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Survey: Inventory is a major issue for grocery shoppers

grocery shoppers
Well-stocked grocery stores keep customers happy.

Grocery retailers that offer a wide and deep product inventory enjoy a distinct advantage in building customer loyalty.

Ipsos recently surveyed 1,000 grocery consumers about their experiences, behaviors and preferences as they relate to the inventory situation at their primary grocery stores. Roughly two-thirds (65%) of respondents said that grocery stock availability is worse today than before the COVID-19 pandemic, and close to half (45%) purchase items from a store other than their primary grocery store once a month or more because of out-of-stocks or unsatisfactory online order substitutions at their primary grocer.

A similar percentage (47%) of respondents reported that their primary grocery store is out of one or more of their desired items at least half of the time, including 60% of respondents with children and 62% among the 18–34 demographic. Almost one in five (18%) respondents with children changed where they primarily buy groceries because of dissatisfaction with inventory or unsatisfactory online order substitutions.

Nearly one in four (23%) respondents will shop elsewhere on their next grocery trip if one to three items from their list are unavailable, and 37% will find another grocery store for their next shopping outing if this number increases to four to six items.

While almost half (46%) of respondents state that sticking with the store they are most familiar with drives where they will place their online orders, 31% say that stock availability is the determining factor, compared with 24% who are driven primarily by price.

About four in 10 (39%) respondents report that they have noticed reduced selection of brands and/or varieties over the past year at their primary grocery store. However, 38% of respondents said they would prefer a smaller selection of brands/ varieties if it meant that one of their top two to three choices would always be available, while 32% were not sure and 30% said no.

Although 39% of respondents said they are flexible to accept a substitute in any product category, most consumers have one or more categories in which they will not accept an alternate product. Fresh food categories including meat (35%), produce (28%), and dairy (27%), are primarily what respondents said they will not accept substitutes for; with paper products (15%) and frozen meals (13%) have fewer consumers refusing a substitute item.

Ipsos advises grocery retailers to surveying their customers regularly and perform impact analyses to predict what will drive their likelihood of continuing doing business with a specific grocery retailer and recommending it to others, including inventory and product selection.

In addition, Ipsos recommends that grocery retailers electronically intercept customers leaving their stores using geolocation technology to ask them about their experiences in finding all their desired items and more. Ipsos further advises grocery retailers to perform mystery shops, both in-store and online/ curbside pickup, to assess store-level execution around stock availability and substitutions, while tracking improvement over time.

According to a recent survey from digital recipe network Chicory, grocers should also consider targeting omnichannel shoppers if they want to boost customer loyalty levels. The survey revealed that online-only grocery shoppers are 3.5 times more likely to be loyal to brands, with 93% having specific brands in mind when creating their shopping list. Online-only shoppers are also 14.7 times more likely to be loyal to the same grocery store.

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