compared to 42 percent who think healthy food should be in its own section, separate from main aisles.
• Key areas that are valued most: When considering where to shop for groceries, independents shoppers value low prices, quality meats and produce, friendly staff, cleanliness, and offering locally grown produce and other packaged goods. Nearly seven in 10 shoppers (67 percent) have no plans to switch from their independent store.
• Areas of needed improvement: Independent supermarket operators need to improve their website usability, with consistent pricing online and offline, the same products online and in-store, and an easy-to-use smart phone app.
The research offers an interesting glimpse into the attitudes and behaviors of shoppers, but it also provides a larger picture of the power of independent grocers, who I believe have much to build on for the future. To learn more, please visit www.nationalgrocers.org/consumertrends.