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National Grocers Association survey uncovers what shoppers want from their local stores

New research suggests a nice website, helpful nutrition information in-store and good customer service are key areas of focus for independent grocers.

Retailers, the National Grocers Association has some useful stats to share about consumer trends and preferences these days. The third annual National Grocery Shoppers Survey, conducted online among about 3,000 people over 18 who self-identified as independent shoppers, found that over 80 percent of shoppers prefer their local grocery store to an online alternative, and two-thirds feel at least very satisfied with their local supermarket.


Most of the people who do shop for groceries online do so in addition to shopping in person at their local store, and the majority of their purchases happen at the store. While convenience drives online shopping, the need to see items and persistent concerns about freshness are the main factors working against it.

“There’s no doubt that the supermarket industry is rapidly changing, either because of the growth of e-commerce or the explosion of new formats, along with shifting consumer trends,” said Peter Larkin, president and CEO of NGA. “However, independent grocers are nimble enough to quickly overcome obstacles and, with strong ties to their communities, they know what consumers want and need.”

Here are some of the key takeaways for retailers from this year’s research.

Consumers want healthy guidance

— Nearly 65 percent of independent shoppers expect their grocery stores to support them with a healthier lifestyle. Top ideas for doing that include cooking instructions for certain ingredients, help with reading and deciphering labels, and general guidance on food that gives good nutritional bang for the buck.

— Interestingly, the question of where healthy foods should be displayed is a bit of a tossup: 58 percent think they should be shelved alongside other foods, while 42 percent think healthy food should be in its own dedicated section. 


Appearance and values matter

— The survey found that independent shoppers place the most value on low prices, quality meats and produce, friendly staff, cleanliness and availability of locally grown produce and packaged goods.

Customer satisfaction


— The study found that when consumers are satisfied with the in-store experience, they’re more likely to do the following things: continue to shop at the store instead of online; speak positively about and recommend the store to others, both through word of mouth and through social media; and support the local supermarket because it is linked to the community.

— To achieve that satisfaction with shoppers, the survey identified a few areas as most important: featuring low prices; high-quality meats, fruits and vegetables; and being able to immediately resolve any issues a consumer has with product, service or the shopping experience. Secondary drivers of satisfaction included courteous, friendly employees; an easy layout that makes it easy for customers to shop; customers’ special needs and requests are paid attention to; the store is active and supports the local community; and cleanliness.

Areas to improve

— It’s 2018—consumers expect good websites! A broad finding was that independent supermarket operators need to improve their website usability. That means establishing consistency between pricing online and offline, and offering the same products online and in-store. Also helpful: an easy-to-use smartphone app.

“In today’s omnichannel retail environment, independent grocers maintain a unique and strong connection with their shoppers,” said Jeanne Danubio, executive vice president of retail lead markets at Nielsen. “Complementing the findings of this year’s survey, Nielsen’s new independent buyer group panel data shows that a loyal independent grocery shopper spends more than 40 percent more in grocery than the average shopper. It will be critical for independent grocers to maintain the quality and personal connections that keep these valuable consumers coming back to the independent store.”

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