4 March 2022

Attract new customers and build customer loyalty: the real challenge for food superstores

Attracting new consumers is a real challenge for large food retailers. The French continue to appreciate these supermarkets because they offer the advantage of a huge choice under the same roof. Buying food products in these stores means opting for the easy way out: an obvious solution, especially when you’re working! However, even though super and hypermarkets continue to attract almost all customers, they are facing ever-increasing competition.

This is why supermarkets are constantly competing innovation-wise to offer new services. This constant reshuffle of loyalty strategies in mass retailing gives food for thought. Let’s focus on the stakes of customer journey in mass retailing.

Health crisis and changing mentalities: a new deal?

The health crisis, in particular, is shaking up habits and mentalities. Are ecological or animal protection concerns about to change the situation? While it is exaggerated to talk of a massive return to small shops – although this is increasingly true with the covid 19 crisis – it’s hard to forget about competition from the Internet, the growing importance of drive-through shops or the eco-friendly approaches of new consumers. The challenge for the food superstores is therefore to find the right solution, the right service that satisfies consumers. Also, customer satisfaction researches allow brands to be as close to consumers as possible, to collect their feedback and thus to know their expectations. Thanks to these surveys, mass distribution can be led to review or, at least, refine its loyalty strategies.

It is therefore understandable that customer journey in mass retailing is constantly changing: it is not immutable, let alone fixed. In fact, these changes are not new, but have gradually begun in the wake of the economic crisis of 2008. This is why a growing fringe of the population is suspicious of the big brands, they pick quality over quantity, and they find their way back to the markets, with the stalls of small producers. The demand for food traceability is growing and was encouraged by recent years food scandals. These consumers are most often developing a militant approach, whether it be promoting animal welfare, following a vegetarian or vegan diet, or buying organic or fair trade products.

As for the impact of the health crisis, it is in line with this increasing request for natural and local products, but we have also noticed the development of other consumer behaviours, with the increase of click-and-collect or remote purchases, including food, with home delivery.

Improving the customer experience in retail?

Customer experience in food retailing has long been based on well proven models: providing buyers with a large number of products, in the same place, at a contained price, using classic globalization strategies, i.e. powerful supply and distribution networks aimed at lowering costs. Then, little by little, retailers began to experiment with several other concepts or services. They have been doing so ever since. These supermarkets now offer culture, interior design and even travel agency services. What’s more, their range of services has grown much wider, and brands such as E. Leclerc have become phone operators and energy suppliers… As you can see, the real challenge for them is to find the right solution that will satisfy consumers.

In short, most consumers will continue to visit their supermarket or hypermarket, but not necessarily for their food products. Therefore, innovation and reflection on customer journey in mass retailing is as alive as it’s ever been.

This is why they are increasingly seeking help from CX specialist agencies, whose expertise allows to optimize customer journey through various products. This is why customer satisfaction researches prove to be very fruitful in terms of learning: they allow us to learn more about what consumers are looking for and how they feel when shopping in a major food retailer. Such researches enable retailers to better understand their customers’ motivations, what they expect and what they can’t find. Of course, these researches are not an end in themselves, they have to be put into perspective in order to deploy the right strategy.

Summary and perspectives

Brands are well aware that customer experience is essential. That’s why they are constantly reinventing themselves to offer consumers new services or concepts. Their true challenge is not to transform themselves – they are already doing so – but to find the right idea that satisfies customers: an idea that is in line with their expectations.

This is where an agency specializing in mystery shopping and customer experience can help. Its expertise enables to objectively assess the strengths and weaknesses of a sales outlet. Once this is done, the agency recommends a concrete action plan for supermarkets in order to set customer loyalty at the core of their development strategy.