Survey: 80% of shoppers prefer independent stores to online
- Sixty-four percent of shoppers of independent grocery stores are very or extremely satisfied with their local supermarket, reported the National Grocers Association in its 2018 National Grocery Shoppers Survey conducted by Nielsen. Sixty-seven percent have no plans to switch from their independent store.
- Over 80% of these shoppers prefer their local independent store to online alternatives. Of those who shop for groceries online, 68% do it in addition to shopping in stores, with 75% of their purchases done at the store. NGA said convenience is the main impetus for shopping for groceries online, while the biggest obstacles to online grocery shopping are the consumers' need to see the actual physical items and their concerns about freshness.
- Only 11% of those surveyed shop online, and they prefer home delivery to store pickup by a wide margin, 76% to 39%. Of products bought online, packaged food products are the most commonly purchased. General merchandise and health and beauty care items rank second, followed by cleaning products. Twenty-seven percent of shoppers said they would do more online grocery shopping during the next five years.
Judging by the National Grocers Association's annual shopper survey, independent supermarkets remain well positioned to compete with big chains and online grocery alternatives in today’s price sensitive retail environment.
While there has always been an element of whistling-past-the-graveyard reverence to industry pronouncements about independents, it will always be true that a strong, well-run, well-merchandised and technically savvy local operator can effectively compete big chains and online giants. Supermarket chains and online merchants may seek to replicate personalization using their loyalty program data and algorithms, but independent grocers offer the real thing. Independent grocers are associated with friendly employees, quality meats and produce, and easy-to-navigate layouts, the NGA survey found. Meanwhile, opportunities are growing for them to take advantage of technology and e-commerce.
Smaller grocers can’t compete with the chains on price and selection, but they can succeed with prepared foods, niche products and good customer service. For example, Woodlake Market in Kohler, WI, does a steady lunch business with packaged wraps, soups and salads, and Ski’s Meat Market in nearby Stevens Point attracts customers with top-tier beef and cuts of steak that spend several weeks aging in a cooler.
While good independents can do well, the universe of smaller grocers on average continues to see sales declines. Research by the NGA last year found that independents’ sales dropped 1.62% in 2016 compared to the year before. The key to reversing that trend is superior customer service, based on an up-close intimate knowledge of a neighborhood clientele.
Among other results from the current NGA survey: 63% of independent grocery shoppers expect grocery stores to support their healthier lifestyles, and provide more help with cooking instructions, reading nutritional labels, and guidance on foods with good nutritional value. When considering where to shop, these shoppers value low prices, quality meats and produce, friendly staff, cleanliness, and locally grown produce.
The NGA survey also noted that independents in general need to upgrade their technology offerings by improving their website usability, with consistent pricing online and offline, having the same products online and in-store, as well as providing an easy-to-use smart phone app.