Sainsbury’s and Co-op most likely to poach rivals’ customers

Sainsbury’s and The Co-operative are best placed to attract new customers away from their rivals by playing on the appeal of “community” and “pleasure” values rather than just price in marketing communications, according to a new study. 

The Supermarket UK report by Starcom MediaVest claims that because all the supermarkets are competing on price and price matching each other, the major retailers must differentiate on other levels and help shoppers to enjoy life and the shopping experience to alleviate the “doom and gloom”.

Community and pleasure values were rated the most important factors by most of the major six retailers’ customers, and includes concerns about the local neighbourhood and personal communities of friends and family.

The report also showed that Asda and Sainsbury’s will be the supermarkets competing to compete most heavily next year, because their customer base has the most similar value profile.

Morrisons is likely to maintain a strong degree of customer loyalty because it most differentiated customer base to the rest of the supermarkets. Its customers rated responsibility and autonomy as more important than community and pleasure, which ranked highest for the other stores.

Stewart Easterbrook, CEO of Starcom MediaVest, says the report is designed to highlight retailers’ ability to differentiate in other ways because price has become a “hygiene” factor in the supermarket sector.

“Retail is a very immediate sector in terms of response and communications through the tough economic environment and as we approach even tougher times, we have observed a tendency to be driven towards very tactical and price led activity,” he says.

“We’re attempting to demonstrate that there are  alternative battlegrounds. We understand the pressure that retailers are under but the study shows that consumers are very engaged in areas like community and pleasure.”

Attachment to brands is almost always emotional but by focusing so heavily on practical price messaging, supermarkets aren’t giving consumers enough space to engage with their brand on an emotional level, according to Easterbrook.

Starcom MediaVest used the SpaceID Semiometrie research tool to “measure consumers’ subconscious warmth” to 210 words and create a profile of their values.

The study is the first in a series of reports planned by Starcom MediaVest into changing supermarket consumer behaviour and how the big retailers will need to adapt their media and marketing plans in response.

The next stage of the report, on social media and online advocacy, is due later this year.

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