Reports

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Last March, when we realized the potential impact that COVID-19 might have on all aspects of our lives, dunnhumby launched a survey to understand how the virus would affect consumers food shopping habits. It was designed to help our clients better meet the needs of their Customers by seeing the impact of the virus through their customers eyes.

Little did we know at the time that one year later we would still be dealing with the impact Covid-19. This study presents the results of the sixth global wave of the study and the seventh wave for the United States. Other waves were conducted in March, April, May, July, September and November of 2020. This wave was conducted in February 2021.

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In order to reflect on how the grocery world changed in 2020, we have changed how we calculate our overall Grocery RPI score. Given the historically unique metrics we've witnessed in the economy, the restaurant industry and the grocery industry, along with the rare influence a global pandemic has brought to consumer behavior, we're viewing grocery success in 2020 through a different lens than we viewed grocery success in prior years.

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In dunnhumby's second annual Retailer Preference Index (RPI) study, a comprehensive nationwide study, we re-examine the evolving US grocery landscape to help retailers navigate an increasingly fragmented market where shoppers are, on average, shopping at four grocery stores per month and regularly buying groceries from at least three other channels. The study focuses on the following questions:

  • What drives preference?
  • Who is winning and losing?
  • Why are they winning or losing?
  • What can grocery retailers do to improve preference and performance?

Existing retailer rankings by Consumer Reports or Market Force only use survey data to capture how shoppers feel about the various banners without linking the emotion to financial performance. Others, like Supermarket News, rank banners based on financial metrics but fail to capture how people feel.

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Covid-19 has fundamentally changed shopping behaviour in a short space of time with shoppers visiting fewer stores less often, but leaving with bigger baskets. Ecommerce sales have near tripled, leaving some Retailers struggling to meet demand and cannibalising in-store margins. What's more, these changes are anything but transitional, with lockdowns and social distancing of some variety likely to dominate society for the foreseeable future, or until a vaccine is released.

With price sensitivity likely to resurface as a recession kicks in, continued disruption to supply chains, and a potential price war in the making as cash-rich retailers fight to retain newly acquired Shoppers and market share, the implications for CPGs and their retail partners are varied and potentially vast.

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In our third annual Retailer Preference Index (RPI) for the U.S. grocery channel, we look at the $700 billion grocery industry which finds itself potentially less than a year away from an economic downturn, according to many economists. Which grocers are best prepared to weather the storm, and what can other retailers do to compete? The RPI seeks to answer these and other questions, including:

  • What drives customer preference for grocery retailers?
  • Which retailers are winning and losing? And why?
  • What can grocery retailers do to improve performance and win more trips?

Existing ranking methods focus primarily on retail growth based on store counts and revenue size, without linking growth to emotional or financial performance. We have a different perspective, one that focuses on the consumer and their emotional connection to the various retailers within the grocery channel. Our study surveyed 7,500 US consumers to uncover how they think and feel about grocery stores, and how they shop them. All with a goal to understand how Customers perceive stores through seven different drivers, and how these perceptions affect both the emotional connection and financial performance.

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