Our Retail Customer Brand Loyalty Study highlights specific factors that can build supermarket customer loyalty and cause consumers to choose one grocery retailer over another.
- The annual Retail Customer Brand Loyalty Study uncovered grocery shopping statistics, with 93 grocery store brands included in the survey of nearly 700 retailers.
- Post-pandemic, consumer grocery store loyalty increased significantly, with supermarkets chosen more often as a retailer of choice.
- Many of the same factors that influence overall retail loyalty also drive grocery store loyalty.
- Primary factors impacting grocery loyalty include Good Value for the Money and Convenience.
- Grocery store customer demographics influence specific factors driving loyalty.
Grocery store loyalty may seem like a no-brainer: Consumers just pick a nearby supermarket with products and prices they like, right? Not necessarily. In fact, customer.com’s annual Retail Customer Brand Loyalty Study — which counted 93 grocers among the nearly 700 individual U.S. retailers surveyed — uncovered some interesting facts on what causes consumers to pick one grocer over another. Let’s take a closer look at how grocery store loyalty is linked to shopping personalities, demographics and other factors.
Pandemic Response Spurs Supermarket and Grocery Store Loyalty
Over the past two years, grocery retailers have been on the forefront of the pandemic. Much more than other types of retailers, grocers had to rapidly respond to the new challenges presented by the pandemic by adding or enhancing functionality — like online and mobile app ordering, curbside pick-up, self-checkout and scan-pay-skip the register line.
Increasing functionality through these methods paid off in a major way as grocery retailers became among our frontline heroes, meeting new customer needs in a challenging environment. For instance, according to McKinsey, 20% to 30% of grocery store sales occurred via e-commerce at the height of the pandemic in 2020 — in contrast to pre-pandemic e-commerce penetration of just 3% to 4%.1
By 2022, grocery stores had a solid loyalty lead. Our study revealed that consumers were significantly more likely to name a grocery store or supermarket as a retailer to which they are most loyal. Grocery retailers were also named 33% more often in 2022 than they were in 2019. Perhaps the pandemic made us all appreciate grocery retailers and the sacrifices they made.
Retail Customer Brand Loyalty Study Reveals Grocery Shopping Statistics
Grocery stores weren’t the only ones gaining loyalty from pandemic response. Our study showed that overall retail loyalty improved in 2022, with 38% of respondents considered Loyalists compared to 35% in 2021. We define Loyalists as consumers who prefer to consistently shop with the same retailer rather than shop around.
In 2022, consumers remained divided into the three shopping personalities identified in our initial, groundbreaking study from 2018. In addition to Loyalists, these shopper types are Roamers — who typically shop around before making a purchase — and Neutrals, who have some go-to retailers for particular purchases, but also shop around.
When we compare grocery retailers to the overall retail norm in post-pandemic times, we see that grocery consumers have a slightly larger percentage of Loyalists and slightly lower percentages of Neutrals and Roamers.
Factors That Influence Supermarket and Grocery Store Loyalty
While analyzing study data, we pulled out the sub-set of grocery consumer respondents and compared them to overall survey respondents. We found that consumers in both groups listed many of the same factors that drive their loyalty — but in a slightly different order of priority.
For instance, Good Value for the Money was the factor most frequently listed by both grocery consumers and consumers overall, while Quality of Products and Convenient Shopping Experience were mentioned slightly more for loyal grocery consumers.
Interestingly, Lowest Price did not make the top five for grocery consumers or the overall retail norm in terms of frequency mentioned. However, when we asked respondents to actually rank their loyalty factors, grocery customers ranked Lowest Price a close second to Good Value for the Money.
When consumers were asked to cite their “tie-breaking” loyalty factors — those that drive store selection when price, product and access were identical between two retailers — grocery consumers followed the general trend set by consumers overall. However, they placed more emphasis on Caring Staff, Positive Shopping Experience, Receive Incentives to Shop and Convenient Shopping Experience. (Click the graph to view a larger image.)
How Grocery Store Customer Demographics Impact Loyalty
Grocery store customer demographics play a clear role in determining which factors lead to loyalty, according to our study.
- Men were more likely to rank Easy to Make Purchases and Positive Shopping Experience as top factors influencing their loyalty. Women were more likely to list Lowest Price and Product Assortment as top loyalty factors.
- If price, product and access were identical between two retailers, women were more likely to list Receive Incentives to Shop as their tie breaker and men were more likely to list Status Symbol as theirs.
- Households without children at home were almost twice as likely to mention a grocery retailer as a retailer they are loyal to for particular needs compared to households with children.
- In the general study reflecting all retailers, households without children at home were more likely to be Loyalists. However, among grocery consumers, households with children were much more likely to be Loyalists.
- Younger grocery consumers — those aged 44 and under — tended to be Loyalists, while older grocery consumers (aged 45+) tended to be Neutrals. Younger consumers were also more likely to rank Lowest Price as their number one factor, while older consumers ranked Good Value for the Money as their top loyalty factor.
- In general, the lower the annual income of a household, the more those grocery consumers are likely to be Loyalists. As household income increases, grocery consumers become more likely to fall into the Roamer category.
- More affluent grocery consumers were more likely to rank Good Value for the Money as their number one loyalty factor, while less affluent consumers listed Lowest Price as their most important factor.
Supermarket Loyalty by Grocery Brand
In our loyalty study, we asked consumers to list the retailer they were most likely to exclusively shop for particular needs. It’s interesting to see how rankings shifted when we differentiated between retailers whose primary focus is grocery — a.k.a., “supermarkets” — versus general merchandise retailers that also sell grocery products — a.k.a., “hypermarkets.”
Most Frequently Listed Supermarkets vs. Hypermarkets
We also found that some retailers attract more Loyalists than others. For instance, 43% of Aldi customers and 40% of Costco customers define themselves as Loyalists. On the other hand, 41% of Safeway customers describe themselves as Roamers.
The Future of Supermarket and Grocery Store Loyalty
Online grocery shopping is here to stay and is clearly a building popularity as a factor in supermarket customer loyalty. According to the McKinsey survey, nearly 50% of respondents indicated that they purchased groceries online at least once per week, and curbside pick-up increased 59% over pre-pandemic rates.1 Personally, as a focus-group-of-one, I love using Sam’s Club’s Scan and Go mobile app function (the delicious feeling of walking past the lines is amazing!).
As new challenges come to the fore, no doubt the grocery business will continue to evolve. And, as the industry becomes more complex, understanding the factors that drive consumers to select one grocery retailer over another will continue to gain importance in this highly competitive industry.
For more details on factors driving customer loyalty, get a free download of customer.com’s 2022 Retail Customer Brand Loyalty Study.
Are you ready to leverage the characteristics of loyalty to build more profitable customer relationships? Our customer engagement agency is here to help, with more than 40 years of experience focused on that exact mission. Learn more about our retail marketing services. Then call 303.986.3000 or click below to talk with one of our retail marketing consultants.
1 “Making Online Grocery a Winning Proposition,” Bill Aull, Steven Begley, Vishwa Chandra and Varun Mathur, McKinesey.com, posted July 2, 2021, https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/consumer-packaged-goods/our-insights/making-online-grocery-a-winning-proposition, accessed Aug. 18, 2022