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SAS study: product availability biggest issue facing UK supermarkets

Cranfield School of Management and SAS study into attitudes towards marketing show consumers are highly engaged with direct mail but frustrated by products not in stock

24 January 2012 - SAS UK, the leader in business analytics, today releases the results of an in-depth study into consumer attitudes towards supermarket marketing. The research, carried out alongside Cranfield School of Management, shows that consumers are more engaged with their supermarket than their bank or mobile phone provider.

The majority of participants in the study (91%) had some engagement with their supermarket (be that via broadcast, personal experience, word of mouth etc) in a single month, versus 88% and 82% for bank and mobile providers respectively. But supermarkets need to update campaigns to cater for more online, mobile and social audiences. 

Key findings include:

  • Product availability, especially for promotional items, is a major frustration for customers and the rise of smartphones and social media is making it easier for them to complain publically – but also gives supermarkets more visibility into what is said.

  • Around 20% of consumers shared or received word of mouth experiences, and the experience overall was negative.

  • Supermarkets need to update their communication strategies away from TV and newspaper advertising pushing low price offers and instead focus on online and direct engagement to tailor communications to customers.

  • Direct mail is highly successful because of the customer insight generated by analytics to create relevant offers. But supermarkets are not applying the same principals to email, and success rates are low compared with other sectors. Consumers reached via email reported only a slightly positive effect – i.e. virtually in line with an untargeted broadcast - whereas those contacted via direct mail reported a clear positive effect.

  • 20% of supermarket's online interactions take place on the website, mostly customers doing their shopping. Those that do shop online say the experience is positive.

Charles Randall, solutions marketing manager at SAS UK, explains, “Supermarkets have worked very hard to improve service levels, and radio and in-store communications are helping them forge excellent relationships with the customer. 

Their highly personalised approach to direct mail driven by big data analytics has set the standard which other retailers are trying desperately to match. The downside of that is that now customers expect high levels of service as standard – and are quick to complain if they don't get it.

To address this, supermarkets must get better at incorporating data from emerging channels such as online, mobile and social media into loyalty programmes to create a more personalised and relevant  experience across all channels. There is also a clear opportunity for supermarkets to enhance their demand forecasting to maintain stock levels, even during promotions, to minimise customer dissatisfaction.

Consumers already relate strongly to their supermarket on a personal level. Add the intelligence delivered by an integrated analytics platform, and supermarkets have the means to build on this success, strengthening and reinforcing these thriving relationships."

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