The latest in-depth research amongst over 4,000 British shoppers from business consultancy Yonder has shown that the traditional top four supermarkets are now the bottom four when it comes to delivering customer satisfaction.
The customer satisfaction survey, which examined a complex series of changing consumer needs during the COVID-19 pandemic, compared nine supermarkets with online delivery giant Ocado coming top, followed by German discounters Aldi and Lidl in second and third place.
They were trailed by the traditional ‘Big Four’ supermarkets including Sainsbury’s (4th), Morrison’s (5th), ASDA (6th) and Tesco (7th).
Despite positive praise for its tactical responses to COVID-19, the research found that Waitrose (8th) was performing the worst in meeting its customers’ needs.
Manfred Abraham, Co-CEO of consultancy Yonder, which commissioned the customer satisfaction research said: “For supermarkets COVID-19 has driven demand with customers changing their habits and needs which has seen shopping baskets get fuller and more valuable.”
“With high streets shut down for November, demand for bigger supermarkets and branches in the right locations will continue to rise. However, the potential-filled end of year period shouldn’t mask the fact the sector is on the verge of more long-term disruption. This will come from outside competition from the ecommerce and delivery giants that are forming exciting new partnerships, changing consumer preferences for direct retailing, Brexit and a recession.”
Customer-centric formula delivers
Ocado’s friendly Customer Service Agents, whose reputation was built upon delivering shopping to customers kitchens and taking old plastic bags away has put it in good stead – despite the restrictions of lockdown. Its customers saying the company helps them feel more connected to people outside their home than any of the physical supermarkets.
Abraham continued: “Despite a year of change and disruptions, Ocado’s formula works well – the fact is, having a helpful agent knocking on the door makes customers feel the brand and service centres around them and their lives.
“Christmas should be a stellar season for Ocado, whose delivery slots are already booking up. For the rest of the sector, the opportunity lies in being part of customer’s need for celebration ahead of Christmas, but crucially, to provide security, continuity and the ability to deal with change – without these factors, life will only become harder.”
Waitrose – famed for its customer service and recognised for its responses to COVID was the bottom ranked supermarket, when it came to providing customer security, helping customers deal with changing circumstances, or helping them feel connected to people outside of their households.
Abraham added: “Having worked hard to create a sense of belonging amongst customers and embracing technology as one of first to offer self-scanning devices, the restrictions of Coronavirus is being felt more by Waitrose customers than any others.
“This isn’t necessarily to say that Waitrose has made glaring errors, but that it needs to reassess its customers deep-seated needs and consider just how different life is for their customers now, compared to before the pandemic hit.”
Innovation, imagination and partnerships
Abraham continues: “The supermarket sector has more opportunity for growth and success in front of it than any other – they have been there for people when needed most which is why it has ranked above most other sectors in supporting customers during lockdown.
“However, we’ve also seen people’s ability to embrace change and do things differently has never been greater and there have been long-term changes in business which are now coming to the fore.
“The formation of new partnerships for instant online delivery through ecommerce giants or food delivery companies puts a question mark over the return of the bigger, weekly shops and of the Big Four’s ability to deliver a high quality of service for their online offerings.
“This last quarter will be key as the supermarkets need to navigate the Christmas rush, manage the implications of a second wave of coronavirus with more lockdowns and prepare for the impacts of Brexit and the tightening of purse strings as the economy stutters.
“If supermarkets can deliver customer satisfaction throughout 2020 and maintain a healthy pace of innovation, they will stand themselves in the best stead for long term growth.”
Top performing retail brands according to customer experience in 2020
|Supermarket Ranking||Customer Experience
Sector top 20
|Experience Rank compared to top 66 UK consumer brands||
Sample size (customer base)
|Brand||Feel secure||Create special moments||Have things to look forward to||Feel connected to friend and family||Have a sense of purpose||Live your life to the fullest||Have a sense of freedom||Feel a sense of normality||Cope with changes to circumstances||Know you are not alone||Total Score|