The best and worst supermarkets in South Africa

Consulta has released its latest South African Customer Satisfaction Index (SAcsi) for supermarkets, looking at the overall level of customer satisfaction at South Africa’s big five supermarket brands – Woolworths, Pick n Pay, Spar, Checkers and Shoprite.

The SAcsi is a causal model that links customer expectations, perceived quality and perceived value to customer satisfaction (the SAcsi score), which in turn is linked to customer complaints and customer loyalty.

The 2018 sample for supermarkets included 1,619 customers who were randomly selected to participate in the independent survey which measures customers’ overall satisfaction and includes a Customer Expectations Index, a Perceived Quality Index and a Perceived Value Index.

While Woolworths maintained the best overall customer experience in the 2018 supermarkets index, it was with a decrease in overall score from 2016, while the differentiation is increasingly eroded between the top-performing brands, SAcsi said.

It added that the gap between Woolworths and the rest of the supermarkets measured is now too small to give Woolworths the outright best-in-category classification that they enjoyed before.

By comparison, focused strategic planning and implementation by Spar since 2014 on ‘convenience location’, freshly prepared foods and customer engagement are paying dividends, with Spar enjoying significant and consistent year-on-year improvements in almost all measures of customer satisfaction, it said.

# Brand 2017 Score 2018 Score Change
1 Woolworths 82.2 80.6 -1.6
2 Spar 75.2 77.8 +2.6
2 Checkers 77.2 77.8 +0.6
Industry Average 76.2 76.7 +0.5
4 Pick n Pay 76.5 75.7 -0.8
5 Shoprite 75.5 72.6 -2.9

Other notable findings included:

  • In tough economic times which South African consumers are currently experiencing, the price of goods is likely to influence consumer loyalty even though they are satisfied customers. It is important to note that price-motivated ‘loyalty’ is not permanent, so while customers may display less brand loyalty now, supermarkets cannot afford to stop investing in positive shopping experiences.
  • While Woolworths had the advantage of differentiation in the past in terms of in-store design, experience and packaging which appealed to the upper end of the market, competitors have made significant headway in this regard. Woolworths has failed to innovate in the in-store experience, while Checkers has made dramatic improvements to in-store presence as well as packaging. For many consumers, there has been a shift where consumers believe that they can now get equivalent quality, at lower cost.
  • Spar’s sustained focus on community involvement and a key strategic emphasis on convenience location since 2014 are bearing fruit. Spar has focused on getting the basics right and ensuring that they are able to deliver on being in-stock of every product, every day, making it the go-to for a convenient stop to get the daily incidentals which remains a key driver of consumer behaviour. South African consumers are facing an increasingly stressful, time-starved lifestyle which has created a burgeoning demand for convenient solutions that can help simplify their lives.

“While there were top performers in each of the measures of customer satisfaction, there were no outright winners who performed best across all categories and who are successfully managing all facets of customer satisfaction,” said Professor Adré Schreuder, SAcsi Founder and Chairperson.

“Similarly, while brands may have maintained their lead in certain measures, they have done so with decreasing scores when compared with previous years.”

Schreuder added that extreme economic pressure and the accelerating rate of technological developments are significantly influencing how consumers and shoppers behave, customer satisfaction is a big deal, while getting it right is complex and multi-faceted.

“We have come a very long way from when all it took was some customer service from efficient and friendly staff to do the job.

“The context of retail has evolved rapidly to extend across bricks and mortar experience to online and digital presence, while consumer drivers such as value, time, experience, healthy eating and ethical living are all culminating in a continuum of disconnect between shopper expectations and the retailer’s ability to satisfy them.”


Read: Big new changes for Pick n Pay Smart Shopper rewards

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The best and worst supermarkets in South Africa