What Customers Really Think About Supermarkets

March 12, 2018

What does it take to win over shoppers at the grocery store

Customers spelled out how satisfied they were about their supermarket trips in The Retail Feedback Group’s recently released U.S. Supermarket Experience 2017 study.

We highlight findings from this study that show what customers think grocery stores are doing right and where they are lacking. We grouped study results into 4 categories: store experience, prices and selection, customer service and advertising.

Winning shoppers over hinges on providing excellent in-store experiences. Consider how well your store is executing on the praise and problems customers shared in this study.

Going Grocery Shopping

Customers show a clear preference for when they like to visit the grocery store. They also have a pretty good idea how much shopping they plan to do in the next year.

Time of day impacts how satisfied customers are with their shopping experience. Overall trip satisfaction declines throughout the day.

highest satisfaction occurs before 11 a.m.

lowest satisfaction occurs after 7 p.m.

Encouraging Feedback: Overall, customers are more satisfied with their shopping experiences at supermarkets compared to shopping at Aldi and Walmart no matter what time of day it is.

Room for Improvement: Customers don’t like grocery shopping in the evening. Trip satisfaction continues to decline throughout the day—shoppers  in 2016 also had the lowest satisfaction after 7 p.m. How can your store improve your store’s evening experience?

Shopping frequency expectations for the next year:

21% will shop more than now

71% will shop about the same

8% will shop less often than now

Encouraging Feedback: Most shoppers are content with how often they go grocery shopping. That shows plenty is going right at the store to retain shoppers.

Room for Improvement: About 3 in 10 shoppers expected to change how often they shop at their usual supermarket. Holding events and offering incentives to visit the store may entice customers to shop at your store more often.

Prices and Selection

Overall, customers are highly satisfied with the quality and freshness of groceries in the store. Their satisfaction with prices and variety is mixed.

Customers’ perceptions about prices (on a scale of 1-5):

advertised sales 4.38

value for money spent 4.18

produce prices 4.03

everyday prices 4.03

meat prices 3.98

Encouraging Feedback: Promotional prices are the strongest area for customer satisfaction. Customers think sales prices provide great value.

Room for Improvement: Overall, customers’ perceptions about prices is less favorable than they were a year ago. The biggest drop was in value for money spent. “Shoppers want value … offering value and illustrating it through a wide range of money saving vehicles presents an opportunity area,” The Retail Feedback Group wrote in its survey findings.

Customers’ satisfaction with variety (on a scale of 1-5):

item variety and selection 4.38

natural and organic 4.05

ethnic/international items 3.97

allergen-free 3.97

locally-sourced 3.96

Encouraging Feedback: In general, satisfaction levels are highest with variety and natural/organic products for the second consecutive year.

Room for Improvement: Customer satisfaction decreased in every category from 2016 to 2017. Use advertising vehicles to promote your store’s specialty offerings and use in-store signage to promote niche selections.

There is a strong connection between item availability and customer satisfaction.

7% didn’t find all the items they came to purchase. Of those, 65% said the item was out of stock and 55% said the store didn’t carry those items.

56% of customers who were highly satisfied with their trip found all the items they were looking for.

17% of customers who failed to find all the items they were looking for were highly satisfied with their trip.

Encouraging Feedback: More customers are able to find what they were looking for in one trip—there  was a decrease in the percentage of customers who couldn’t find all the items they came to the store to buy from 2016 to 2017.

Room for Improvement: Item availability is a bit of a problem. About 2 in 3 customers who couldn’t find an item said it was out of stock. And about 1 in 2 customers said the store didn’t carry the items they were looking for. How can your store communicate its product selection to customers?

Customer Service

Higher customer service ratings lead to stronger overall satisfaction with the store experience.

How shoppers rated customer service (on a scale of 1-5):

friendliness 4.34

helpfulness/knowledge 4.24

checkout speed 4.23

availability 4.19

68% found that staff has the food expertise to help

69% said employees seem to enjoy working here

83% of shoppers said they pleasant interaction with an employee; 58% of those who did said they were highly satisfied with their trip; 30% of shoppers who did not have a pleasant interaction with an employee said they were highly satisfied with their trip

Encouraging Feedback: Staff are friendly, helpful and pleasant.

Room for Improvement: Where are the store’s employees? Shoppers gave availability the worst rating.


Customers rely on a combination of print and digital advertising vehicles to inform them about sales. About 3 in 4 shoppers, or 76%, refer to at least advertising vehicle either before or during their store visit.

Customers’ preferred advertising vehicles:

>51% circular at home

28% circular in-store

13% smartphone research

9% social media

Encouraging Feedback: Digital channels are working. Customers relied more heavily on their smartphones and social media for store advertising from 2016 to 2017.

Room for Improvement: Customers rely on the circular more at home than in-store. How can the store encourage shoppers to utilize the circular while they are in the store?

Millennials vs. Baby Boomers

circular at home: 39% Millennials; 62% Baby Boomers

circular in-store: 29% Millennials; 29% Baby Boomers

in-store promo: 21% Millennials; 22% Baby Boomers

smartphone research: 23% Millennials; 6% Baby Boomers

social media: 20% Millennials; 2% Baby Boomers

Encouraging Feedback: Millennials show a clear preference for digital channels and Baby Boomers show a clear preference for print advertising channels.

Room for Improvement: Advertising is working . The key is to target messaging to the right audience on the right advertising channel.

Service Tags: 
Print Solutions
Marketing Strategy