The American Customer Satisfaction Index is a national economic survey of customer evaluations of the quality of products and services available to household consumers in the US across the retail sector. The index uses data from interviews with roughly 500,000 customers annually to compile its annual report.
Three-way tie: Trader Joe's, Wegmans, H-E-B
Trader Joe's, Wegmans, and H-E-B all ranked first in customer satisfaction with a common score of 84 (out of 100), ahead of Whole Foods (owned by Amazon) with a score of 79. Last year, Trader Joe's came out on top ahead of every other retailer measured.
"While it no longer holds this position alone, Trader Joe’s remains a pacesetter across much of the customer experience and a leader for its quality of service. Wegmans, with a focus on local markets, wins top marks for the quality of its meat and produce," the report noted.
Another trio of chains are just a point behind the leaders: Aldi, Costco, and Publix all tie with scores of 83. According to the report, Publix has long been a top-tier supermarket performer and its stores rate best in class for layout and cleanliness.
The grocery business of BJ’s Wholesale Club shows the largest gain in the industry. BJ’s rose 4% from 2018 to a score of 82, driven by an increase in customer perceptions of value.
The biggest US grocer, Kroger, is unchanged at 79 following a drop in 2018. The store remains tied with the group of smaller supermarkets for a fourth straight year.
Target's grocery business increased its customer satisfaction score by 1% to 79 between 2018 and 2019.
What impacts a retailer's score?
The report ranked specific aspects of the customer shopping experience including convenience of store location and hours, layout and cleanliness, quality and freshness of meat and produce, reliability of the mobile app, and ability to provide brand names. Out of all these aspects, retailers either remained stable with the same score for 2019 and 2018 or improved in certain aspects.
Digital tech innovation
Customer satisfaction with supermarkets is stable after slipping one year ago, but this could all change over the next few years as the grocery retail market is primed for further disruption, according to 2019-2020 American Customer Satisfaction Index.
A lot of digital and tech innovation has hit the mainstream grocery channel with the advent of cashierless checkouts and wallet-free mobile phone payment options, intended to make the in-store shopping experience faster and simpler. According to the report, however, these features have yet to have a measurable impact on shopper satisfaction in the grocery store as they have in other retail sectors such as department stores and specialty retail stores (apparel and non-consumable goods).
"While these industries are focusing on all things digital, tech innovation has yet to gain enough traction with consumers to boost customer satisfaction," the report stated.
Despite this, retailers are still pushing ahead in this space, according to the report.
"Meanwhile, traditional grocers are fast moving into the online grocery space, as well as rolling out new technology intended to make in-store shopping easier."
Today, for instance, Amazon opened its first Amazon Go Grocery store in Seattle, a larger format with more food departments (e.g. meat, seafood, produce) than the 25 Amazon Go convenience stores that have cropped up across the US.
"Customers continue to chase the best, most convenient shopping experience available, and right now online is king. Customers can find what they need more easily and aren’t pestered by sales people. When you look at online versus brick and mortar head-to-head, online wins every time,” said David VanAmburg, managing director at the American Customer Satisfaction Index.