Which retailers have kept their experience engaging?

A Leger survey looks to Quebec for early signs of how consumers are responding to socially distanced shopping.

retail grocery carts

Quebec was the first province to announce the reopening of retail stores, with those outside of Montreal given the all-clear to open on May 11, with the province’s largest city reopening May 22. Now, a new survey has looked to the province as a signal of what post-reopening in-store elements have the biggest impact on a customer having a positive shopping experience.

Leger compiled its report from a survey of 1,006 Quebecers at the end of May, posing open, unaided questions.

Leger found 20% of respondents cited the Sobeys’ IGA banner as a brand that “succeeded in standing out to make [their] shopping experience more pleasant” in the way they applied their health and safety measures. Tied for second, at 13%, were Loblaws’ discount grocer Maxi and Metro. In mid-May, both Metro and IGA announced heightened cleaning and sanitizing measures to ensure customer safety after a number of employees tested positive.

Rounding out the top ten were pharmacy chain Jean Coutu (12%), Walmart and Costco (10%), Canadian Tire (9%), discount supermarket Super C (6%) and Loblaw banner Provigo and Pharmaprix (5%).

The report points out that nearly all of the retailers mentioned in the survey were what had been deemed “essential” businesses in Quebec – the only one that wasn’t was Simons, which was cited by 1% of respondents.

Survey respondents were also asked about which stages in the customer journey retail brands have stood out. Elements related to service areas were cited by 60% of respondents – that included things like general preventative measures (16%), signage that directs traffic flow (13%) and in-store social distance marking (11%). Discount banners Super C, Maxi and Walmart, in particular, stood out for their in-store signage efforts regarding aisle traffic, while SAQ and Canac were praised for their general preventative measures.

Welcome areas were the next most visible, at 30%, which included hand washing or sanitization stations (24%) and disinfection of baskets and carts (7%). However, customers were most likely to take note of being asked by staff about health concerns at pharmacies, while Costco was noted for compulsory mask-wearing and Maxi for sanitizing grocery baskets.

Health and safety measures around entry areas made up 16% of responses, namely by limiting the amount of people in store, which was particularly well-done by grocery banners.

Overall customer service was cited by 9% of respondents and was an area where non-essential businesses stood out. Offering speedy and safe payment was cited by 8% of respondents, an area where SAQ stood out. Delivery and pickup had the least impact on whether a customer had a positive retail experience, cited by 7% of respondents.