david lawrence

In times gone by, where a family shopped belied its identity. Supermarkets had a bond with their shoppers, a connection that went beyond the exchange of goods for cash.

Now, however, loyal shoppers are increasingly becoming a thing of the past. A recent study we conducted shows 60% of shoppers will visit several different brands to complete their weekly shop, cherry-picking the cheapest and best from each.

Not only are today’s shoppers increasingly disloyal, they are instilling this in the next generation. The study shows 40% of families with young children have changed where they shop in the past year - well above the national average of 24%.

The joy of supermarkets has always been in finding all you need under one roof, but if consumers are now going out of their way to visit multiple stores, they must be getting increasingly foot-weary in the process. But, in the hunt for the best prices, shoppers have until now been happy to put in the time. Our research points to everyday low prices being the major pull factor for shoppers switching brands; 28% of those who have changed where they shop in the past year cited this as the main reason.

Testament to this is that a huge proportion of grocers’ marketing spend is focused on promoting cheap products and value for money. With all the supermarkets singing the same song, there is little chance for any one brand to stand out, and for consumers to become tired of the tune.

Now, however, with wages rising steadily, we are seeing the first increase in spending power in years, which as a marketeer - someone who watches and evaluates the ever-changing market landscape - leads me to wonder what the future holds.

Perhaps we can look elsewhere in retail for answers, to the entertainment sector. Shops exclusively selling CDs and DVDs have largely disappeared from our high streets, but music is no less important to us. In fact, live music is more popular than ever. Tickets to the 2015 Glastonbury festival sold out in 26 minutes, despite rocketing prices.

Consumers hanker for the experiential, which the savvy retailer knows only too well. Take John Lewis, for example, investing £14m in revamping its Oxford Street store; and The Co-op, investing in 1,000 more staff to meet the rise in footfall from little-and-often shoppers. Happier customers spend more.

Online shopping has been a revelation, but it can never replace the experience of visiting a store and choosing the ripest pear. Like music, shopping is in our DNA. It’s not just about doing the chores, it’s about socialising, exploring, trying new things - deliver that, and you’ll have a loyal customer for life.

David Lawrence is head of insight at TCC