Trust the key as grocery shopping trends fluctuate

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 13th October 2009

Shopper trust in brands and retailers is playing an increasingly important role in the purchasing process, according to new research from the UK .

Shoppercentric, an independent agency specialising in shopper behaviour research, found that trust is more than a corporate issue – it’s something that shoppers consider at two levels: ‘corporate integrity’ – which relates to corporate responsibility, staff / supplier treatment, transparency, consistency and heritage; and ‘tangible delivery’ – about the business’ ability to meet the shopper’s individual needs and expectations during the actual purchase process.

The purpose of the new research was to find out what trust means to shoppers: what they are thinking about when deciding whether or not a brand or retailer is trustworthy; and what role it has in the decision making processes. Also trust in the context of shopper purchase decisions, and whether trust – in brands and in retailers – is being re-considered as a result of the recession.

“Shoppers don’t spontaneously talk about trust as a purchase decision factor in its own right, and yet they recognise that trust is playing a role in their decisions,” Danielle Pinnington, Managing Director at Shoppercentric, advised. “In our research it emerged that trust is an amalgamation of a whole range of factors that a shopper may take into consideration when judging whether or not they want to shop in a certain retailer or buy a particular brand.”

“At a very basic level, shopper trust is created when a retailer or brand delivers against a shopper’s needs or expectations – you have to be delivering at the coal face – at the point of purchase. Failure to deliver against these – even on just one occasion – can undermine a shopper’s trust to the detriment of the retailer or brand. Trust cannot be built quickly but once gained can be a very powerful factor in determining repeat purchase / custom.”

The survey also looked into a variety of current trends in the context of a recessionary impact on trust:
* Cost cuts: 22 per cent of Shoppers have been forced to re-evaluate their needs due to budgetary constraints.

* Promotions: 92 per cent of shoppers are buying into more promotions now than 12 months ago. However retailers are awash with special offers and promotions so shoppers are no longer buying on the basis of trust in the original price but on the reduced price instead.

* Retailers: 38 per cent of shoppers are using stores they didn’t use before.

* Brands vs Own Labels: 56 per cent of shoppers are trading down from branded goods to supermarket own label products, and from supermarket top tier own label to lower tiers.

* Filling the experience gap – When shoppers make purchasing decisions for retailers that they have no experience with, 64 per cent of shoppers rely on word of mouth to help them fill the gap in their trust equation and 37 per cent would reference online reviews.

* Indeed, all shoppers interviewed claimed that they would access direct experience through either word of mouth or reviews, whereas only 71 per cent of shoppers would reference company funded information sources such as advertising or the company website.

* Type of product – the trust building strategy needs to reflect both the nature of the product being purchased and the channel. For example, the research findings show that searching for a suitable retailer from which to buy an electrical item, the shopper is willing to invest more effort in filling the experience gap than she might if she needed to find a new grocery retailer. For example, on-line reviews become more important (63 per cent compared to 35 per cent looking for information about a grocery store).

* Type of information being sought for new purchases – The amount of research a shopper does for Tangible Delivery information (pricing policies, ranges, quality proposition, and convenience) Vs Corporate Integrity varies dependent on the type of retailer being sought. For example, with grocery retailers, customers are more interested in pricing and ranges than corporate and social responsibility (100 Vs 49 per cent) but for a coffee brand, the difference is much smaller – 99 Vs 60 per cent. It shows that the coffee provider for example needs to communicate its reputation more effectively than a grocery retailer in order to adequately fill the experience gap.

“As a result of these changes, … the nature of consumer trust (is altered),” Ms Pinnington explained. “If a shoppers circumstances are changing, so are their needs. Also if the way a store or brand market themselves changes, so too will shoppers expectations. Finally if the stores/brands shoppers are buying into are changing, their experiences will also differ.”