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The National Grocers Association and Supermarket Guru released some teaser facts from their Consumer Panel Survey that will be released at the annual independent grocers meeting next week.

Here is the list of attributes that shoppers say are important, according to the Supermarket Guru website:

  • high-quality fruits and vegetables (90.0% “very important”)
  • clean, neat store (83.7%)
  • selling products before “use-by/sell-by” date (82.7%)
  • accurate shelf tags (74.6%)
  • high-quality meats (71.4%)
  • personal safety outside the store (61.2%)
  • items on sale or money-saving specials (49.1%)
  • courteous, friendly employees (48.5%)
  • high-quality seafood department (45.5%)
  • offers locally grown produce and packaged goods (43.8%)
  • store layout that makes it easy to shop (43.4%)

There are two points that stand out in this list. First, “low prices” isn’t here. “Items on sale” or “money-saving specials” make the list, but low price isn’t top of mind for shoppers in terms of what they really want. For those retailers whose sole strategy is low price, that message is falling on deaf ears. And let’s be honest—no one really believes that anyway. 

The other and I think more important point is this: these are all cost-of-entry attributes. There is nothing here that most of us wouldn’t expect from any store. Quality, accurate pricing, freshness, safety and friendly people…I’m sorry, but duh. 

Any store not delivering these attributes has no business being in business, and most likely won’t be for long. Any retail establishment worth walking into should have these things down cold, and consistently deliver them. But that is not a differentiation point. These are baseline expectations—the bare minimum, in fact.

The opportunity lies in delivering the things shoppers are not saying are important to them. It’s in these areas that retailers can find a place to stake a claim and be known for something.

I don’t know what the rest of the Lempert Report will reveal, but I suspect there will be insights into other areas that are important to shoppers based on interviews. But what about those things that shoppers want but don’t know they want? Apple’s iPod is the classic example of offering consumers something they didn’t know they wanted but now can’t live without.

Food retailers need to figure out what their iPod is. It might be knowledgeable associates who can offer ideas and tips. It might be a diverse and growing selection of locally-sourced products. Maybe it’s a loyalty program that actually delivers value to shoppers.

Every retailer should be thinking about what they want to be, and how they are going to get there, from a customer value perspective. This doesn’t mean figuring out how to cut more costs or improve the supply chain. Shoppers are looking for a pleasant experience that makes meal-planning and shopping something to look forward to, as opposed to a chore. Shoppers want information, guidance and new ideas.

The store that delivers the cost-of-entry items along with a differentiating added value is going to win, and win big. Everyone else is going to wonder what happened, and why they didn’t think of that. So here’s the question: what’s your iPod?

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User Comments – Give us your opinion!
  • Mark Heckman
    Anyone who doesn't think that low prices is top of mind for most supermarket shoppers hasn't run a supermarket in the past 10 years. I have administered surveys to shoppers for 25 years and know that survey respondents take on a very aspirational personality when they become respondents. They rate freshness, health and nutrition very highly....always have. They down play price or it's importance to them. The next day, they go to Walmart and buy a basket full of carbonated soft drinks and fatty potato chips, all of which are at which are on a display that says LOW PRICE. Sorry, but no break throughs here. More survey head fakes and mis-interpretation of the results.
  • Mickey Radowsky
    Sorry Mark but I don't agree entirely. Price is only important if it is way out and represents poor value. If price was that important there would be very few retailers left. I have been a retailer for 50 years and never once in that time and 30 market research surveys later has price been the # 1 factor. I must point out I am not in the food business. I have found that in general customers have little idea of what an item should cost. Convinience has been top of the pops, with everything that that entails. Mickey Radowsky Cape Town
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Jeff Weidauer
Jeff Weidauer is vice president of marketing and strategy for Vestcom, a provider of integrated shopper marketing solutions. With over 30 years of retail experience, Jeff is a prominent speaker, writer and expert source to retailers, brands and media on shopper marketing and the evolving retail industry.
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