Personalization, Engagement = Food Shopping Bliss: RFG Study

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Personalization, Engagement = Food Shopping Bliss: RFG Study

By Meg Major, EnsembleIQ - 10/09/2014

Engaging shoppers at the front-end and in the aisles are keys to a satisfying and enjoyable shopper experience, and in turn, a willingness for consumers to recommend a particular store to their friends and family, according to the latest results of Retail Feedback Group (RFG)'s 2014 U.S. Supermarket Experience Study.

Another significant highlight of the study by the Lake Success, N .Y.-based consumer insights and research consultancy, now in its seventh year, found that supermarkets continue to generate high satisfaction among shoppers, scoring an average of 4.46 on a 5 point scale, where five is highest. 

“The findings of our study show that a people-first culture is an essential element in winning the grocery war – especially when combining in-store engagement with technology to bring the personal touch back to retail," affirmed Doug Madenberg, RFG principal.

Importance of the Personal Touch at the Supermarket

Among the highlights of this year's Supermarket Experience Study:

  • Checkout: 65 percent of shoppers acknowledge cashiers have a positive impact on their trip experience, underscoring the importance of cashier-assisted lanes in high trip satisfaction.
  • In-Aisle Engagement: Pleasant interactions with store associates, including product recommendations, create an immediate payoff in terms of a larger basket size, as well as a longer-term loyalty building advantage, given higher-than-average recommendation and satisfaction scores.  
  • Active Problem Solving: Offering assistance in finding items, resolving out-of-stocks or addressing other problems during the trip helps avoid lost sales and dissatisfied shoppers. Supermarkets show room for improvement as only half of shoppers indicated an issue encountered was resolved during the trip.
  • Leveraging Technology: Social media serves as an important gateway to building and strengthening loyal connections leading up to, between, and following grocery trips. Shoppers connected with their primary stores through social media are more likely to recommend the store and provide high satisfaction ratings. 

Local Products and Farmers Markets

Driven by a desire for freshness and support of local economies, shoppers are expressing interest in locally-sourced items, which they define as grown within a certain mile radius (46 percent), or in their home state (41 percent). Shoppers are most interested in locally-grown vegetables, followed by fruit, eggs, meat and poultry, and milk.

Closely tied in to the local movement, farmers markets are becoming a competitive force with 78 percent of shoppers buying food items there at least on occasion. Top reasons again center on freshness and supporting the local economy.  

“More than eight in 10 shoppers cite very high interest in purchasing locally-grown produce, yet shoppers do not give supermarkets high satisfaction marks on the variety of locally-sourced foods," noted Brian Numainville, RFG principal. "While fresh has been a supermarket stronghold, the ever-growing number of farmers markets, and their strength in locally-grown seasonal items, may become a potential disrupter and should serve as a red flag for supermarkets to protect their point of differentiation, and ultimately, the fresh dollar," Numainville added.

Confidence in Supermarkets

With the food industry at the center of a number of hotly contested public debates, including GMO transparency, payment security, data privacy, food safety and minimum wages, the survey probed supermarket perception and performance in these areas.

Food safety is a supermarket strong suit, with confidence in supermarkets providing safe food and following recommended food safety procedures at a high 4.17 on a five-point scale, where five is extremely confident. In terms of providing payment security from credit/debit card data getting stolen or hacked, supermarkets register a 3.83, while on providing privacy and security of personal data use by third parties, supermarkets score a 3.77.

The public's perception of supermarkets compensating its employees with a fair wage registers at 3.76. The weakest area centers on the level of confidence that supermarkets provide complete transparency on whether products contain GMOs (3.52).

Trending Categories Offer Opportunities

Just as there are opportunities to improve in variety of locally-sourced foods, supermarkets should consider addressing assortment of allergen-free items, ethnic/international items and natural/organic items.  All four of these areas registered among the lowest variety ratings in the survey and illustrate an opportunity gap between the popularity of these trending categories and their performance in supermarkets.

Shoppers Use of Money-Saving Measures

More than three-quarters of shoppers use some form of money-saving measure during their visit to the supermarket. Printed grocery circulars are read at home by 50 percent of shoppers and used in store by 25 percent, while electronic circulars are used by 21 percent.  Clipped paper coupons (32 percent) are still more used than downloaded digital coupons (19 percent). Considering promotions, 17 percent use in-store only, 13 percent use a loyalty program, and just 5 percent use smartphone research and 4 percent social media promotions.

A summary of study highlights is available at  Grocery retailers and media outlets can obtain a free copy of the full report at  [email protected]  The study is based on a nationally- representative study of 1,200 supermarket shoppers and was prepared in conjunction with 210 Analytics, LLC.

Follow Retail Feedback Group on Twitter @retailfeedback and read Retail Insights magazine on Flipboard.

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