Despite a rebounding economy, there is no shortage of bargain hunters in U.S. food stores, according to the latest insights from the 2015 National Grocers Association-SupermarketGuru Consumer survey. With nearly 60 percent of the 1,000 shoppers surveyed proclaiming deals to be most important to their overall shopping experience, the bump in deal-seekers in this year's survey rose nearly 10 percentage points from the 50.4 percent tallied last year and 49 percent in 2013. In fact, the uptick in this year's deal-seekers' tally is on par with the percentage logged in 2010 during the peak of The Great Recession.
The results of the annual survey – which asked participants about 129 shopping attributes ranging from shopping experiences, behaviors and sentiments about supermarkets, to purchase influences, eating habits and nutritional concerns – "Once again provides independent supermarkets important insights and trends about today's ever-changing consumer," said Peter Larkin, president and CEO of NGA. "It's clear that customer service remains an important experience for today's consumers, giving independent supermarkets another opportunity to differentiate themselves from their competition."
The 10 percent increase in consumers ranking deals as very important indicates that retailers "need to maximize the impact of trade promotions and communication to consumers to differentiate their store as price-friendly," noted Phil Lempert, CEO of SupermarketGuru.com and The Lempert Report. "Technology is available to reach target audiences and to communicate opportunities that matter to the shopper."
Consumers are taking note of retailers’ technological outreach, according to the survey, for which nearly 41 percent of consumers graded supermarkets as excellent, an increase of 4 percent from last year, which reflects not only improved technology but also better planning with regard to their communications approach.
Produce Powers Fresh Foods
Supermarkets also got high marks for fruits and vegetables, with 48 percent rating their favorite grocery store as excellent in supplying high-quality produce in the latest survey versus the 43.5 percent rank two years ago. A full two-thirds of shoppers pointed to produce as their primary attraction for their supermarket, while fresh foods overall ranks first at 74 percent.
The survey also shows that supermarket employees are showing improvments with customer relations. More than half of consumers (52 percent) rate their preferred supermarket "excellent" on courteous, friendly employees, which is up nearly four points from the year-ago survey, which factors as another pivotal measure, given that shoppers generally prefer to patronize stores whose employees are pleasant and friendly. Further, a commanding 96 percent of NGA's survey respondents said courteous associates are "very/somewhat" important to their choice of a primary supermarket.
"Stores also need to stay updated with technology for both the benefits and the issues," added Lempert, including data security to prevent breaches and maintain privacy, as well as offering online orders with both pick-up and delivery options.
Perhaps because consumers are more aware of the pervasiveness of data breaches, the survey also found that consumers wouldn't be too phased if there was a security breach at their retailer. However, more shoppers would likely switch stores upon a second incident.
For more information about the 2015 Annual National Grocers Association-SupermarketGuru Consumer Survey, click here.