Out-of-Stocks Greatest Influencer of Trip Satisfaction: Study

Supermarkets generate high satisfaction among their shoppers, scoring an average of 4.47 on a five-point scale, where five is highest, so finds results of the 2012 U.S. Supermarket Experience Study by the Retail Feedback Group (RFG), a leading research and consumer insights consultancy.

The highest trip satisfaction rating detected in the last five years, “is great news for the supermarket channel in the midst of unprecedented levels of competition from supercenters, limited assortment stores, warehouse clubs, as well as other formats,” according to Brian Numainville, principal of the Plainview, N.Y.-based RFG. “Satisfied shoppers are higher-than-average spenders, and in turn more likely to recommend the store to others and more likely to be loyal customers,” added Numainville.

In its fifth year, the 2012 U.S. Supermarket Experience Study reveals a wealth of compelling supermarket industry insights, key highlights of which include the many important elements that impact satisfaction with the grocery trip experience, such as service, checkout speed and cleanliness. However, Numainville affirmed that 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. Likewise, shoppers who did not find all items they came in to purchase were much less likely to recommend the store to others. The survey also found that out-of-stocks may cost retailers sales with 50 percent of those shoppers going to a different store to purchase the item; 38 percent foregoing the item; 14 percent buying a different item at the store instead; and 12 percent buying a different brand or size.

Other important findings of the latest RFG report, which is based on a nationally-representative study of 1,200 supermarket shoppers and was prepared by 210 Analytics, LLC, include:

• Supermarkets registered strengths in perimeter departments, demonstrated by high satisfaction ratings for dairy/frozen, produce, meat, deli and bakery. On the other hand, prepared/takeout food and seafood offer opportunities for improvement.

• The variety and selection of grocery items received one of the top scores by shoppers. However, real opportunity lies in expanding variety in natural/organic products, ethnic/international items, and locally-sourced items – all low-scoring areas. In addition, private label brands still have room for improvement given their use as a tool for retailers to differentiate themselves in center store.

• On their last visit to a supermarket, 90 percent of shoppers used a cashier lane to check out, as opposed to self-checkout, and 56 percent indicated that the cashier positively impacted their trip satisfaction. Indeed, cashier friendliness registered as the second-highest scored attribute on the survey. Overall checkout experience also received a respectable score. These findings make it apparent just how important service and the checkout experience are as to shoppers.

• 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).

• While price and variety are chief reasons for deciding where to shop, nearly four in 10 shoppers who bypass other stores say they do so because of lack of cleanliness. Keeping a clean store environment is a strength of the supermarket channel, receiving the highest rating in the survey at 4.53.

• More than 80 percent of shoppers indicated it is important that a supermarket be involved in the local community. Yet one-third of shoppers don’t know if their store is engaged locally, illustrating a clear opportunity for retailers to better communicate their outreach efforts.

• Only 28 percent of shoppers reported that the store they visited offered a customer feedback program to register concerns or praises, while 61 percent had no idea whether their store offered a program at all. Among the one in 10 shoppers who indicated their store did not have a program, 85 percent said they would gladly use a feedback tool, if it were available. Considering those shoppers who did provide feedback to a supermarket, the majority felt that the store made changes based on their feedback.

Doug Madenberg, RFG managing principal, concluded, “The recessionary environment of the past few years has had a substantial impact on grocery shopping. 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.”

Grocery retailers can obtain a free copy of the study by sending a request to [email protected].

The Retail Feedback Group offers a broad spectrum of research and consulting services. Its flagship program, Constant Customer Feedback (CCF), is the first automated feedback platform specifically designed and introduced for supermarket retailers, and is currently implemented in hundreds of locations across the United States. RFG has served as a thought leader in the grocery industry, providing research and consulting to both the Food Marketing Institute and National Grocers Association. Other key RFG services include employee engagement and culture assessments, customer satisfaction surveys, traditional consumer research and market analysis.