Market Force survey data from 2023 reveals that shoppers consider Wegmans and H-E-B as “best in class” grocery stores. Walmart is the winner when it comes to wallet share, with Kroger and ALDI behind it. But what aspects of these stores make them customer favorites? What do customers look for in a grocery store beyond just being a place to buy produce, eggs, and cereal? According to Market Force, several traits contribute to a grocery store’s overall appeal, including convenient location, availability of items, value, and cleanliness.
Of course, customers care about more factors than these. But the traits listed above are shared by all of the best grocery stores in the US. Let’s take a deeper dive into each of these categories, and how and why they matter so much to a grocery store’s success.
What Makes a Great Grocery Store?
If customers want anything, it’s convenience. This can come in many forms, such as providing shopping cart corrals, implementing self-checkout lanes, or setting up a quick-shop area at the front of the store for commonly purchased items. But a convenient location might be the most important of all. After all, how can a grocery store expect to welcome a high volume of customers if it’s far removed from civilization or surrounded by awful traffic? This is why all the best grocery stores are built in strategic locations that make it easy for a large population to shop there. This is also why you often see grocery stores set up in large plazas or in the middle of highly-populated areas.
Of course, with the rise of online grocery delivery services, location matters even more. Customers can now order their groceries remotely and have them brought to their home or apartment. The closer the store is to their residence, the faster they’ll get their groceries and the less they’ll have to spend on delivery fees and tips.
In a way, a store’s item availability is also related to the convenience factor. Customers don’t want to walk into a grocery store only to find out that the main thing they wanted to purchase isn’t currently available. It’s better to shop at a place that you can always rely on to have the stuff you want.
Grocery stores that consistently have a vast number of goods stocked are more likely to increase their sales, too. Most customers end up dropping a few more things in their shopping carts than they initially planned. The more that shelves are stocked, the more likely customers are to make impulse purchases. Plus, a well-stocked display is more appealing to shoppers, encouraging even more sales.
Everyone wants to feel like they’re getting the most bang for their buck. The best grocery stores manage to give their customers regular deals to retain their loyalty and push new products. Wegmans, for instance, offers its Shopper’s Club program to customers. It’s free to sign up, and doing so yields a host of benefits, including rotating discounts on certain items, digital coupons, and additional integration with the Wegmans App.
The best grocery stores keep their standard prices competitive as well, regardless of how discounts, loyalty cards, or coupons might further lower them. To make this clear to customers, a store might even place tags and labels on items noting the difference in price between them and their competitors. Even a small difference of, say, 50 cents, is a big deal for most shoppers.
But value isn’t just about saving money. It’s also about the quality of products and services on offer. Customers may even willingly pay a slightly higher grocery bill if it means a more pleasant and convenient shopping experience. An ideal grocery experience includes a wide variety of fresh produce and products, easy access to shopping baskets and carts around the store, fantastic customer service, specialty departments, and more. All of these things add value to the shopping experience, beyond just cost savings.
Lastly, all of the best grocery stores in America are clean. The importance of cleanliness cannot be overstated, especially for grocery chains. An unclean grocery store can lead to health risks that go well beyond the simple tripping hazard created by spilled milk. Many grocery stores today feature a salad bar and/or hot food bar. Customers and employees may touch this open food directly, cough or sneeze on it, or spill something on it and leave it there. Without proper monitoring, customers may be consuming contaminated food.
Clean floors, bathrooms, and surfaces matter as well, including large and small shopping carts and baskets. Most customers don’t use personal shopping carts but rely on shared ones instead. Employees can’t be expected to wipe down every single cart after use, so grocery stores might install cleaning wipe stations near cart locations. This allows customers to wipe down their shopping carts and sanitize their hands before using them.
On that note, the best grocery stores will also place several hand sanitizing stations around the store, especially near areas that might harbor bacteria or a lot of germs, such as near the meat and eggs, next to checkout, and by the hot/cold food bars. Not all customers will utilize these stations, of course, but those who do greatly reduce the number of germs in the store. This helps a grocery store maintain a clean, safe, and hygienic environment that customers notice and appreciate.
What Else Do The Best Grocery Stores Have in Common?
The four characteristics described above are some of the most important qualities a grocery store can have, but they aren’t the only things that great stores have in common. One of the traits a store should have that is often taken for granted is a variety of shopping carts and baskets, including large baskets, small baskets, cargo carts, hybrids, etc. The more options customers have, the better. And grocery stores can make more sales thanks to the convenience and
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Grocery Store Success FAQs
What makes a grocery store an industry leader?
The best American grocery stores have their own unique character, but they share some common strengths. Convenient location is a priority, in-demand items are always available. Store cleanliness is paramount, and products are high-quality and valuable.
Why is location so important to grocery store success?
The best and most successful grocery stores are built in strategic locations. Minimizing customer commute means greater convenience, and a greater likelihood that customers will make regular trips to the same store for their essentials.
How does cleanliness impact grocery store success?
Grocery stores that aren’t cleaned regularly pose health risks to customers and staff. Food could become contaminated if it isn’t prepared, displayed, and sold in a clean environment. Proper monitoring and cleaning of all food counters and display cases keep your customers safe and satisfied.
How do shopping baskets help the best grocery stores succeed?
Shopping baskets and carts allow customers to shop comfortably and for multiple purchases. This convenience means customers are likely to spend more time shopping and buy more items, which increases sales . A variety of cart and basket types allows shoppers greater control over the customer experience, which means greater customer loyalty and more repeat business.