European shoppers hunt around multiple channels for value

Date : 04 April 2011
European shoppers hunt around multiple channels for value

European shoppers are using a variety of formats – from supermarkets and hypermarkets to convenience stores and online – as they adapt to this age of austerity.

In our recent conversations with shoppers across Europe, it has emerged that the desire to hunt around to find the best value for money is a key driver of shopping across multiple channels. However, our latest research, Shoppers' Evolving Channel Mix, shows that it is also important to fully understand how the trend towards multi-channel shopping is impacted by the food culture and market structure in each individual country. 

Multi-channel Europe

Number of channels used in last month

Number of channels used in last month graph

We surveyed shoppers in five European countries (France, Britain, Germany, Spain and the Netherlands) to gain an insight into levels of multi-channel shopping. On average, respondents claimed to have used 3.5 channels for their food and drink shopping in the past month.

Spanish and German shoppers were using the greatest number of channels, with almost four in ten (37%) claiming to use five or more different channels per month. In Germany this might be explained in part by the fact that the discount channel is more established than in other markets. As a result, in Germany many discounter stores are located close by stores of other formats, which means shoppers are easily able to visit a range of channels in a single trip.

The landscape is different in France where shoppers, many of whom use hypermarkets, claimed in our survey to shop around in several channels (3.8 on average per month) but also said they went shopping for food and drink less frequently than people of other nationalities.

In contrast Dutch shoppers used the fewest number of channels (2.5) but said they shopped most frequently. The Dutch market is characterised by a high proportion of people living in urban areas and the prevalence of small supermarkets. Shoppers are therefore easily able to shop on a more frequent basis, often on foot or bicycle.

Searching for value for money

Value for money graph

The search for value for money is intensifying. Half of European shoppers (49%) told us they shopped around in different formats to take advantage of various promotions, while nearly four in ten (37%) did so to save money.

The same proportion of respondents (37%) shopped across several formats in order to buy products that were not available everywhere, while three in ten (31%) said they used multiple channels to achieve a balance between saving money on certain items and spending more on others.

A quarter of shoppers (26%) claimed to shop across more than one channel because of convenience. They sometimes wished to pick up items close to their home, work or near a station rather than wait until they went to their main store.

As drivers of multi-channel shopping, all the above factors ranked ahead of a need to compare quality in order to get the best products available, which was cited by 21% of respondents.

Understanding cultural differences

The appeal of different retail formats to shoppers varies on a country by country basis. In France, for example, hypermarkets are seen as the best at providing value for money while in the UK supermarkets are regarded as the top retail format for this benefit.

% of shoppers in each country stating why they use multiple channels

% of shoppers in each country stating why they use multiple channels

In our research, Dutch shoppers were most likely to state that searching for the best promotions was the top reason to shop across different channels (57%). In contrast, French shoppers were less likely than average to shop around for different promotions (42%) but more likely to use different channels because they found it interesting to try different stores (22%). In France, retail concepts such as Chez Jean and Monop are proving popular with their mix of food-to-go options sold alongside more traditional supermarket and hypermarket-style product ranges.

German shoppers, many of whom are discounter shoppers, shop around more to compare prices and save money (42%) and to find a better range of products (48%).

Finding a conveniently located store is a key driver for multi-channel shopping among British and Spanish shoppers.

Delivering value across format

Shoppers across Europe are hunting for value for money and finding it in a range of outlets. With the trend towards multi-channel food retailing set to continue to grow in the year ahead, consumer goods companies need an effective channel management strategy. This necessitates a targeted proposition for each store format which takes account of shopper perceptions in each market while delivering value, promotions and a sufficient variety of products.

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