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Survey: Shoppers Demand Higher Retail Service Levels

independent grocers June 2023 produce shopper preferences

According to the latest SPAR Group survey, in-store shopping remains a fixture of most consumers’ routines, with more than 80 percent preferring it and more than 45 percent choosing to shop at discount, convenience, home improvement and apparel stores. 

During May, SPAR Group fielded a survey of more than 1,000 consumers between ages 18-64 through a third-party research firm. Respondents were screened to be the primary or secondary shopper in their households.

The ability to try on/demo products, select new products and plan meals are important motivators consumers give for shopping in-store. Once inside, consumers rate customer service (71 percent), a speedy checkout (69 percent) and an engaging atmosphere (51 percent) as important attributes for a successful shopping experience. The store plays an important role in the product value chain and maintaining customer loyalty, according to the survey.

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“The SPAR Shopper Insights Survey tells us that while today’s customer is demanding, there are a variety of opportunities for retailers and brands to create value for them and build long-term loyalty,” said Mike Matacunas, CEO and president of SPAR Group, a provider of merchandising, marketing and distribution services.

“Several storylines from the data conclude the need for companies in the industry to be even more dedicated to engaging shoppers at every point in the buying journey, improving inventory management and service levels, especially within the store.”

Key findings include:

  • Seven in 10 consumers expect to increase shopping in-store over the next six months. This is in line with the most recent U.S. consumer confidence statistics.
  • Grocery stores are by far the most preferred in-store format (83 percent), with discount, convenience and home improvement next.
  • Fifty-five percent of consumers say product availability (out of stock, locked product) remains a challenge for stores.
  • Forty-three percent of consumers indicated that not enough staff is an issue for the shopping experience.
  • About 76 percent of consumers use mobile applications while shopping. Forty-seven percent use the apps for price check and comparisons, 40 percent for lookup and promotions and 35 percent to access or download promotions.
  • Four in 10 say they allow their preferred retailer access to data for a more personalized experience.
  • Walmart ranks as the best shopping experience by 23 percent of respondents, with consumers ages 25-54 having the strongest positive perceptions.
  • Women prefer Aldi compared to men, who say Costco has a better shopping experience.
  • Fifty-eight percent of consumers find self-checkout helpful, with women finding coupons and apps more useful than men.
  • Forty-three percent of consumers say stores do not have enough staffing and 55 percent indicate product availability and locked products are negative.
  • Consumers expect artificial intelligence (AI) to play a role in product search, checkout and online ordering.

According to analysis of the research by SPAR Group, retailers and consumer brands need to improve on shelf inventory management, optimize staffing to provide an engaging experience and invest in more tech to empower the shopping experience.

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“The next generation of leaders in retail and consumer brands will differentiate on service, both from an in-store and application point of view,” Matacunas said.

“Operating a physical store must be reinvented to provide value to today’s consumer. The physical layout, the experience, staffing, product availability and responsiveness need to work in concert.”

SPAR Group provides services that transform the physical space, merchandising presentation and promotional fixtures while providing syndicated resources to drive sales and consumer engagement. 

SPAR merchandisers were deployed to stores, visiting hundreds of targeted locations based on sales needs. The merchandisers replenished shelves from backroom stock across 13 categories, having an immediate positive impact on sales, generating a ROI for the brand and boosting sales and profit for retail partners.

“Retailers and brands are drawing on our expertise to truly engage shoppers throughout the marketing and merchandising process,” Matacunas said. “This is uniformly creating more customer loyalty and having a positive impact on the bottom line.”

About the author

Sommer Stockton

Web Editor

Sommer joined The Shelby Report in January 2022 after graduating from Brenau University in Gainesville, GA with a B.A. and M.A. in Communications and Media Studies. Sommer is excited to learn about the grocery industry and share her findings with The Shelby Report's readers!

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