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Store experience survey reveals insights that should be obvious

Dirty stores and out of stocks negatively impact the food shopping experience, according to a study by The Retail Feedback Group which showed overall satisfaction with supermarkets at a five year high.

The Retail Feedback Group surveyed 1,200 shoppers in its 2012 U.S. Supermarket Experience Study and determined that supermarkets generate high rates of satisfaction with their shoppers, scoring a 4.47 out of a possible 5.

"This is the highest trip satisfaction rating found in the last five years and this 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," said Brain Numainville, a principal with the Retail Feedback Group. "And satisfied shoppers are higher-than-average spenders, more likely to recommend the store to others and more likely to be loyal customers."

The results are a little curious given that two of the nation’s largest conventional grocers, Safeway and Supervalu, recently reported weak results – again – suggesting their shoppers may be even more satisfied with other food shopping alternatives.

Not surprisingly, out of stocks and dirty stores negatively affected shoppers’ satisfaction levels. According to the study, there are many important elements that impact satisfaction with the grocery trip experience, such as service, checkout speed and cleanliness. However, 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% of those shoppers going to a different store to purchase the item; 38% foregoing the item; 14% buying a different item at the store instead; and 12% buying a different brand or size.

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 yet areas of growing importance. 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% of shoppers used a cashier lane to check out, as opposed to self-checkout, and 56% 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 excellent service and a positive checkout experience are 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%), lower prices in general (46%), and promotions and sales specials (46%).

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% 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% of shoppers reported that the store they visited offered a customer feedback program to register concerns or praises. And 61% 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% 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.

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