Various research methods are widely available and many have been long used to conduct research with supermarket shoppers, including online surveys, focus groups and telephone surveys, with newer web-based and mobile tools becoming increasingly available. The key question to consider centers on selecting the most appropriate method to reach each specific stakeholder.
Let’s focus on the customer/consumer group. Fundamentally, we should be listening to two groups: our frequent/loyal customers and less-frequent or non-shoppers (i.e., our competitors’ customers). Discovering the reason(s) someone shops at a retailer’s store, and how these shoppers perceive the store, is important information. But so too is feedback from those who prefer to shop elsewhere. There is insightful, actionable learning available from each of these groups!
And among both more and less frequent shoppers, there are two ways to frame their feedback: first on a visit-specific basis (i.e. Did you find everything you were looking for? Tell us about this visit) and second, in terms of store or brand (i.e. How does this store’s grocery variety compare to a key competitor? Why do you shop at the competitor’s store more than this store?)
Automated feedback tools, such as our Constant Customer Feedback™ system, are ideal for connecting with current customers (both primary and secondary) and obtaining visit-specific feedback from them. But those surveys do not reach non-shoppers, and they are not designed to learn much about other stores in the market. In order to reach competitors’ customers, and to capture the image or impression of each store relative to other stores in the market, it is necessary to reach out to all shoppers in a given trade area.
For this type of market-wide or trade area-specific customer/consumer research, outbound telephone interviews are still being used by many supermarket retailers. This approach blends quantifiable image ratings, where the survey sponsor is unknown, with detailed open-ended feedback about the target store and competitors. Telephone surveys remain the best way to hear from those who live in a defined geographic area around a store because land-line phone numbers are associated with physical addresses. There have been recent advancements in geo-locating mobile phone numbers to residential addresses (mostly through voter registration data), so mobile numbers can supplement, but not completely replace, land-lines in a telephone survey in many (but not all) trading areas.
So what are some best practices to consider when using telephone-based research around a specific location? Consider the following:
1. Focus on those stores with the greatest need, such as new or remodeled locations, underperformers, stores facing new competition, or key competitive markets. This will allow specific emphasis on situations requiring the greatest attention.
2. Add mobile phone numbers to the sample in geographic areas, where physically possible and where budget allows.
3. Conduct at least 250-300 interviews in each store study area, enabling more reliable segmentation and competitor comparisons by specific location. If the survey area is across a larger market area, even more interviews may need to be completed.
4. Establish a process to review potential store concerns to include in the questionnaire prior to conducting each survey. Add specific questions, where possible, to gather the most relevant information. Focus groups can be used in conjunction, if desired, before and/or after the survey to uncover and/or follow-up on issues in more depth.
5. Develop an in-depth action plan as a result of the survey results. Involve your entire team to solve issues needing improvement and celebrate successes!
As research tools continue to evolve, there are new and progressive feedback tools, including text/mobile feedback and online customer panel platforms. We are watching these areas closely to ensure that the best possible tools are available to RFG clients.