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Introduction to the Retailer Preference Index for U.S. Grocery and the Covid Momentum Metric

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.


Our Methodology

Starting in 2018, our Retailer Preference Index (RPI) score established which retailers' value propositions were best positioned to win with customers long-term. Our rankings were the result of a statistical model that predicted how retailer execution on various customer needs – or Preference Drivers – impact both lasting emotional bonds formed with customers, as well as longer-term financial success:

2018-2020 RPI Approach

By understanding how different Preference Drivers propel overall market share

we understand what it takes for a retailer to scale their offering up to different regions, to a wider variety of consumers, which takes time. Modelling against Five Year rather than Year-Over-Year sales growth ensures we understand what it takes for a retailer to maintain growth that isn't just the result of a trend. Finally, knowing what it takes to secure a strong Emotional Connection with consumers sheds light on what will get consumers to keep coming back to retailers long-term, even in spite of events that would temporarily steer them away – like job loss or illness. This year, we are introducing another element to our calculation: the Covid Momentum Metric. This metric results from a statistical model that predicts how retailer execution on the same Preference Drivers impact short-term financial success, namely market share gains or losses during 2020.

By modelling against Covid Era market share gain or loss

we can understand what is driving changes in consumer behavior during Covid. This does not tell us what it takes to win with customers long-term, since the Covid Era is a unique moment in time. However, we nor any retailer should dismiss the Covid Era changes in consumer behaviors or preferences as definitively temporary, especially given the length of the Covid Era and how long these new behaviors have had to wear new grooves in consumers' brains and lives. Therefore, to understand which retailers are best positioned now and for the future, we must consider how their value proposition is positioned to win Emotional Connection, long-term financial results and short-term Covid Momentum. As a result, the RPI score this year is really the RPI+ score. It blends how well a retailer's customer value proposition is positioned for long-term success with how much short-term momentum that same value proposition generated for the special circumstances surrounding Covid:

2021 RPI Approach


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Retail leaders must objectively understand how their business currently considers Customers before trying to set a more Customer-centric direction and focus. There are some formal assessment methodologies, like dunnhumby's Retail Preference Index (RPI) and Customer Centricity Assessment (CCA), which offer detailed evaluations of a business' capabilities, strengths and weaknesses based on Customer perceptions (RPI) or global best practices (CCA).

The approach outlined below is not intended to replace these formal tools; rather, these observations are intended as a kind of 'toe in the water' to help retail leaders form early hypotheses and points of views. These are rules of thumb, heuristics culled from global experience. Later, leaders might use these observations to informally check progress from time to time as a way of assessing whether the "program in the stores matches the program in our heads".

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