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Which grocers are tops in customer experience?

Leger’s annual WOW Index ranks retailers on their performance – in-store and online
longo's exterior
In Ontario, No. 1 grocer Longo’s earned a score of 74.8 out of 100.

In the grocery category, Longo’s delivers the best in-store customer experience in Ontario, Choices Market tops the list in Western Canada, and Avril wins in Quebec, according to Leger’s latest annual ranking. 

The research firm’s 2024 WOW Index is based on online surveys of recent visitors in each region. Brick-and-mortar retailers in 25 sectors were evaluated against 16 customer experience dimensions, such as product quality, price competitiveness, staff attentiveness, store layout, efficiency at checkout, and customer loyalty and recognition. Each retailer was given a score out of 100. 

In Ontario, No. 1 grocer Longo’s earned 74.8, followed by Fortinos (72.6), Zehrs (71.8), Whole Foods Market (71.5) and Food Basics (70.9). 

In Western Canada, Choices Market scored 74.1, followed by Fresh St. Market (72.4), Whole Foods Market (71.1), Co-op Food (70.1) and Nesters Market (69.2). 

In Quebec, Avril earned 78.6, followed by Metro/Metro Plus (72.7), Rachelle-Béry (69.5), Super C (69.1) and T&T Supermarché (68.7). 

READ: Longo's to open new store in Mississauga

“Most of the players in [the grocery] sector are seeing a decline in their WOW scores compared to last year,” said Christian Bourque, executive vice-president at Leger, at a recent webinar discussing the survey results from Ontario and Quebec. “We know it’s been one of the hardest hit sectors in terms of price increases and challenges when it comes to getting the product on the shelf at a price that is decent for consumers… And consumers are basically showing some of the impact of that in terms of [grocers’] overall score.”

Notably, in Ontario, frozen food retail chain M&M Food Market was ranked third in best in-store experiences among all 162 retailers across 21 sectors in the survey. With a score of 93.7, the retailer was behind second-place winner Lindt Chocolate Shop (95.7) and No. 1 overall retailer Lee Valley Tools (96.3). 

“Efficiency at the cash and efficiency of the overall shopping experience at M&M is where they rank extremely high,” Bourque said. The retailer is also rated highly for availability of staff in the store to help and customers appreciate the customization in M&M’s loyalty program. 

READ: Why grocers need to get creative with their rewards programs

Leger also looked at how rising prices have impacted buying habits among all retailers. In Ontario and Western Canada, 52% of consumers said they have changed their purchasing habits due to the current economic climate and rising prices. The ‘food’ category and the ‘natural products, vitamins and supplements’ category tied at third (59% each) for the sectors most impacted by shifts in buying habits. 

“In the case of grocery stores, we’re seeing changes in banners or the adoption of purchasing strategies such as increasing purchasing of private label, being more mindful of promotions and products that are on sale, and perhaps buying fewer premium products,” said Luc Dumont, senior VP, consumer insights at Leger. 

Digital WOW winners 

Leger also evaluated the online customer experience of 272 websites and mobile apps across 27 sectors. Retailers were evaluated on 14 non-transactional dimensions, such as look and feel, product discovery, navigation, delivery and returns. 

In the food category, Montreal-based Lufa Farms is No.1, with a score of 75.9. That’s followed by Metro in Quebec (74.4), PC Express from Loblaw/Provigo (72.8), Voilà by Sobeys/IGA (72.2) and Avril (71.3). 

READ: How to prepare your business for artificial intelligence

Bourque noted that Lufa Farms is a rooftop farming operation that delivers food baskets to people’s doors. Lufa Farms’ greenhouses total more than 300,000 square feet, and its online marketplace offers a full line of “fresh, local, responsible groceries,” according to the company. 

“They have a bit of a cult following among those who use Lufa Farms,” said Bourque. “They’re also said to deliver a great online experience as well… It’s really built on loyalty and they’re a pure-play online retailer and get rewarded with a fairly high score.” 

As part of the digital survey, Leger also looked at consumer attitudes towards tech tools. On average, 31% of consumers would be more interested in shopping at a retailer if it offered a more technologically innovative experience (for example, customer service robots, touch screens and self-checkouts). 

READ: What is happening to self-checkout?

“On the flip side, you’ve got a big chunk of people who would not be interested, and therefore, not forgetting that the human factor needs to be part of the experience is really key,” said Dumont. 

When it comes to specific technologies, just over half of consumers (51%) are open to using self-checkouts. That’s followed by touch screens (45%), receiving promotional offers while in store (39%), click-and-collect (39%) and connected payment system, for example, a cashless store or connected shopping cart (35%). 

“The most interesting one here is the self-service checkout that we’re quite used to seeing,” said Dumont. “About half of people like it…[and] the other half don’t like it. So, if at all possible, do not go down the path of replacing every single person with a self-service checkout because only half of the people are open to that concept.” 

The full report can be downloaded here.

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