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The Value Proposition Concept in Marketing: How Customers Perceive the Value Delivered by Firms – A Study of Customer Perspectives on Supermarkets in Southampton in the United Kingdom


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Loyal customers are the key factor of success in all organizations. They spend money, they recommend to others and they repeat buy from the same organization, as long as it delivers consistent value. Creating and delivering value where it is needed is not an easy job for a marketing planner. This study seeks to provide strong understanding of the concept of the value proposition from the academic perspective, as regards the actual understanding of what customers perceive about the organizations. This study took place in Southampton in the United Kingdom, on customers of four main supermarkets to identify the way they shop, the value they seek and the value they actually obtain from each supermarket. The method used for this study was qualitative with a use of mini-depth interviews as the approach of collecting and analyzing the data. The results indicated that the value proposition is a widely used concept, but there is no specific definition of it. Value can be created through more than one element, such as price, quality and location. Companies therefore are responsible for setting the value they seek to deliver based on their strategies and their shareholders' values. They are responsible for communicating them and managing the change occurring in the market. Marketing provides marketing strategies and tactics that are aligned with the overall strategies of the organization, to help deliver the best value to customers. Interview results showed that customers perceive different type of values mainly depends on their age, marital status, home location, and shop prices. Some supermarkets communicate their values clearly and some do not. Some of them provide more than one element of value and others tend to focus on just one, such as Waitrose focusing on quality. The findings provided some strategic recommendations on both sides to help improve the value proposition to end customers. This includes corporate and marketing strategic considerations and the need to identify and fulfill customers' expectations. Creating competitive advantage will finally lead to customers' loyalty and generate profits.
Content may be subject to copyright. International Journal of Marketing Studies Vol. 4, No. 3; June 2012
ISSN 1918-719X E-ISSN 1918-7203
The Value Proposition Concept in Marketing:
How Customers Perceive the Value Delivered by Firms
– A Study of Customer Perspectives on Supermarkets
in Southampton in the United Kingdom
Almoatazbillah Hassan
Department of Marketing, College of Business (C.O.B.) Rabigh
King Abdulaziz University, Saudi Arabia
Received: March 19, 2012 Accepted: April 9, 2012 Published: June 1, 2012
doi:10.5539/ijms.v4n3p68 URL:
Loyal customers are the key factor of success in all organizations. They spend money, they recommend to others
and they repeat buy from the same organization, as long as it delivers consistent value. Creating and delivering
value where it is needed is not an easy job for a marketing planner. This study seeks to provide strong
understanding of the concept of the value proposition from the academic perspective, as regards the actual
understanding of what customers perceive about the organizations. This study took place in Southampton in the
United Kingdom, on customers of four main supermarkets to identify the way they shop, the value they seek and
the value they actually obtain from each supermarket. The method used for this study was qualitative with a use
of mini-depth interviews as the approach of collecting and analyzing the data.
The results indicated that the value proposition is a widely used concept, but there is no specific definition of it.
Value can be created through more than one element, such as price, quality and location. Companies therefore
are responsible for setting the value they seek to deliver based on their strategies and their shareholders’ values.
They are responsible for communicating them and managing the change occurring in the market. Marketing
provides marketing strategies and tactics that are aligned with the overall strategies of the organization, to help
deliver the best value to customers. Interview results showed that customers perceive different type of values
mainly depends on their age, marital status, home location, and shop prices. Some supermarkets communicate
their values clearly and some do not. Some of them provide more than one element of value and others tend to
focus on just one, such as Waitrose focusing on quality.
