Friendly, helpful staff members provide a significant boost to supermarket experience, according to a study by the Retail Feedback Group.
RFG surveyed 1,200 people for the study, which also examined quality and freshness, variety and selection, and value for money spent.
Many retailers have been working to make shopping more convenient, but the core value of customer service still holds sway, per the study.
Lower ratings on the friendliness, helpfulness and availability of staff members — or on checkout efficiency — corresponded to lower overall experience ratings.
Retailers saw overall scores of 3.5-3.75 out of 5 when customer service areas got a 1, 2 or 3. When those areas received a 4 or 5, the overall marks were 4.5 or higher.
In its report, RFG described customer service as a differentiator and suggested supermarkets consider how they can boost scores even more in that area.
Compared with Walmart and Aldi, supermarkets fared best in overall experience, but the group received its lowest rating — still a 4.18 — in the value category.
Retailers need to prioritize that element because shoppers are actively seeking value, per the report.
RFG found that 76% of consumers refer to at least one advertising or sales vehicle — circulars, digital coupons, in-store promotions, etc. — before or while shopping.
The importance of digital promotions will continue because millennials are doing research on their phones and looking on social media to find deals at a much higher rate than older generations, according to the survey.
Promotions are one way to offer value, but another way to do so can be through meal kits, which have drawn interest from consumers but which often are labeled as too expensive.
Among shoppers who have purchased a meal kit at a retailer rather than from a service like Blue Apron, however, value is one of the key reasons for purchase.
Another way for supermarkets to reach consumers is through increased variety in organic, ethnic and local offerings.
“While supermarkets show strong marks in variety in general, they should look for ways to strengthen more niche areas to become more relevant to shoppers looking for those items and to prevent shoppers from having to go to competitors for them,” RFG said in the report.