There’s plenty to like about modern-day supermarket shopping – but what exactly do we hate about it? The Retail Feedback Group recently released its 2012 U.S. Supermarket Experience Study, which included a number of findings that could provide some hints as traditional grocery stores try to keep from losing any more ground to discounters. Here, we distill their carefully-constructed study into a decidedly less scientific list of the top ten things people dislike about their grocery stores:

10. Convenience
It’s a drag when the nearest grocery store is a dump. That means you have to go out of your way, driving past drug stores, dollar stores, convenience stores and big-box stores to get to a grocery store that you actually prefer to shop at. The RFG study says 75% of supermarket shoppers do tend to visit the most conveniently located store, but 25% will go further to get to a store that offers better quality and variety, lower prices and better sales. And one that isn’t a dump.

9. Communication
Is your store actively involved in the community? Does it solicit and respond to customer feedback? Don’t know, don’t care? That can be a problem, according to the study. The vast majority of respondents say it’s important to them that their store is involved in the local community. But a third say they have no idea whether their store is. Similarly, customers say they’d like easy access to a customer feedback phone number or email address, but most don’t know if their store even has such a thing. RFG concludes that communication is key – having such programs is only beneficial if customers actually know about them.

8. Service
If your requests for assistance are met with blank stares from staffers – or if you can’t find any staffers at all – take a number. The study found that improvement is needed in the “general helpfulness of store personnel.” When asked to rank how satisfied they were with various aspects of supermarket service, among the things respondents said they were least satisfied with were the overall helpfulness of store employees, and service at the deli counter in particular.

7. Checkout
It’s good to be nice, but perhaps better to be quick. In an interesting contrast, shoppers surveyed say their cashiers are friendly enough – but they’re also slow. The survey shows that customers give their supermarkets strong scores in cashier friendliness and the overall checkout experience. RFG says that’s “an important stronghold over supercenters and warehouse clubs.” But those same customers complain that checkout takes too long. Apparently being friendly isn’t everything.


6. Ready-made food
Don’t feel like cooking tonight? Many grocery stores have been improving their prepared takeout food selection, but many customers still aren’t satisfied. They’re happiest with their stores’ dairy, frozen, produce and meat departments, but not so happy with ready-made meals. RFG says having a good selection of prepared foods is important for supermarkets to “effectively compete with restaurants,” “differentiate themselves from other supermarkets” and “provide a cost-effective dinner solution for time-pinched consumers.”

5. Seafood
If the only reason you stop by your supermarket’s seafood department is so your kids can wave at the lobsters swimming in the tank, on your way to pick up some frozen fish sticks, perhaps the department could stand to become a little more enticing. Of all the fresh food departments, customers in the survey are least impressed with the seafood department.

4. Varieties of items offered
One of the main reasons people do their shopping at supermarkets is for the variety and selection offered. But only if they’re not looking for local, ethnic or organic foods. While the survey says shoppers overall are happy about the items offered for sale, they rank their supermarkets low in offering the types of products you might have better luck finding in Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s.

3. Prices
If supermarkets charged the same prices as discount stores, then supermarkets would be called “discount stores.” But they’re not. The study found that “overall price image” was among the factors supermarket shoppers were least satisfied with. They’re happy with the prices of sale items and store brands, and think they’re getting a decent value for their money overall, but they don’t like paying full price – and don’t like the full prices that their supermarkets charge.

2. Cleanliness
Have you ever shopped at a sparkling clean store, only to find the restroom was filthy? “Overall store cleanliness” ranks highest of all in what supermarket shoppers say they’re most happy with about their stores. But far fewer say they’re happy about the cleanliness of their stores’ restrooms. “The importance of cleanliness cannot be underestimated,” RFG says. In fact, nearly half of shoppers who refuse to shop at the store closest to them, say the main reason is because of the store’s cleanliness.

1. Can’t get what you came for
Stores be warned: if your customers can’t find what they want, they’re not going to be happy – and they may not come back. “No factor influences trip satisfaction to the extent of out-of-stocks,” concludes the RFG survey. Shoppers who couldn’t find everything they wanted were far less satisfied than those who could, and were much less likely to recommend the store to others. Only 26% said they ended up buying something else instead – while 50% ended up going to a different store altogether to get what they wanted.

Despite it all, 63% of survey respondents say they actually enjoy grocery shopping. Only 9% dislike it. Supermarkets stand a better chance of keeping those happy customers happy, as long as they can keep things in stock, keep those checkout lanes moving along and – please – keep those restrooms clean.

photo by: muhawi001

One Comment

  1. Retail grocery customers are among the dumbest people you will ever meet.

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