The findings provided some strategic recommendations on both sides to help improve the value proposition to
end customers. This includes corporate and marketing strategic considerations and the need to identify and fulfill
customers’ expectations. Creating competitive advantage will finally lead to customers’ loyalty and generate
Keywords: Marketing, Value proposition, Supermarkets, United Kingdom
1. Introduction
Creating and delivering the value proposition are critical issues that marketing planners should consider in
planning strategies. These days, a high level of competition and rapid changes in the market and technology
make it complex for a company to sustain momentum without focusing on deliver the value that customers
require. Value propositions vary across industries and across different market segments within an industry
(Kaplan & Norton 1996). Capon and Hulbert (2007) linked the success of firms in the marketplace to the value
provided to customers. They introduced a principle of customer value, with customer insights driving the
company’s marketing activities. Customer value should also drive investment and production decisions, because
customers perceive value on the benefits of the product or service they receive. Consequently, as the
environment changes, and the customer experience and their needs change, the value they seek also changes.
Therefore, most companies – especially leader companies – invest more money in marketing research to gain International Journal of Marketing Studies Vol. 4, No. 3; June 2012
Published by Canadian Center of Science and Education 69
deep customer insights, in order that they can shape their development plans with deep understanding of the
market based on recent history, which is at the “heart of positioning”. Capon and Hulbert (2007: 251) state that a
clear and effective value proposition should be the basis of a firm’s functional, psychological and economic
value, with related benefits. It shows how to “gain customers and beat competitors”.
Organizations are successful when customers buy and repeat buy from them. Buying behaviours and motivations
are extremely different between one and another customer. Some customers seek quality, others prefer quantity,
some like a high level of service, and others desire to do things by themselves. Organizations compete in order to
attract more customers to purchase and repurchase. They provide different types of marketing activity related to
their strategy to satisfy customers and to provide the value expected by their customers. On the other hand,
customers perceive the value provided by organizations differently. This variation occurs due to the different
needs for each customer. Osterwalder and Pigneur (2003) stated that “Modeling and mapping value propositions
helps better understanding of the value a company wants to offer its customers and makes it communicable
between various stakeholders”. In this study the researcher investigates how customers perceive the value
delivered by the firms with special reference to supermarkets in Southampton in United Kingdom.
2. Research Objectives
This research has three main objectives:
to explore how customers perceive value in general and in each particular supermarket,
to determine any variations in perceptions of values by customers, and
to provide empirical evidence of these variations, as seen by customers in the four supermarkets.
3. The Literature Review
The literature review presents previous ideas, definitions and criteria concerning the value proposition concept in
general and its relation with marketing. It also lists the four supermarkets that the research was based on,
recognizing their history, offerings, coverage, and mainly the strategic value they seek to deliver to end
customers. The purposes of a literature review in qualitative research, as listed by Creswell (2003) are:
1) It alerts the reader to any previous studies that has been done on the same topic and the results of those
2) It relates a study to a larger ongoing dialogue in the literature about a topic.
3) It determines gaps in previous studies.
4) A review of the literature provides an outline to determine the relevance of the study as well as a standard
of comparison between the results of another study with the finding of a current study.
The literature review in this study has been divided into two sections. The first defines the concepts and
characteristics of marketing. The second examines the variation in the four supermarkets, namely Asda, Tesco,
Sainsbury’s and Waitrose.
3.1 The Value Proposition
Many definitions of the value proposition concept have been made, and the concept is widely used. A value
proposition is an explicit promise made by a company to its customers that it will deliver a particular bundle of
value creating benefits (Buttle, 2009). In other words, “the value proposition is a written statement focusing all
the organization’s market activities onto customer critical elements that create a significant differential within
the customer’s decision process, to prefer and/or purchase the organization’s offering over a competitor’s”
(Fifield, 2007: 443). Lanning (1998: 55) defines the value proposition as an entire set of experiences, including
value for money that an organization brings to customers. Customers may perceive this set or combination of
experiences to be “superior, equal or inferior to alternatives”.
