Are Grocery Shoppers Loyal?

September 24, 2018

The relationship between the average shopper and grocery store is not monogamous. Consumers shop at an average of 4.1 stores for groceries every month.

But grocery store monogamy isn’t necessarily synonymous with customer loyalty, is it?

The Food Marketing Institute partnered with consumer analytics company Precima for their recently released two-part study, Next Generation Loyalty Get it Right in Food Retail. We think that both Part 1: The State of Shopper Loyalty and Part 2: Loyalty in 3D-The Next Generation are well worth reading.

In this article, we will look at what customer loyalty means, examine what’s important to grocery shoppers and discuss loyalty programs. We will also highlight key differences between consumers’ opinions and retailers’ misconceptions about what is important to their shoppers. All data in this article is from the two-part study unless otherwise noted.

Defining Loyalty: We can see other stores

Customer loyalty means, “the likelihood of previous customers to continue to buy from a specific organization.” It doesn’t mean that the customer only shops at one store exclusively.

Eight in 10 shoppers say they are loyal or very loyal to their primary grocery store yet more than 60% of shoppers say they shop at multiple stores.

More than 3 in 4 shoppers allocate over half of their household grocery expenditures to 1 store. However, only 3 in 10 shoppers allocate more than 70% of their spending at 1 store.

The top 5 reasons that shoppers would spend more at their primary grocery store:

better/more fresh produce

improved quality of products

improved breadth of assortment

more convenient locations

improved in-store shopping experience

The Next Generation Loyalty study notes that there isn’t much change in responses by age or location as to why shoppers would spend more at their main grocery store. Product assortment, promotions and an excellent experience at the store (rather than price) are the primary drivers in customer loyalty, the study notes.

Shoppers: What retailers can do to earn their loyalty

Grocery shoppers rated which store factors make or break their decisions where to shop. The study also asked retailers to weigh in and the results show a bit of a disconnect between what shoppers rank as important and what retailers think is important to their shoppers.

The most important factors that help consumers decide where to shop:

quality of products

in-store prices

clean stores

good locations

customer service

short checkout lines

in—store promotions

national brands

The least important factors that help consumers decide where to shop:

best-in-class phone apps

best-in-class website

e-commerce offerings


personalized offers

The most important store departments to shoppers:






The least important store departments to shoppers:

in-store eating

meal kits

general merchandise (clothes, auto, etc.)

prepared meals

ethnic foods

Disconnect #1: Retailers were in sync with the top factors that help consumers decide where to shop, but retailers overestimated how important loyalty programs, personalized offers, e-commerce, website and apps are to shoppers.

Disconnect #2: Consumers rate produce as the #1 most important department, but retailers listed it as the 3rd-most important. Retailers mistakenly thought the meat/poultry/seafood department was the most important department, but shoppers ranked it as the 3rd-most important department.

Loyalty Programs: What makes them worthwhile

Loyalty programs are important to both shoppers and retailers. 53% of shoppers say that a loyalty program is important to them in deciding where to shop and 75% of retailers say loyalty is more important to their business in the past 12 months than it was in previous years.

The study defines loyalty programs as having 2 components: possessing a unique value proposition and attaching a customer identifier to as many transactions as possible.

82% of retailers measure customer loyalty but just 21% say their loyalty strategy is delivering a positive ROI. These are the top metrics retailers use to measure customer loyalty:

65% customer satisfaction

61% marketing program metrics

52% impact on sales

62% shopping patters

42% customer acquisition/growth retention

The lack of ROI from grocers’ loyalty programs may be due in part to more disconnect between shoppers and retailers. Retailers are even more out of tune with shoppers about loyalty programs than they were with what factors sway shoppers to shop at a store.

The most important loyalty program elements to consumers:

everyday low prices

good promotions

convenient locations

good quality of assortment

good customer service

Disconnect #3: Retailers overvalued the importance of customer service and undervalued how important prices, promotions and store location are to shoppers.

The most important loyalty program components to consumers:

points that can be earned/redeemed

exclusive access to in-store discounts

option to select rewards

anniversary/birthday gift

increased rewards for achieving goals they set for themselves

loyalty tiers with different benefits

access to special events

Disconnect #4: Retailers underestimated how important anniversary/birthday gifts are to shoppers. They also overestimated how important it is to shoppers to get increased rewards for achieving goals they set for themselves and loyalty tiers with different benefits.

Disconnect #5: Retailers have less faith that their customers understand how their loyalty programs work. 60% of retailers think their loyalty programs are easy to understand but 87% of shoppers think that loyalty programs are easy to understand.

The image used for this blog post was created by Dragana_Gordic -

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