The Retail Feedback Group (RFG), Lake Success, N.Y., released the 2016 U.S.Supermarket Experience Study.

On a 5-point scale with five being the highest, the research found that supermarkets continue to generate high satisfaction among their shoppers, scoring an average of 4.39, as well as foster a strong referral rate with an average likelihood to recommend score of 4.48. Despite these high satisfaction and referral scores though, an opportunity still exists to address lower scoring areas to grow loyalty and sales.

Core experience factors provide key barometers of supermarket channel performance
Examining key supermarket retailing fundamentals illustrates that supermarkets performed well in some of these critical areas, yet show room for improvement in others.

Quality/cleanliness: Supermarket shoppers rated quality/freshness of the food and groceries (4.51) followed by cleanliness of the store (4.45) as the two highest-rated core experience factors.

Variety: Also a higher-scoring factor, item variety and selection registered at 4.43.

Service: Associate availability scored lowest among all the core experience factors (4.20). The other service factors – associate friendliness/attitude (4.36), associate helpfulness/knowledge (4.27) and checkout speed/efficiency (4.32) – only showed moderate ratings.

Value: Value for the money spent on this visit received the second lowest rating at 4.27. Drilling down deeper into prices, the results show meat (4.01), produce (4.06) and everyday prices (4.07) all generated low scores in the supermarket channel, while advertised sales items scored much higher (4.41).

"Not one of the service attributes scored at the top of the core experience factors, yet it is imperative to find ways to strengthen customer service,” says Doug Madenberg, principal. “Our research shows that when service receives high scores, the average trip satisfaction is significantly higher along with spending in the short-term and loyalty in the long-term. As a result, we can't stress strongly enough the impact that store employees have on the shopping experience, whether it is fostering a pleasant interaction, providing service above and beyond expectations or simply being available to help."

Satisfaction declines throughout the day
Considering overall satisfaction with the trip, as well as on all of the core experience factors, the research found that satisfaction declines as the day progresses. Highest scores registered before 11 a.m. with lowest scores found after 7 p.m. This finding illustrates an opportunity to evaluate channel readiness during peak evening shopping hours.

Impact of item availability
If shoppers could not find all items they came in to purchase, their satisfaction was significantly lower (3.92) compared to those who did find all items (4.43). This finding is a recurring theme in supermarket experience research. In-stock position must consistently be high for retailers to ensure shopper satisfaction.

Advertising vehicles straddle traditional, social, mobile, digital media
Supermarket shoppers continue to use money-saving measures, but the mix of these measures is evolving. Overall, 77% of shoppers referred to one or more advertising or sales vehicles before or during the store visit. The top money-saving measure, used by 56% of shoppers, was reviewing the traditional paper circular at home. An additional 31% reviewed the circular in the store and 26% examined the circular digitally. Clipping paper coupons (obtained from newspapers or other printed sources) registered at 38%, while downloading digital coupons was at 27% and in-store promotions at 22%. Money-saving measures used less frequently were loyalty card offers (19%), smartphone research (12%) and social media specials (7%).

Millennials migrating to digital
Examining the use of money-saving measures by generation, the research shows that Boomers reviewed the circular at home (64%) and clipped paper coupons (45%) at much higher rates than Millennials (46% and 31%, respectively). Millennials, on the other hand, utilized smartphone research (22%) and social media specials (13%) at higher percentages than Boomers (6% and 4%, respectively).

"As younger generations, specifically Millennials and Generation Z, continue to grow in their spending influence over the coming years, supermarket advertising will need to increasingly blend traditional vehicles with social, mobile and digital,” adds Brian Numainville, principal. “Retailers should carefully evaluate their markets and shopper base on an ongoing basis to ensure the right mix."

The study is based on a nationally representative study of 1,200 supermarket shoppers, and was prepared in conjunction with 210 Analytics, LLC, San Antonio, Texas.