3 Market Research Options for Grocery Stores

woman looking at food at a grocery store

If you make decisions for a retail grocery chain, I give you serious credit. 

It is no easy feat to obtain reliable feedback from customers on what they like and dislike about shopping at your grocery stores.

Complicated survey links on the bottom of a footlong receipt just don’t get the job done these days.

Thankfully, there are many types of market research available to grocery store managers and marketers to collect shopper feedback. This post will cover three of my favorite market research options for grocery stores that are sure to reveal valuable insights.

Short on time? Here is our video briefly covering these same three options:


Benefits of Conducting Market Research as a Grocery Store

Before diving into market research options for grocery stores, I want to clarify the advantages of conducting research in the first place. 

Perhaps most important of all, customer experience is critical to the success of a retail grocery store chain.

Every trip to a store is an opportunity to impress a customer and strengthen loyalty. Market research allows a grocery chain to evaluate its existing in-store experiences and identify areas of improvement.

In the end, those in leadership roles at the grocery store can take informed action to optimize the shopper experience. Use these results to bolster existing store locations or influence the planning of new locations.

In addition to taking a close look at internal experiences, research also has the potential to assess customer experiences with competitors. This allows you to compare and contrast every facet of the grocery shopping experience with competitive chains to understand how to better position your brand in the market.

At the market level, grocery stores also stand to benefit by collecting feedback from the communities they serve (including non-customers). A grocery store chain can measure important metrics such as unaided awareness, aided awareness, perception, and word associations.

The metrics gained from these market research options for grocery stores can serve as benchmarks for internal tracking purposes. They can also be compared with competitive metrics.

💡 The Key Takeaway: There is no shortage of reasons for grocery store chains to get their feet wet with market research. Each type of retail market research report equips the decision-makers with data-driven information to fuel sales, marketing, and operational strategies.


Market Research Option #1: Intercept Surveys

A classic retail marketing research methodology that can help any grocery store chain is an intercept survey.

Intercept surveys are a form of in-person research in which an interviewer (or kiosk) interacts with individuals who walk past and prompts them to complete a survey. The survey is often administered via a handheld tablet programmed with the desired questions.

In the context of the grocery retail industry, shoppers may be asked to participate in a brief survey (often incentivized) on their way out of the store. The questions can cover a wide range of elements based on their shopping experience for that trip. 

Recent research showed that up to 62% of Baby Boomers and 58% of Gen Z’ers prefer to shop in an actual store. Even with the rise of online grocery shopping, in-person research methods like intercept surveys are still a useful tool in the industry. 

Imagine capturing data for hundreds of customers about checkout, parking, employee interactions, ease of finding products, and other aspects of the trip.

Intercepts would be considered a good fit if you were looking to learn more about shopper experiences within particular stores or geographic regions.

A benefit of this methodology is how you can more easily reach less tech-savvy customers for better representation in the data versus online research.

💡 The Key Takeaway: Intercept surveys offer incredibly accurate in-the-moment data for grocery stores about the customer experience. These surveys are a great way to capture actionable feedback at the store level.

Recommended Reading: How Do Intercept Surveys Work?


Market Research Option #2: Shop-Alongs

Shoppers make a series of many quick decisions during every trip to their grocery store.

Understanding this customer journey from the moment they arrive at the store is imperative for grocery store chains. Therefore, one of the best market research options for grocery stores is a shop-along.

Shop-alongs are a market research methodology in which an interviewer accompanies a recruited shopper as they shop throughout the store. 

The interviewer usually greets the shopper once they arrive, then observes, takes notes, and asks questions as the shopper walks down aisles and interacts with grocery products.

For the grocery retail industry, shop-alongs examine the decision-making of its customers. 

Common themes and questions discussed in a shop-along include: 

  • Where shoppers start in the store 
  • How shoppers fill their cart 
  • What brands shoppers prefer 
  • Who shoppers purchase for 
  • How long do they typically shop

Individual grocery brands also make a great fit for shop-alongs. In this scenario, the focus is on a particular aisle or department within the store.

Recruited shoppers might be probed on different brands (including the client brand), how they perceive the display, and ultimately how they make their decision on the product category. 

💡 The Key Takeaway: With 75% of consumers choosing to purchase from brands that personalize the shopping experience, shop-alongs are a fantastic way to gather reliable feedback. They reveal how grocery shoppers make decisions at every step during a typical trip. 

Recommended Reading: How to Survey Grocery Store Shoppers and Boost Retail Foot Traffic 


Market Research Option #3: Mobile Ethnography

If a grocery store chain has never conducted market research before (especially qualitative research), mobile ethnography may be an enlightening option.

Ethnography on its own is the research study of individuals in their natural environment to understand their behaviors, values, and beliefs. 

For more context, mobile ethnography is a methodology in which a research participant uses their mobile device to record themselves in their own words. These entries may take the form of text, photos, or videos.

How could mobile ethnography help a grocery store chain?

Research participants provide a diary of their experience with a grocery store.

They are posed questions (usually via a mobile app) that allow them to speak in-depth about their thoughts and feelings as they relate to the store.

For example, a mobile ethnography study may ask participants to talk through what is important to them as they shop for each product.

The result is feedback that is detailed and as close to the reality of the customer experience as possible. The insights may not be as obvious as a focused survey or in-depth discussion, but you often walk away with incredibly valuable takeaways.

💡 The Key Takeaway: Mobile ethnography helps grocery store managers and marketers understand the inner dialogue of shoppers as they select a store and navigate it once they arrive. It eliminates as much bias as it can to leave you with reliable insights into the grocery retail industry. 


Contact Our Retail Market Research Company

Drive Research is a retail and CPG market research company ready to take on your next big grocery store retail project. Our team of skilled experts possesses the deep knowledge to create the best possible research project for your business. 

Want to learn more about our market research services? Talk to us through any of the ways below.

  1. Message us on our website
  2. Email us at [email protected]
  3. Call us at 888-725-DATA
  4. Text us at 315-303-2040

tim gell - about the author

Tim Gell

As a Research Analyst, Tim is involved in every stage of a market research project for our clients. He first developed an interest in market research while studying at Binghamton University based on its marriage of business, statistics, and psychology.

Learn more about Tim, here.


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