- A new report from Acosta finds 76% of shoppers visit more than one retailer a week for groceries, with two-thirds (67%) of them going to two or three different stores, according to a company release.
- It said 60% of consumers shop around because some products are cheaper at certain stores, 37% do so to ensure their food is fresh, and 33% visit more than one store because they can’t find all the brands they want at one location.
- The study offers grocers some suggestions for attracting and retaining customers, including an increasing focus on private label programs. Acosta’s data shows 53% of shoppers choose a retailer based on its preference for its store brands, up from 34% who did so in 2011. Fresh foods and selection could also help keep shoppers loyal, according to the report.
Acosta’s research findings should be a real eye-opener for grocery chains struggling not only to attract shoppers, but also to keep them returning. It seems even when shoppers do come back, they’re cherry-picking stores for specific products — largely based on price, but also selection, freshness and private label quality. This means that while store traffic could be up because consumers are shopping around and making multiple grocery trips during the week, the basket size is probably down.
The study suggests consumers may no longer have a single preferred grocery destination because a single store alone can't fulfill all their shopping needs. This translates to a fragmented shopping experience where many grocers stand to win. Indeed, it could mean a new form of store loyalty is taking shape — one where shoppers have a favorite store for produce, for prepared foods, for specialty goods, etc.
This isn't good news for grocers that want and need to retain loyal shoppers in order to remain competitive. Even Kroger, the nation’s largest supermarket chain, has expressed some concern — despite its industry-leading Plus Card loyalty program. A Kroger spokesperson recently told USA Today the retailer is trying to win consumers' “share of stomach,” saying that even its most loyal customers on average spend just 50 cents of every food dollar at the retailer.
Competing on price seems to be an obvious solution to loyalty issues, but grocers are already locked in a race to the bottom. Retailers need to look beyond price and perhaps take a page from some of the most successful regional grocers, such as H-E-B, Publix and Wegmans, which have built up huge customer fan bases and are beloved by shoppers.
Wegmans is often been compared to Disney because of the way it trains its employees to provide excellent service to customers and create a positive, memorable shopping experience. The grocer teaches its workers to keep prepared food areas spotless and to educate consumers about the products the grocer carries throughout the store. Each location has extensive pre-packaged meals popular with busy families, along with pizzas, subs and a dining area. Publix is often referred to as “the Wegmans of the South” due to its large array of fresh offerings, diverse foods and premium private label products and employee dedication.
H-E-B recently topped a list of most-trusted brands. The retailer is known for its experiential spirit, and is always on the lookout for unique products that generate consumer excitement. Even the community gets involved in discovering locally made brands through the grocer's “Primo Picks Quest for Texas Best” contest. H-E-B’s one-of-a-kind approach also shines through in its use of vertical farming to offer consumers store-grown fresh produce.
By studying the products, programs and in-store amenities that have brought these grocers success, retailers can develop solutions that fit their own store models. Focusing on excelling at some attributes deemed important by shoppers — such as broad and deep selections, localized and specialty assortments, quality fresh and prepared foods, stellar customer service or an entertaining shopping experience — could at least give retailers a chance of staying on consumers' grocery lists.