Grocery Displacement: the moment a consumer enters an unfamiliar grocery store, and anxiety and panic begin to set in as they assess how they will attempt to navigate the unknown aisles to find all the things on their shopping list. es, despite not yet being defined in Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, this is a real thing. In these situations even the most modest of food warehouses can potentially make any consumer feel a great deal of discomfort, confusion and insecurity, as the most common pantry staples like bread, eggs and cereal suddenly become a feat to find. Where is everything? How much will it cost in comparison to the customer’s regular store? What’s the quality of the produce? Which checkout lines move the fastest? Are the aisles cleaned and well stocked? Though these questions may seem trivial at best, for many consumers in a strange store they are of the utmost importance, as the answers affect the overall customer experience and ultimately promote loyalty or completely destroy it.
Encouraging customer loyalty is essential for grocers trying to gain new clientele or keep the patrons they already have. The grocery industry is composed of traditional supermarkets, limited assortment supermarkets, superettes, supercenters, natural/gourmet stores and convenience stores, which mean there is a lot of competition. With so much rivalry, customer satisfaction is imperative to gain monogamous loyalty (shopping only at one store) or polygamous loyalty (shopping only at a select few stores and no others).
Monogamous loyalty is difficult in today’s marketplace because consumers have thousands of food warehouses to choose from. To gain an ample piece of the pie, grocers need to put programs in place that will warrant customer satisfaction and interest to secure repeat visits.
Loyalty Programs & Cost Savings

As reported in the article, “Why Are Trader Joe’s Customers the most Satisfied in America?” the independently owned grocery topped the list regarding customer satisfaction, ranking first in atmosphere and fast checkouts, and second on cleanliness, courteous staff, merchandise selection and accurate pricing. Add to this the fact that the greatest weapon for obtaining customer loyalty is saving paying customers money with deals, deals and more deals. This is where loyalty programs become an important part of a grocery’s customer retention program, as they generally show with each transaction how much savings were made on each trip.  But according to “A Disloyalty movement” Supermarkets and Customers Drop Loyalty Card Programs,” published on, money savings doesn’t always guarantee the netted catch. The article states, “Savvy customers understand that loyalty programs gather and utilize customer data to make marketing decisions. If programs are not crystal-clear in providing benefit to the customer in exchange for that information, and are not clear in their privacy policy, consumers can back off from participating.” A breach in information privacy can be a scary and disenchanting possibility that severely tarnishes consumer trust overall, as proven by recent occurrences of this nature suffered by major nationwide retailers.
Not to be discounted, the allure of saving money is highly attractive to many consumers, and with the right amount of effort and meticulous technique, customer loyalty via programs can still be obtained.’s online article entitled “how to get Customers to sign up for your Loyalty Program” shares several suggestions that work across a multitude of retails from restaurants to supermarkets, including:

  • Encourage on-the-spot program enrollment by way of  special offers consumers can utilize immediately
  • Join a mobile-based loyalty and rewards program. This can alleviate consumers having to collect punch cards, etc. and still offer them the benefits
  • Personalize reward programs with special lifetime buyer benefits for birthdays, anniversaries and other special events

Nonetheless, there is another side to the customer loyalty program debate. For example, it has been reported that shoppers aren’t the only ones tired of loyalty programs. Moreover, some grocery companies eliminating these programs feel as though, “the card isn’t so special anymore. Everyone has one. So we want to take the special step of not requiring one anymore,” reports
With all the fringe benefits as well as disadvantages that customer loyalty programs bring about, keypointsthese applications highlight one underlying notion – care. Whether it’s through a modern-day mobile app or old-school newspaper coupon offering, you’re putting the options out there to show your consumer that their needs and wants are being considered. Whether consumers sign-up for a loyalty program or not, they understand that the concession has been made for the benefit of their shopping experience, which also does well for your bottom line.
Nonetheless, with so much debate about customer loyalty programs, additional customer-alluring options are also at the forefront of building and maintaining customer relations.
Out with the Old, In with the … Old?
Basic measures that tap into the core of consumer expectations continue to be just as effective as any new standard of customer courting. In fact according to Progressive grocer, research shows that a consumer’s basic desires remain relatively consistent, and include high-quality products and good service.
When it comes to service, it’s human desire to want to be pampered and have every need catered to. For most, this often occurs in personal service establishments such as barbers and beauty salons, or even car dealerships, but more and more nontraditional establishments such as grocery stores are joining the race to keep people in their aisles and happy while there.
Executive Pastry Chef Phillip Harrington of Harris Teeter shares the importance of making customers feel comfortable when visiting a supermarket, whether the patron is a repeat visitor or a first-time shopper. “Comfort ability can be achieved through improved aesthetics: lighting, space, music, ease of parking lot, low wait times in lines, friendly associates and aisles easy  to navigate.
Ultimately, consumers want to feel appreciated, and understand they’re getting the most for their money, not only in product quality but overall engagement.
“Make shopping more of an ‘experience’ rather than a duty for the consumer by providing fantastic sights, beautiful food and fantastic aromas – they can’t help but enjoy the experience,” Chef Harrington encourages.
“The customer is always right,” is a very well-known phrase within the retail industry, but an untrue sentiment, as expressed by Joseph Callaway, coauthor of Clients first. In’s online article “6 Signs You’re Failing to Put Your Customers First,” Callaway promotes the importance of excellent customer service with a statement about Sam Walton, the late founder of Walmart and Sam’s Club shopping centers: “There is only one person who could fire eveyone in his company, including Walton, and that is the customer.”
Excellent customer service is at the forefront of successful businesses, and according to several studies it is the main thing that will bring customers back to your establishment time and again. For grocers looking to obtain customer loyalty, this includes not only emphasizing the importance of always displaying a courteous, helpful attitude, and ensuring a well-trained and familiar staff, but also keeping lines moving with the layout of the store for the sake of effective customer assistance.
Consumers want to easily find what they are looking for without their errand turning into a frustrating ordeal. This is a key part of good service and will ensure return visits. Trader Joe’s is one store also promoting this concept by maintaining a simple, consistent store format at all locations. The consistency helps keep patrons from feeling overwhelmed, and makes it easier for staff to assist shoppers when necessary. A simple layout also allows for more thorough upkeep of the aisles and product which is beneficial, as it adds to the clean,organized aesthetic of the store and enables employees to better replace product past its expiration date.
So, What’s the Overall Importance of Customer Loyalty?

The initial success and longevity of any business depends on its customer base. The grocery store is an essential destination for today’s consumer. Whether it is a gourmet grocery or traditional supermarket, consumers rely on these food warehouses for survival, while still looking for overall satisfaction during their shopping experience. They yearn for simple, cost-effective, customer-focused stores, and if properly achieved award those stores their loyalty. The strongest customer base is the repeat customer, and to gain them using a variation of old and new customer retention techniques is essential to avoid displacement and an overall unpleasant experience.