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The following is part of a series of key highlights from the 82nd Annual Report of the Grocery Industry, which appears in PG’s April 2015 issue. The full report can be found here.
It may be down in generating sales, but organic tops other categories in customer buzz, at 31.1 percent, rising from No. 7 in 2014 to supplant last year’s deli/prepared foods, which shares second place with ethnic, at 28.8 percent. Other most talked-about categories are gourmet/specialty, at 27.5 percent; meat, at 18.8 percent; and floral and fresh bakery, with 17.5 percent apiece.
In the realm of customer interaction, checklanes and deli/prepared foods have switched places, with checklanes now out in front by a wide margin, 54.4 percent to deli/prepared foods’ 32.4 percent. Floral makes an impressive leap from 12th last year to third this year, at 26.5 percent, pushing meat down one spot, with 19.1 percent, where it ties with pharmacy. Despite the opportunities opened up by its showing on the customer buzz chart, organic comes in ninth, three spots up from last year but still fairly low down on the list.
Given the buzz it engenders, grocers should ensure their associates know the benefits of organic and how products receive organic certification, thereby enabling consumers with questions to understand what they’re purchasing, and increasing customer interaction that will inspire more shoppers to buy organic.
Most influential in driving stores’ overall brand, image or point of differentiation is once more the meat section, with 45.8 percent, while produce, which was No. 2 last year, is a distant second, at 28.1 percent. Center store/grocery is third, with 9.4 percent, followed by fresh bakery and organic (which didn’t even chart last year), at 7.3 percent and 3.1 percent, respectively.
Finally, when asked to name the tools they use to engage with consumers, a whopping 73.2 percent of PG’s survey respondents choose social media, up from 69.8 percent last year. Next in popularity are electronic communications/digital surveys, at 36.5 percent, down slightly from last year; customer service hotlines, at 36.3 percent, an increase of nearly eight percentage points; loyalty card data, at 33.3 percent, down from 37.2 percent in 2014; and associate feedback, at 29.2 percent, a small uptick from last year. As grocers continue to embrace digital marketing, we can expect the use of social media and e-communications to keep growing.