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These days, you have choices when it comes to grocery shopping. You can sit at home and order your groceries online, or you can go to an actual store and shop in person. Others find the best way to shop, and save, is to combine the best of both, and use their phone while navigating a store’s aisles.

And the store that some people claim to hate, is the one that a majority of shoppers say they love the most when it comes to this hybrid style of shopping.

The SPAR Group’s new Shopper Insights Survey found that Walmart is ranked as having the best overall shopping experience, with one-quarter of shoppers giving it top marks and half ranking it in their top three. No other grocery retailer even came close. Target and Costco tied for second, with just 9% of shoppers calling them best, followed by ALDI at 8% and Kroger at 6%.

More than half also said Walmart has the most helpful app when shopping. Target was closer behind this time, cited by 31%, followed by Kroger at 19%.

And that’s important, because SPAR found that three-quarters of shoppers use mobile apps at least some of the time while shopping in-store, while 40% said they do most or all the time. Half do so to check prices, 40% to check for sales and promotions, and 35% to access digital coupons. Four in ten are willing to share their data if it helps make for a more “personalized shopping experience.”

And most like doing so at Walmart. Still, SPAR found that different genders and ages had different preferences. Shoppers aged 25-54 have the strongest positive perceptions of Walmart, as do lower-income households. Higher-income shoppers and males tend to lean towards Costco, while females “especially enjoy the experience shopping at ALDI.” Target may be among the most tech-forward retailers, with many of its best deals available through the Target Circle app, but older shoppers are not especially impressed – those aged 55+ “are least likely to agree Target makes it easy to shop/more exciting,” with only 17% ranking Target in their top three favorite places to shop.

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Overall, that age group is “less motivated to shop online and least likely to use phones when in-store,” so they’re the least interested in most stores’ tech offerings.

For others, though, using their phone is an integral part of the in-store shopping experience. Retailers’ top tech offerings are “those that help shoppers save time and/or money,” the survey found. 58% find self-checkout helpful, while 42% like their stores’ apps and 40% seek out digital coupons. Males use their phones more in-store, but females “are primarily interested in, and use technology to help them find, discounts and coupons.”

Sure, shoppers could use this technology to order their groceries online from the comfort of home. But SPAR found that “in-store shopping remains a fixture of most consumer’s routines.” More than 80% of survey respondents said they prefer to purchase their groceries in-store. Good customer service, a speedy checkout and an engaging atmosphere are named as the most important attributes for a successful shopping experience.

But the in-store shopping experience isn’t always great. More than half of shoppers said product availability – whether it’s out-of-stocks or locked-up products that are difficult to access – is a problem. 43% said their stores don’t have enough employees.

So SPAR offers some solutions. “Retailers and consumer brands need to improve on-shelf inventory management, optimize staffing to provide an engaging experience and invest in more tech to empower the consumer’s shopping experience,” the report concludes. While some shoppers just want helpful employees and stocked shelves, more than half say features like a simple and seamless self-checkout and more digital coupons would encourage them to shop more in a particular store. Others would like to see more rewards, the ability to locate products themselves, and more buy-online-pick-up-in-store options.

No longer, then, can the in-store and the online shopping experiences be treated as separate events. “Operating a physical store must be reinvented to provide value to today’s consumer,” SPAR Group CEO Mike Matacunas said in a statement. “The physical layout, the experience, staffing, product availability and responsiveness need to work in concert.”

And, according to most shoppers, it all appears to be working best right now at the world’s largest retailer. So if you want to do your shopping where your fellow consumers have the best overall shopping experience with the best high-tech tools – see you at Walmart.

Image source: Walmart

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