Longo’s, Farm Boy and Whole Foods are one, two and three in a ranking of Ontario supermarket customer experience by Leger.
One of the common features of the three top brands is a higher degree of staff interaction, said Leger vice-president Michelle Carter. That means everything from customers being greeted at the front door, to an employee showing someone where the canned tomatoes are, to suggestions for the best ingredients for a dinner recipe.
“There is just a much more engaged staff level at those stores,” she said. “It is also that they are doing a lot more across a number of factors, whether it is store layout, ambience as you shop, as well as quality of product and product variety.”
The ranking, the “Wow Customer Experience Index,” is compiled by a survey of more than 20,000 people about shopping experiences, with each retailer (from 20 categories) assessed by 400 recent shoppers between mid September and mid October. Each brand was evaluated against 16 criteria such as store layout, signage, staff courtesy, competency, efficiency at checkout, price, product quality and variety. (See the full supermarket ranking below.)
High levels of customer service are part of a larger trend toward creating a more robust and engaging shopping experience overall, she said, pointing to the small but growing chain Nations, which just opened its fourth store in Toronto last month.
“It is much more experiential and I think that is going to drive some changes again,” she said.
For example, as Farm Boy pursues its aggressive growth strategy into the Greater Toronto Area, will the big Canadian grocery chains try to respond and improve their customer experience.
“People are very strong advocates of ,” she said. “Have you driven such a good customer experience that people are going to go out and do the advertising for you?”
Some of the big brands are trying to adapt by introducing expanded fresh bakery options or fresh sushi stations, for example. But it will be difficult to meet the standards of Whole Foods, Longo's and Farm Boy—or Nations—when so much of the experience of large chains has to be generic to be delivered at scale.