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Grocery retailers get high marks for personalization

H-E-B, Publix, Wegmans make KPMG top 100 list for customer experience

H-E-B, Publix Super Markets and Wegmans Food Markets were ranked among the top 10 companies across industries for providing personalized customer experiences, according to a study by KPMG LLP.

Grocery retail, in fact, finished No. 1 among the 10 industry sectors that KPMG examined, which also included restaurants and fast food, nongrocery retail, financial services, logistics, travel and hotels, entertainment and leisure, utilities, telecoms and the public sector.

Overall, 13 grocery retailers made the top 100 list in the KPMG 2018 U.S. Customer Experience Excellence Analysis, including nine supermarket chains.

The KPMG study looked at more than 7,500 U.S. consumers and 250 brands. To gauge companies’ level of individualization in serving consumers, KPMG rated the brands across “six pillars of customer experience excellence,” which include personalization, integrity, expectations, resolution, time and effort, and empathy.

Grocery retail had the highest score of all business sectors, with a 2018 customer experience excellence (CEE) metric of 7.93, just ahead of restaurants and fast food at 7.76 (No. 2) and nongrocery retail at 7.75 (No. 3). KPMG noted that grocery retail also tallied the highest scores of any sector across all six CEE pillars.

“Three grocery retailers — H-E-B, Publix and Wegmans — featured in the top 10 all moved up the rankings in the last year by continuing to demonstrate a knowledge of the customer that enables them to quickly adapt to changing needs,” KPMG stated.

“The leading grocery retailers demonstrate an immersive and often sensorial experience, which keeps them at the top of the rankings,” the New York-based professional advisory firm added.

Coming in at No. 4 among the top 100, H-E-B was described by consumers as “elevating the weekly grocery shop experience,” the study said.

H-E-B had a CEE score of 8. 49. “The stores offer impressive and unusual displays, such as a pepper stall that organizes products from ‘mild and nice’ to ‘super spicy’ and a nut butter station where customers can grind their own nut butter if they so wish,” KPMG explained.

The San Antonio-based grocer also ranked high with consumers for integrity. “The brand stands on a moral foundation, donating 5% of its pretax profits to charity, and a customer experience design that focuses on shoppers and the surrounding communities,” the report said. “H-E-B builds trust through its community behavior and its focus on doing the right thing for its customers.”

Southeastern supermarket chain Publix, based in Lakeland, Fla., was No. 6 overall with a CEE rating of 8.42. “The largest employee-owned store in the U.S., Publix is entirely focused on the experience it creates and how it fulfills its purpose of ‘making shopping a pleasure,’ ” said the study.

Publix associates show customers they care by being attentive, engaging and meticulous in maintaining the store, the report pointed out. “It is evident in the way stock is carefully stacked; it is showcased rather than displayed,” KPMG said. “In-store demonstrations add an additional touch. The meal of the day is demonstrated, and the ingredients to make it are located alongside the demonstration.”

Rochester, N.Y.-based Wegmans, with supermarkets in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, was described in the KPMG analysis as offering “almost telepathic levels of customer service.” The chain came in at No. 7 in the overall ranking with a CEE score of 8.41.

“Each Wegmans store boasts a huge selection of products. The average Wegmans store has twice the stock of a standard supermarket, including bountiful baked goods fresh from the oven, and a deftly displayed collection of some 500 cheeses. You’ll also find a bookstore, child play centers, a dry cleaner, a photo lab, international newspapers, a florist, a wine shop, a pharmacy and even an $850 espresso maker,” the report said. “The theme park nature of the store is completed with outgoing, highly knowledgeable staff eager to share their knowledge with customers and provide an outstanding experience.”

Other grocery retailers on the customer experience list were Whole Foods Market parent company Amazon (No. 10), Hy-Vee (No. 16), Trader Joe’s (No. 27), Hannaford (No. 29), Kroger (No. 31), Costco Wholesale (No. 36), BJ’s Wholesale Club (No. 62), ShopRite (No. 66), Meijer (No. 68) and Aldi (No. 79).

"In 2018, the concept of individuality and the unique sense of self remain equally relevant. However, now companies must not only show that they know their customers' names but that they know them as a person," commented Julio Hernandez, lead for KPMG's global Customer Center of Excellence and U.S. Customer Advisory. "Today's immediate-gratification consumers want to feel valued and recognized as an individual. In a world where consumers realize that their personal data has value, firms need to understand what information customers want to share and how they want to be engaged."

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