Today I saw a very interesting study
carried out by Which? Magazine about the performance of the 9 biggest supermarkets in the UK. The thing that caught my eye was the main
headline, stating that Aldi have beaten Waitrose based on overall customer
This may appear to be a surprising
finding, and looks even more
surprising when you read more of the detail.
Each supermarket was rated on several key equities:
- Store appearance
- Queuing time
- Staff availability
- Range of products
- Quality of
- Quality of fresh products
- Value for money
Looking at all of this, Waitrose outperforms
Aldi on every measure bar one – value for money.
This leads me to three conclusions.
The first seems clear; value for money is exceptionally important to
consumers at present, and this seems to be letting Waitrose down. Aldi and Lidl both scored 5 out of 5,
and lie 1st and 3rd on the list. Waitrose has the worst score (2 out of 5) and
this has moved it down into 4th place. While they may argue that they are positioned
as a premium outlet, it won’t have passed them by that M&S are 2nd
on the list, faring better than them on value for money. So either people
believe M&S is cheaper, or they feel they’re getting a better quality product for their money. This is
potentially more concerning if you’re Waitrose, suggesting an improvement in
perceived quality is necessary for them to claw back some points in this area.
The second conclusion is more interesting to
me. From the league table sorted by
customer satisfaction we can see that scoring well across the list of
categories doesn’t automatically lead to a high overall score. If we add up all the equity scores
(admittedly a horribly simplistic and crude method), Aldi scores 24 and Sainsbury’s, which comes in last place, scores
27. The thing to remember however, is that Aldi
and Sainsbury’s are competing against different shopper expectations. The experience that shoppers are
satisfied with in Aldi looks like it’s a lot lower than many other mainstream
supermarkets. Waitrose (which scores 30
across the 7 categories) has a much higher bar to reach before customers are
satisfied, and the fact that Waitrose shoppers are spending more money means they expect
something higher, which doesn't seem to be adequately provided at present (certainly as Aldi are meeting - and possibly surpassing - their shoppers lower expectations.)
The third, and final, conclusion comes from looking towards the bottom, notably Sainsbury’s. My opinion on this is that there is confusion around Sainsbury’s positioning. Is it a premium supermarket, or is it more mainstream? I believe there are probably more differences in the consumers that frequent Sainsbury’s, and perhaps this makes it difficult to communicate a brand message that satisfies the whole audience. Aldi and Lidl have a discount, value for money approach that clearly resonates and appeals to their customer base. M&S and Waitrose have premium reputations, with higher quality produce and prices to reflect that. Tesco, ASDA, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s sit in that difficult middle ground with the highest volume of shoppers - but, as proven here, the more heterogeneity in your consumer group the harder it is to satisfy them all.
Each supermarket faces its own challenges. And in this current shopper landscape with increased scepticism and such huge variety of choice, it's about far more than just being better than the rest. Brands need to constantly be adapting and bettering themselves to stay ahead of the game, and relevant to the consumer of today. I will certainly be keeping my eyes peeled to see how some of these supermarkets go about achieving that!
Gareth Pritchard is Associate Director of Statistics & Analytics at MMR