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Stores win out for grocery shopping—and by a wide margin

Despite an abundance of new options for buying groceries online, American consumers still prefer to do their shopping in stores.

Eighty-seven percent of consumers prefer to shop for groceries in person, according to a survey from facilities management company Vixxo. The preference spanned different age groups, with nearly all Baby Boomers (96%) and a vast majority of Millennials (81%) opting for the in-store experience vs. online.

The key driver was selection, as most Americans (84%) like inspecting and picking out their own products. Others (60%) said they simply prefer the atmosphere and experience of shopping in brick-and-mortar stores. More than one-third (34%) of respondents said they notice things like the lighting, temperature and other factors that set the ambience when they first enter a supermarket.

Food quality was the most important factor when selecting an item at the grocery store, according to 45% of shoppers. Freshness of the ingredients is also critical to the buying decision, with 43% of shoppers demanding that their prepared foods be freshly made. For instance, approximately one-quarter of respondents buy prepared food from their grocery stores, including pizza (31%), pasta salad (29%), rotisserie chicken (28%), sandwiches (24%), and sushi (15%). All these preferences underscore the importance of having well-maintained food preparation, cold storage and food warming equipment.

While consumers may have their favorite stores, few are exclusively loyal. Only 14% said that they shopped at one store, while nearly half (45%) said they shopped at three or more stores in an average month. This "infidelity" pattern of shoppers underscores the importance of delivering a superior in-store experience to attract and retain more customers in a highly competitive market.

"A key takeaway for grocery retailers is that effective facilities management impacts the customer experience,” said Warren Weller, Vixxo's chief client officer. “A well maintained store can keep them coming back for more. Maintaining and optimizing assets like food production equipment, lighting, digital signage and refrigeration is essential to delivering an exceptional customer experience."
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