POLL: Shoppers prefer local grocers like Schnucks in new study

Schnucks ranks 11th in the digital category.

Michael Calhoun
January 20, 2020 - 9:45 am
Grocery bags

KMOX/Michael Calhoun

ST. LOUIS (KMOX) -- The neighborhood grocery store is back on the minds of American shoppers. More are looking to "strong regional grocers" instead of the national big boxes.

Convenience, value, and quality products are the most important factors to food consumers today, according to the annual "Retailer Preference Index" by data science firm dunnhumby.

The biggest complaint about the general industry might be empty shelves.

Grocery words
via dunnhumby

The top store in this study is H-E-B from Texas, but Publix in the south and Wegmans in the northeast rank also high.

How's Schnucks compare?

"I think Schnucks is doing a very good job. They're really getting out in front of a lot of trends. For example, I know they've got robots in a lot of their stores," says Jon Springer, executive editor of Winsight Grocery Business.

In fact, Schnucks ranks 11th in the digital category. That "means having an easy-to-shop online or mobile app-based experience."

Kids can make shopping more difficult, customers are quoted as saying, but delivery can cost too much and yield inconsistent results. The study rewarded retailers with digital features that save time and overcome inconveniences.

Schnucks spent the last year beefing up its mobile app and rewards program. In 2018, it partnered with startup Instacart for delivery. Last year, it added curbside pick-up.

Springer says: "That's the idea: meeting the customer where they want to shop."

Grocery rankings
via dunnhumby
Then it's no surprise that Schnucks "made the biggest strides" in the "discounts, rewards, and information" category. It went from ranked 42nd before to ranked 21st now.

St. Louisans are noticing Schnucks' tech and branding investments and "are rewarding them with improved Customer perception."

That's good news for getting shoppers through the door.

"Companies will tell you that the shoppers who engage with them digitally in addition to shopping at stores tend to be their best customers," Springer says.

Several local grocery brands, along with Costco, were rated as most recession-proof in part because their customers are less likely to also shop at Walmart.

The authors caution regional grocery companies must avoid being distracted by digital as a "shiny object" and instead focus on the basics -- keeping shelves stocked and prices consistent.