Product quality is now the most ‘critically important’ expectation to grocery shoppers followed by great customer service, according to new research from research agency Shoppercentric. 

The latest ‘Shopper Stock Take Index’ surveyed more than 1,000 UK shoppers online about their feelings towards the grocery retail sector. It revealed 54% desired good quality fresh meat, fish and produce over anything else, while 50% marked customer service as most valuable, meaning competitive pricing has fallen into third place with 49%, down 11% from last year’s study. 

Having the cheapest prices was critically important to 37%, down by 6% year-on-year (YOY), while helping to save time rose 3% and ways to make their lives easier also grew 4%, as shoppers become even more time sensitive. 

This is reflected elsewhere in the study, as the number of shoppers who ‘rarely or never conducted a main shop’ increased by 11% to 16%. On average, shoppers visit six stores each fortnight as 60% agreed that they could save time shopping in a store they knew well - down from 67% in 2016. 

Of the five key channels covered by the report, convenience stores saw the biggest gains with 47% of shoppers using them in the past month (up 4%), reflecting their fit with changing shopping habits as 67% said they preferred to spend to benefit local businesses. Supermarkets were the only channel in decline (down 3% to 79%) while all others saw increased usage.

Danielle Pinnington, managing director at Shoppercentric, said: “The changing priorities for today’s UK shoppers are critical to note and retailers must recognise that price is but one part of the value equation, along with time efficiency as well as satisfaction. With low prices having almost become a given, the more added value elements are now performing a critical role in differentiating between competitors. The retail experience, of which service is a core part, is becoming more of a focus for shoppers who want to feel important to the retailer, rather than just being a walking wallet. 

“This year retailers must get amongst their shoppers, see retail through their eyes, build the stores, merchandise the categories and create the digital solutions that truly support the purchase process. Everything counts to the shopper as they continue to flex their spending powers.” 

Online grocery shopping on smartphones grew 3% to 27% and tablets by 1% to 21%. However, digital may not be best for marketing, as 33% of shoppers had never heard of mobile phone promotions while 75% who had heard of them never use them.