Blog Loyalty

Grocery consumer loyalty trends: Shopping for summer meals

Blog Loyalty

As the weather warms up and summer vacations begin, grocery shoppers are busy planning for the summertime meals and barbecues they’ll be enjoying with family and friends this year. But while many of these gatherings are steeped in tradition, these consumers may not be purchasing the same brands or shopping at the same retailers they have in the past.

After facing budget constraints and experiencing empty shelves over the past few years, grocery shoppers are more willing to try new brands. These disruptions have changed shoppers’ perceptions of brand loyalty — in fact, they’ve changed the way shoppers define “loyalty.”

While these shifts mean brands and retailers must look toward new strategies for engaging customers, this new era of loyalty also presents opportunities for brands to differentiate themselves from competitors to drive brand loyalty among new and existing customers.

A recent study by 84.51° found that shopper “loyalty” does not guarantee brand purchases, and there is no consensus on its definition. Our research shows that more than 30% of respondents define loyalty based on their purchase behavior, while 24% define it based on consideration and 43% perceive it to be based on preference. With varying definitions driving consumer perceptions of loyalty, brands have a prime opportunity to reimagine their own approach to loyalty.

No matter how they define loyalty, with high prices pinching their budgets, shoppers are looking for ways to make sure their dollars are well spent as they plan their summer meals and barbecues.

U.S. Department of Agriculture research shows the Consumer Price Index for the food-at-home category (grocery store or supermarket food purchases) was 8.4% higher in March 2023 than March 2022. Food-at-home prices are also predicted to increase 6.6% in 2023.

These rising prices are making value top of mind for many shoppers. When asked about the most important factor in informing their decision on what grocery and household items to buy, more than 60% of respondents said it’s that the brand is a good value for the money. Similarly, the factor respondents named as most important in informing where they shop was that the retailer has good sales/promotions (32%).

The importance of these factors can vary significantly between age groups. Offering free items is a top loyalty driver for shoppers ages 35-44, but brands must deliver on their promise to be in the consideration set for 55-64-year-olds. And shoppers ages 65 and older are most concerned that a brand is a good value for the money. These shifting priorities offer brands unique opportunities to reach these different groups in more meaningful ways.

Brand loyalty is strong in several grocery and household item categories that often play a role in summer meals. Our research found that the categories with the highest loyalty among summer staples include soft drinks (50%), bag snacks ( 32%), paper towels and ice cream and frozen treats (29%). The category with the lowest brand loyalty (14%) was refrigerated juice.

Customer loyalty is also strengthening in some of these categories. Nearly a quarter (24%) of respondents said they are more loyal to their preferred brand of soft drinks than they were last year, and 21% said they are more loyal to their preferred ice cream/frozen treats brands than in the previous year.

While loyalty is strengthening in some areas, it’s important to note that to many shoppers, loyalty no longer means exclusivity. Our research found that to amajority of shoppers, brand loyalty means buying a brand “most often” while being open to purchasing other brands.

More than one quarter (26%) of respondents said they have a preferred brand but are willing to try other brands, and another 24% said being loyal means it is one of the top – but not the only – brand they consider. The same can be said for retailer loyalty. Only 6% of shoppers defined retailer loyalty as shopping at one retailer for all their needs, while 29% described it as a retailer where they shop “most often.”

As shoppers consider a wider variety of brands and retailers for their summer meals and barbecues, even brands that enjoy a high level of loyalty need to give shoppers a reason to remain faithful. Loyalty programs that engage shoppers in meaningful ways can help increase an emotional connection that keeps them coming back.

Budget constraints and supply disruptions have changed customer expectations and attitudes about brand loyalty. To better understand how to earn the loyalty of both new and current shoppers this summer, dive into our new white paper, The loyalty shift decoded: Key insights for winning shopper devotion in an uncertain economy.

Download the white paper

If you’d like to learn more about consumer loyalty trends in grocery shopping behavior and how to leverage them, here are some additional pieces that might interest you:

Cheddar News: Pandemic Sparks Big Shift in Brand Loyalty: In this interview, Barbara Connors, 84.51° vice president, Commercial Insights, shares how inflation and supply shortages related to the COVID-19 pandemic has forced shoppers to rethink their purchases.

The Cost of Convenience: Declining Brand Loyalty: Research shows that grocery is the category in which shoppers are most interested in making a switch. This article by Libby Stagnaro, senior media account manager at 84.51°, explains the role of convenience in that declining brand loyalty and how to combat it.

Loyalty 360: Brand switching – Where trade-downs are likely and how to keep your best customers buying: Over the past year, price and availability has become more important to many shoppers than buying their favorite brands. In this article, Becky Eldredge, 84.51° vice president, Commercial Loyalty, reveals which categories face the most risk and how brands can increase retention.

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