Consumers rate SA’s best supermarkets
The latest customer satisfaction index finds that tough times, the new context of retail and changing consumer lifestyles present complex challenges to the big supermarket brands
In an intensifying war for consumer share and brand growth and recognition, SA’s big five supermarket brands will need to do more to differentiate themselves when it comes to customer satisfaction.
That’s the top line from the latest SA Customer Satisfaction Index for Supermarkets (2018) by research firm Consulta. The survey looks at Woolworths, Pick n Pay, Spar, Checkers and Shoprite.
Woolworths and Spar stood out as front-runners in the survey. Woolworths maintains the best overall customer experience rating, but the gap between it and the others has diminished since 2016. Spar has achieved significant gains in almost all measures of customer satisfaction thanks to its focus since 2014 on "convenience location".
The study shows the increasing complexity faced by supermarkets in meeting customer expectations. It says that as economic pressure intensifies, retailers will need to invest in understanding how this affects consumer behaviour and how they can create exceptional experiences for their customers.
On perceived value (how much value customers feel they received for the price paid against the quality of the experience) Checkers was tops, though only Spar showed a marked increase in its perceived value score from 2016.
It is notable that Woolworths struggles on this score, which is driving the perception that it is the most expensive supermarket brand.
All do well on handling complaints, compared with world standards (scoring close to 50%). Checkers fared best, Shoprite was rated lowest.
Pick n Pay recorded the most customer complaints specifically about expired food, incorrect shelf prices and its Smart Shopper loyalty card. Shoprite had the lowest customer loyalty score, markedly down from 2016. Woolworths had the highest loyalty score (up slightly) indicating still-strong brand equity.
At a time when extreme economic pressure and fast-changing technology strongly influence shoppers, customer satisfaction is a big deal — and getting it right is complex and multifaceted, says Prof Adré Schreuder, founder of the survey.
"We have come a very long way from when all it took was some customer service from efficient and friendly staff to do the job," he says. "The context of retail has evolved rapidly, to extend across bricks-and-mortar experience to online and digital presence. And consumer concerns such as value, time, experience, healthy eating and ethical living are culminating in a continuum of disconnect between shoppers’ expectations and the retailers’ ability to satisfy them."
The survey also notes the following:
• In tough economic times the price of goods is likely to influence consumer loyalty;
• Though Woolworths used to have the advantage of differentiation in in-store design, experience and packaging, which appealed to the upper end of the market, competitors have made significant headway; and
• Spar’s sustained focus on community involvement and convenience location has borne fruit.