Although the price of goods is still a determining factor, Puerto Rico consumers are demanding more elements to complete their in-store experience at the time of making their purchases.
This is one of the main premises drawn from the findings of the new Consumer X-Ray study commissioned Puerto Rico Marketing, Industry and Food Distribution Chamber (MIDA for its Spanish acronym), unveiled Thursday.
While in-store ads, coupons and advertising are important to drive consumers into establishments, the point-of-sale is the principal communications and marketing tool that determines the shopper’s final decision, the trade group said.
“The study shows that we need to start customizing the consumer experience. Provide an environment that promotes the visit to the store and sets it apart from the competitor. The consumer is highly sensitive to service above factors such as accessibility, quality and safety,” said Manuel Reyes, executive vice president of MIDA.
Feeling understood, welcome, important, and comfortable are aspects that consumers value in determining which store to visit to make their purchases, the most recent edition of the annual study revealed.
“The buyer agent looking for good service offers the retailer a greater opportunity to capitalize on added value in their stores,” said Beatriz Castro-Blanco, president of Gaither International, which conducted the study for MIDA. “A buyer agent needs service to achieve a positive shopping experience. Therefore, customer service is key to building loyalty.”
Puerto Rican consumers are changing, she said, noting that they cannot be seen as one. For that reason, this year’s study dug deep into consumer behavior and preferences, and what influences them using a qualitative study of direct observation at the point of sale, which was combined with the traditional quantitative poll.
“Creating a welcoming environment and novel selling point is vital to influence the process. The idea is that the buyer agent feels that buying at that store is an experience,” added Andrés Claudio, chairman of the Consumer X-Ray Committee.
For instance, he said lighting, music, and pleasant aromas are some of the elements that help grab consumers, by influencing their mood and creating an environment to interact with brands.
Manufacturers coupons ‘here to stay’
Meanwhile, the quantitative study confirmed that in-store ads — used by four out of five customers — are still the main tool for the client to determine where and what to buy.
However, manufacturers coupons are here to stay, the study showed, confirming that one in five shoppers, or 20 percent, use them. This result is up 3 percentage points from last year’s, which also reflected a steady growth in their acceptance.
While 89 percent of consumers use manufacturers coupons when they are distributed in the store, 83 percent do so when they are published in newspapers, 45 percent through flyers distributed at home, and 32 percent search and download them off the Internet.
Generic brands also continue to have great acceptance by consumers, which are picking up no-frills brands for major products in their basket. In Puerto Rico, 51 percent of people consume generic brands beans, 48 percent purchase generic brands of rice and 40 percent of oil.
The quantitative study by Gaither aimed to identify changes in consumer behavior, as well as the impact on the food industry and the local economy. For the 8th consecutive year, the study featured a stratified sample of 1,350 home interviews of buyer agents in Puerto Rico. For its part, the qualitative study, conducted by the University of Puerto Rico, carried out 360 observations in nine supermarkets across the island, MIDA said.