Writen by Sandra Baethge & Eleonora Paul

High competitive pressure, price wars, new store designs, online shopping – especially in food retailing, there is increasing pressure on retailers not only to satisfy customers, but also to win them over in the long term and to retain them. But what makes the customers satisfied and where can the retailer start to win the customer over in the long term? Sandra Baethge and Eleonora Paul from IWD describe the methods they use to find this out.

The consumer is a complex being and so their satisfaction in food retailing is also a multidimensional construct. It is composed of different drivers or influencing factors and is constantly changing. For example, a new store design can increase satisfaction with a retailer. However, it quickly decreases again as friendliness slacks in combination with rising prices.

We have therefore developed a cross-methodological excellence questionnaire that helps to identify precisely these individual drivers of customer satisfaction and to test their relevance and current performance on a scale of 0 to 100 in a structural equation model.

Monthly tracking among German consumers enables us to evaluate what moves the customers of various food retailers and what adjustments each retailer has to optimise satisfaction and motivate competitor’s customers to shop in their stores.

As part of the analysis, it is therefore not only important to identify the potential drivers and have them assessed by the consumer in terms of satisfaction, it is also essential to check which of these drivers currently has the greatest influence on overall satisfaction. So which driver has the greatest leverage and how is this assessed by the consumer? If an important influencing factor is rated below average by the consumer, this must be optimised urgently. This can mean, for example, training the employees in addressing customers if the friendliness of the employees is one of the main factors influencing customer satisfaction.

After optimisation, the measurement of the drivers should be repeated regularly. This process not only serves to monitor the success of optimisation measures that have been carried out but can already identify possible new development opportunities in the next step. The consumer is inspired anew every time they go shopping. Therefore, their wishes should be continuously monitored in order to be able to react to changing market demands at the right time.

As part of a continuous tracking process among more than 2,000 adult decision-makers, but also co-decision-makers for food shopping, we survey global satisfaction values and their potential drivers for their main shopping location. Currently, the model includes 13 potential drivers. Consumers are asked to rate, among others, the quality, availability, variety and presentation of products in the usual product groups such as fruit and vegetables, bread and bakery products, dairy products and beverages, and non-food products. In addition, the survey also takes into account factors that are independent of the product group, such as the friendliness of employees or cleanliness.

Tracking shows that quality, variety and availability of goods are significant drivers for German food retail customers across all buyer types. The better the quality and the more varied the range of products, the more satisfied the customer. If we look further into the space, factors such as atmosphere, store layout, product presentation and ability to find products, as well as employees, have a significant influence on how satisfied a consumer is and whether they will return. Each of these factors is structured and evaluated in a multi-dimensional way. It is not only the friendliness and presence of the staff that counts, but also how competently they are available to consumers in the area.

The study also shows that every retailer has its own individual drivers that they should focus on in order to win over and retain satisfied and loyal customers.

Why do customers shop at Netto Marken-Discount?

If you want to increase customer satisfaction and thus retain customers in the long term, it makes sense to optimise the strongest significant driver which currently has a below-average rating as a first step. This is therefore a factor that has a high impact on customer satisfaction but is currently rated by customers as less satisfactory.

At Aldi Nord, the ability to find products and the presentation of the goods has an above-average influence on overall satisfaction. However, this is currently rated below average by Aldi Nord customers. This is where it is important to assess and examine how satisfaction with the ability to find products can be improved. For example, signposts or better means of communication on site could be just as relevant as adapting the product presentation. It should also be checked in which product areas there are availability problems from the customer’s point of view.

At Netto Marken-Discount, there are significantly more parameters that require urgent optimisation, such as the atmosphere as well as the variety and availability of goods. With regard to the atmosphere, the respondents indicate that there is a need for action in terms of the cleanliness of the stores, among other things. The improvement of the employee situation through more staff on the shop floor would also contribute to increased satisfaction. In addition, the presentation of the goods and the ability to find them should also be taken into account.

A satisfied customer is a loyal customer.

In addition, the tracking system asks for the loyalty of the respondents to their main shopping location. In this loyalty index, we examine the relationship between the food retailer customer and their main shopping location in more detail by means of several individual evaluations such as willingness to change. For comparison: At Aldi Nord, 39.8 percent would be willing to switch if a shopping location with a similar range and price level opened nearby. At Netto Marken-Discount, the figure is as high as 54.8 percent. The measured NPS value for Aldi Nord is 41, while the value for Netto Marken-Discount is only 11.

The key to a satisfied and long-term loyal customer lies in a detailed and regular examination of their needs, taking into account the development of the market. The competition never sleeps and is constantly redefining consumer demands. It is also worthwhile to find new methodical approaches beyond the classic descriptive evaluation. By combining a tracking measurement with a driver analysis, meaningful information can be derived from the survey data with little effort, as well as concrete directives, which enables fast and flexible action. A comparison with direct competitors may also be drawn, in order to be able to better address one’s own and potential customers in a perfectly coordinated manner.

Driver analysis – overcoming the limitations of classic analysis.

The PLS structural equation modelling, known as driver analysis, maps satisfaction. The drivers, i.e. factors influencing overall satisfaction, are checked for a correlation and for their significance. This methodology is becoming increasingly widespread in the scientific community, but in practice it was usually considered too costly. As a management tool, it provides decision-makers with more insights and clearer recommendations for action. After a descriptive evaluation, it is typically recommended to optimise the worst rated aspect. Here, driver analysis delivers concrete results. It answers the following questions:

Which driver needs to be optimised to most likely significantly increase customer satisfaction?

This is a crucial question, especially in view of the limited budgets of retailers. If an aspect does not have a significant influence on satisfaction, an investment in optimisation can prove to be a bad decision.

Are all aspects equally important for my customers?

The individual drivers can influence satisfaction to different degrees. For example, time spent at the checkout counters in a store may be more important to customers near an office complex than the price level.

How do the aspects influence each other?

In a descriptive analysis, the various aspects are considered in isolation, contrary to reality. In reality, for example, satisfaction with the freshness of the goods can influence satisfaction with the price.

First published: planung&analyse, Issue 1/2020, Page 42-45

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