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    Fresh Selection, Wait Times Among Top Customer Frustrations: Survey

    Empathica consumer insights panel ranks list of items that “never” meet expectations.

    While an overwhelming 97 percent of consumers value good customer service at a grocery store, 44 percent believe that many aren’t delivering on expectations, so finds results of Empathica Inc.’s 2011 Consumer Insights Panel survey of more than 16,000 consumers in the U.S. and Canada.

    “Experiences are what differentiate one retailer from the next,” said Brian Jones, VP of grocery and consumer packaged goods at the Toronto, Ont.-based Empathica. Understanding the key elements of the experience that drive loyalty can give a supermarket the edge, enabling them to build out better offerings.”

    The Empathica Consumer Insights Panel specifically looked at what consumers value in their grocery experience and how those expectations are being met by grocery stores across Canada and the U.S. Consumers indicated the in-store grocery store qualities that continue to disappoint and “never” or “only sometimes” meet their expectations include the following:

    1. Checkout lanes and lines (55.9%)
    2. Customer Service (44.1%)
    3. Selection of fresh meats (42.2%)
    4. Selection of fruits and vegetables (42.1%)
    5. Selection of fresh seafood (41.7%)
    6. Modern updated stores (41.5%)

    While grocers as a whole have their challenges in delivering an optimal customer experience, the research showed that when asked specifically about their grocer of choice, consumers for the most part are being better satisfied as more than half of respondents (57%) indicated their primary grocer is increasingly making active attempts to cater to their needs.

    “The research shows that consumers choose to frequent grocers that are actively tending to their needs,” added Jones. “Consumers responded in multiple ways to say that they value the initiatives retailers have taken to make their product and service levels tailored and relevant to them. This is certainly a positive for those grocers that have invested heavily in customer-centric practices.”

    The survey also showed that delivering an excellent grocery experience is increasingly important for word-of-mouth marketing. Nearly three-quarters of consumers said they would promote a grocery store or share positive experiences with others if they had a great experience. Seventy-two percent of women and 66 percent of men indicated they would make a recommendation if they had a great experience.

    Men’s and Women’s Differing Expectations

    Men and women differ in their actions and expectations of grocery experiences in other ways as well.

    The study found that while having knowledgeable employees is the most significant factor contributing to a great grocery experience, women valued this slightly more than men. Seventy-two percent of women and 65 percent of men feel it’s ‘very important’ for employees to be knowledgeable about the products they sell. Likewise, 69 percent of women feel that having employees available to answer questions is a very important aspect of the shopping experience. Fewer men (59%) consider it very important.

    “Employees should understand that consumers have different expectations for service,” said Jones. “If grocery stores are going to deliver more personalized service, they need to be equipped with an understanding of the products they are selling, not just knowing how to direct customers to find and buy them efficiently. This is particularly important in serving women customers, based on our survey results.”

    Furthermore, the survey showed that 23 percent of women indicated an easy-to-use website is very important, while only 17 percent of men feel the same. Similarly, 14 percent of women and only 11% of men believe that information kiosks – offering product information, coupons and recipes – are very important.

    “It can be a challenge for grocers to manage an environment that has a distinct fault line across age, gender and other characteristics like loyalty,” said Jones. “Some consumers may demand engagement and new experiences at grocery stores, while those who have been loyal for years often resist change. Grocers must consider all demographics by having regular contact with customers and obtaining feedback directly.”

    Results from Empathica’s Consumer Insights, led by Dr. Gary Edwards and Empathica’s Consumer Insights’ team, are published several times a year. The results are based on outbound Internet surveys with Empathica’s growing Insights Panel, derived from more than 30 million consumer surveys per year. Results have been weighted to reflect latest Census distributions in the U.S. and in Canada, including region, gender, age and income.

    Aforementioned data is reported by the Empathica Consumer Insights Panel – Wave 1, Issue 2 2011.

    For more information, visit http://www.empathica.com/insights/.

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