By Sue Wilkinson, Senior Director, Information Service & Research, Food Marketing Institute
20161208-FMI-0971_ed WEB

Come with me on a journey through a time machine to consider the attributes that attract customers to a particular grocery store.

The Top of the List Over Time

When FMI first explored this topic in the 1982 Trends research, at that time called Trends: Consumer Attitudes and the Supermarket, we asked consumers to contribute, “the two or three most important services your supermarket can provide.” The nine out of 12 top store attributes shoppers volunteered as very important in 1982 appear on the top 12 most important list for 2019. In fact, I reviewed the data for this question from 1982 through 2019, and these attributes appear consistently at the top of each year’s list. While the rankings of these attributes change from year to year, it appears that we all have a baseline of expectations when we shop for food at the grocery store that include, in no particular order:

  • High-quality fruits, vegetables and meat.
  • Low prices.
  • A clean, neat store.
  • Great product selection and variety.
  • Courteous friendly employees.
  • A fast checkout experience.  

What About the Bottom of the List?

Throughout the years, those items at the bottom of the list of attributes that attract customers to the grocery store mirror the times in which the question was asked and in some cases are no longer relevant. For example, the 1982 list includes, “better store hours, longer hours,” reflecting a time when stores offered shorter hours, and a time when online shopping was not yet a reality. Check cashing appears on the list for 1985. We know today that 3% of all grocery store payments are made by check (Speaks 2018), so that service isn’t as important these days. However, we see features appearing in the 2000s like:

  • Self-checkout.
  • Online shopping services.
  • Organic products.
  • Nutritional and health information available for shoppers.
  • Recycling and sustainability efforts/practices.

These attributes reflect an evolution in what today’s shopper considers important attributes of the grocery store.

Current Day

Those items at the bottom of the 2019 list include:

  • Exciting environment.
  • Checkout/pay via smartphone.
  • Online ordering for pickup and online ordering for delivery.

These attributes are rated significantly higher by Gen Z and Millennial respondents, reflecting what’s important for the future.

Will those attributes at the bottom of the list today ever replace those tried and true items at the top? Time will tell, but future-looking food retailers will perhaps give them equal weight moving forward.

Download 2019 U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends
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