The average ACSI score for all supermarkets was 78 (based on a 100-point scale using data from roughly 300,000 customer interviews) with 15 out of 20 supermarket chains showing declines in customer satisfaction scores.
“There is a slump in customer satisfaction in every category of the retail sector,” said David VanAmburg, managing director at ACSI. "Considering the importance of retail to overall consumer spending, this decline is a big deal.”
Except for the convenience of store location and hours (85), all elements of the grocery shopping experience were worse compared to a year ago, according to ACSI data.
Brand names were less available (81), as was merchandise selection (80). Inventory stocks were down as well (-2% to 79). The quality of meat and produce had lessened (-2% to 81) and shoppers said stores weren't as clean and well laid out as they used to be (81).
"Supermarket customer service is showing the same strains as other retail categories. Service personnel are less helpful and courteous in person (81) and over the phone (call center satisfaction is down 3% to 78). The checkout process is slower and rates lowest at 75," said ACSI.
The bright spots for the supermarket sector included Trader Joe's and Wegmans that scored the highest (86 and 85, respectively) both increasing their score by 1% from the previous year.
Customers noted that both retailers provided strong and friendly customer service as well as fast checkout speed.
Aldi and Publix tied for third place with a score of 84. Walmart was at the bottom of the list scoring 72, a 1% drop from 2017.
Whole Foods saw a decline between 2017 and 2018, according ACSI.
"For Whole Foods, its acquisition by Amazon does not appear to have boosted the company in the eyes of its customers as satisfaction sinks 2% to 79," ACSI noted.
According to consumers, the internet offers the most satisfying way to shop, but customer satisfaction still dropped by 2.4% between 2017 and 2018 to a score of 80. While Amazon may hold the largest share of the internet retail market with top spot since 2010, a new e-commerce leader has emerged, according to ACSI.
"Costco overtakes Amazon as the most satisfying online retailer with a score of 83—matching its in-store rating for both the department/discount and supermarket categories," said ACSI.
Costco offers 10,000 products on its website and app and its expanded online offerings has resulted in a 21% increase in online sales since July 2018.
"The membership-based warehouse also posted its best growth performance in four years. Costco is the value leader among online retailers and its Kirkland brand may be part of the reason why; Kirkland manufactures quality products at low cost, which helps keep competing brand prices low."
ACSI also measure customer satisfaction with grocery mobile apps scoring 82 in quality and convenience. Website satisfaction, on the otherhand, did not fare as well among consumers.
"Supermarket mobile apps debut with a score of 82 for both quality and reliability, but website satisfaction falls 2% to 80, which is problematic as online grocery shopping becomes more popular. Website satisfaction varies among supermarkets, and those that don’t perform well will have difficulty competing," said. ACSI.