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While Amazon is changing the way consumers shop, when it comes to the grocery experience, America still prefers a hands-on happening. Which means making sure consumers are satisfied with where they’re shopping is all the more important.

Some significant new reports show a couple of surprises — and of course some stalwarts — when it comes to customer satisfaction.

The Retail Feedback Group (RFG) just released its 2019 U.S. Supermarket Experience Study. The research found that supermarkets continue to maintain the strongest overall satisfaction score (4.31 on a five-point scale), when compared to Aldi (4.27) and Walmart (3.93). Supermarkets also have the highest scores in quality and variety

However, considering value for money spent, Aldi receives the top score, as well as garners the highest overall satisfaction during the peak traffic hours of 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. (4.30) versus supermarkets (4.27) and Walmart (3.98).

Supermarket Core Experience Factor Ratings – 2019

Supermarkets Strong in Quality, Cleanliness And Variety But Score Moderate To Low In Service

Supermarket shoppers rated quality/freshness of the food and groceries (4.44), cleanliness of the store (4.42) and item variety and selection (4.38) as the strongest core experience factors. Associate friendliness, while the highest service rating, received a more moderate score of 4.32, followed by checkout speed/efficiency (4.28), associate helpfulness/knowledge (4.24) and the lowest scoring service area – associate availability – (4.17).  Service is a critical factor given that overall satisfaction is significantly higher when service attributes receive stronger scores.

In another study that just appeared in Newsweek, Publix Super Markets Inc. and Costco Wholesale Corp. finished first in their brick-and-mortar retail segments on the America’s Best Customer Service 2019 list.

In addition, Publix and Costco — along with Walmart, Target and CVS Health — made the top 50 as “all-stars” in Fortune’s 2019 list of The World’s Most Admired Companies.

In the Newsweek list, Publix came in No. 1 for customer service in the supermarket category with a score of 9.07, followed by ShopRite (8.95) and Trader Joe’s (8.94).

Focusing on corporate reputations, Fortune’s annual World’s Most Admired Companies list spotlights large companies that are highly respected.

Most-admired, but customer satisfaction is slightly higher at supermarkets

Fortune partnered with global management consulting firm Korn Ferry to ask 3,750 executives, directors and securities analysts to name the 10 companies they admired most. They chose from a list of the companies that ranked in the top 25% in last year’s survey and those that finished in the top 20% of their industry. The resulting top 50 companies were deemed World’s Most Admired Companies All-Stars.

Of the five brick-and-mortar food, drug and mass retailers on the All-Stars list, Costco ranked highest at No. 12. Next were Walmart (No. 25), Target (No. 32), CVS Health (No. 35) and Publix (No. 45).

Fortune Magazine also recently highlighted most-respected companies by industry segment. In the food and drug stores category, Walgreens Boots Alliance was No. 1, followed by Publix, Sprouts Farmers Market, The Kroger Co., Ahold Delhaize and 7-Eleven parent Seven & I Holdings.

Also including food, drug and mass channel retailers was the general merchandisers category. Target finished first, topping No. 2 Nordstrom, No. 3 Walmart, No. 4 Costco and No. 5 Kohl’s.

Whole Foods Market parent Amazon.com came in second on the Top 50 All-Stars list. The e-tail giant ranked No. 1 in the Internet services and retailing category of Fortune’s list.

Value For Money Spent Lowest Score For Supermarkets But Advertised Specials Strong

Tied for the lowest score among all core experience factors, value for the money spent in the RFG report registered 4.17. Looking at specific price attributes, the results show produce prices (3.99), meat/poultry prices (4.00) and everyday prices (4.01) all received low scores in the supermarket channel, while advertised sales items scored much higher (4.34). This is an important strength, as 73% of shoppers refer to one or more advertising/sales vehicles – traditional, social, mobile and digital – before or during the visit.

RFG Principal Brian Numainville noted, “Value still remains a very important consideration for supermarket retailers with more than seven out of ten shoppers referring to sales vehicles before or during the visit to the store. While supermarkets receive the lowest scores on value for money spent, the good news is that advertised specials register as the strongest scoring pricing factor for supermarkets. While digital circulars (30%) continue to grow, the printed circular is still more popular today (51%), more so with Boomers (62%) as compared to Millennials (40%). However, digital coupons (33%) have now surpassed clipped coupons (29%) and are used across all age groups. Retailers need to remain attentive to the trends in their local markets to ensure they are communicating value using the vehicles most relevant to their shoppers.”

Aldi Strengthening While Walmart Remains Weakest

Aldi shoppers are more likely to recommend the store, with a Net Promoter Score® of 44.7 compared to supermarkets (40.7) or Walmart (27.1). Further, 42% of those who shopped at Aldi say they plan to shop there more in the next 12 months, versus 22% for supermarket shoppers and 28% for Walmart shoppers.

Trailing supermarkets and box stores in customer satisfaction but still thriving

Turning to core experience ratings, Aldi shoppers give value for money spent the highest mark (4.51) versus Walmart shoppers (4.32) and supermarket shoppers (4.17). With the exception of value for money spent, Walmart shoppers score Walmart lowest on the other core experience factors relative to supermarkets and Aldi. It is also noteworthy that Aldi has moved into a tie with supermarkets on quality and freshness (56% “highly satisfied”), with Walmart trailing at 46%.

RFG Principal Doug Madenberg observed, “Aldi continues to make inroads in competing against supermarkets with strong value for money spent and likelihood to recommend scores, as well as perceived improvement in quality, coupled with the highest OSAT scores during the peak traffic period of 3 pm7 pm. As Aldi continues to remodel stores and expand into new locations, supermarkets need to step up their game in areas like staff availability and helpfulness, maintain leading scores in quality and variety, as well as focus operationally on improving satisfaction during high traffic time periods.”

Boomers Rate Supermarkets Highest

Boomers outscore Millennials on nearly all core experience factors with the exception of value for money spent which is scored similarly across all three generations. Additionally, Boomers score supermarkets more highly than both Gen X and Millennials on several factors including quality, variety, and friendliness of staff.

Grocery retailers and food distributors can obtain a free copy of the full report at report@retailfeedback.com. The study is based on a nationally representative study of 1,200 supermarket shoppers.

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