Supermarket engagement can make or break a shopping trip

It seems customers continue to find satisfaction in their supermarket shopping experiences, rating their traditional stores at an average of a 4.46 on a five-point scale, reports the Retail Feedback Group's annual "2014 U.S. Supermarket Experience Study." And creating a positive engagement between shoppers and the store is the key to trip satisfaction, shopping enjoyment and the willingness to recommend.

Part of the positive experience for consumers happens at checkout. Sixty-five percent of shoppers say cashiers have a positive impact on their trip. And in the aisles, pleasant interactions with store associates, including product recommendations, can create a payoff in larger basket size and creating long-term loyalty.

Shoppers also appreciate sales associates who offer assistance in finding items, resolving out-of-stocks or addressing other problems during the trip. This help can keep stores from losing sales and shoppers over time. Of those surveyed, only half had an issue resolved during a shopping trip.

Finally, social media serves as an important gateway to building customer loyalty. Shoppers connected with their stores through social media are more likely to recommend the store and provide high satisfaction ratings.

"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.," said Doug Madenberg, a principal at Retail Feedback Group.

What else drove shoppers? A desire for local and farmers' market products. As many as 41 percent of shoppers were looking for locally-sourced items and 78 percent of shoppers are buying food items at farmers' markets at least occasionally.

The survey also found that more than three-quarters of shoppers use money-saving measures during supermarket visits. Printed 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. Thirty-two percent clip paper coupons and 10 percent download digital coupons. Considering promotions, 17 percent use in-store only, 13 percent use a loyalty program, while 5 percent use smartphone research and 4 percent social media promotions.

Even with the seemingly satisfactory in-store experience, online grocery sales are on the rise and are expected to reach between $80 billion and $123 billion by 2023, according to statistics released by Steve Bishop of Brick Meets Click during a webinar by The Food Institute. That means online sales will go from about 4 percent of the market to totaling between 11 and 17 percent of the total grocery market.

Still, it is clear that the physical grocery store holds a large value for consumers. Some supermarket chains are now expanding their services to keep shoppers satisfied and returning to the physical store. For instance, Hannaford plans to add a curbside grocery pick-up service at one of its stores in Exeter, New Hampshire.

For more:
-See this Retail Feedback Group press release

Related stories:
Walmart buys recipe startup Yumprint to fuel grocery delivery service  
Report: Amazon to expand grocery delivery service to San Francisco
EBay expands same-day delivery service to Dallas
Home Depot transforms systems for same-day delivery
Google joins the same-day delivery crowd, but it's still not fast enough