According to Anderson, Narus and Rossum (2006) there are three kinds of value proposition. Involving all
benefits, favourable points of difference and resonating focus. All benefits are a complete list of positive features
that a supplier believes its offerings might deliver to end customers as a result of good knowledge about the
customers and the competitors. Favourable points of difference are the factors that distinguish the supplier’s
offerings among the next alternatives. To achieve that, detailed knowledge about the next best competitor(s) is
required in order to shape the company’s strategy. The resonating focus approach differs in two respects: more is
not always better and it is better to focus on one or two key points to deliver to the target customer. Suppliers in
this approach must identify the elements that make their offer superior in order to demonstrate, document and
communicate them clearly to the targeted customers. Further illustration of the three types, what they consist of, International Journal of Marketing Studies Vol. 4, No. 3; June 2012
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each one’s requirements and how they meet customers’ demands is available in Appendix A.
3.2 Perspectives
According to Martinez, to gain the best combination of value, there should be a link between two perspectives of
value. These perspectives are:
1) Internal Value: i.e. shareholders perspectives, where value is profit. Good corporate value is
expressed in the mission, vision statements and objectives.
2) External Value: i.e. the customer perspective, where value is their satisfaction.
Customers define value in different ways, according to product features. Therefore, a balanced relationship must
be clear between the positive and the negative consequences. Positive consequences are the benefits that
customers get following the negative ones, which are sacrifices that include monetary and non-monetary costs. A
value proposition has measures that differ from the traditional measure of value (internally oriented view),
seeing the business instead from a customer perspective (externally oriented view) (Bititci, Martinez, Albores
and Parung, 2004).
According to Tuominen (2004), “competitive advantage and superior value flow from whatever unique ability a
firm has to shape, reshape, configure and reconfigure those assets to serve customer needs”. A case in point is
Wal-Mart, the biggest retail company in the world. Despite the economic recession suffered in the United States,
and expectations of unprecedented economic contraction, Wal-Mart recorded the highest sales figures in history
during the last quarter of 2008. This record is a result of customers’ perceptions that they do not believe that
someone else can provide the same value that Wal-Mart offers, whether this value is about price, convenience
(easy to find or free delivery), range of products or promotions.
Lanning (1998) stated that a superior value proposition offers breadth of resulting experiences, which may make
an improvement over other scenarios of experiences. Neither internally-driven nor customer-propelled methods
work well in discovering these scenarios. Managers must think like customers and listen to them. Michael
Porter’s original competitive advantage framework presented strategy decisions as a choice between whether to
provide generic low-cost products and services or more differentiated and customized ones for specific market
and customer segments to create and deliver the value proposition (Kaplan & Norton, 2008). Kaplan and Norton
(2006) realized that customer synergies arise when retail companies consistently deliver the same value
proposition across a geographically dispersed network of retail outlets, as McDonald’s have done for example.
When investigating the value proposition, there should be some visible signs on customers’ perceived value
terms. According to Ravald and Gronroos (1996), customer perceived value is the trade-off between perceived
benefits and perceived sacrifice (Kar, 2006). Perceived sacrifice involves all of the activities of purchasing,
comparing prices, transportation and installations. Perceived benefits are the physical and technical features of
the product. That means that adding more benefits and reducing sacrifices may increase customer perceived
Fifield stated that “A successfully tested and proven value proposition is essential to a successfully differentiated
business” (Fifield, 2007: 438). As the value proposition can improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the
internal process of a particular product or service, the results would be many more retained customers and cost
reduction, which finally lead to satisfied shareholders, profit rise and increases in market share. Kar (2006) states
that “the ability of a company to provide a superior value for its customers is regarded as one of the most
successful competitive strategies”.
Steven (2009) states that the entire purpose of the value proposition is to focus on the sole benefit of the client.
He explained why companies use the value proposition, namely to distinguish the product from competitors, to
provide a better lead, to introduce the product or the service more quickly to the market and enable sales
professionals to take the lead. Steven stresses that customers are the lifeblood of the organization; therefore,
competitive differentiation stems from the perceived customer value, while customers desire to be with those
they trust. However, Fifield points out that “customers understand value intuitively, which makes it difficult for
us to measure dispassionately”. In addition, he recognized two reasons that make it difficult to understand value.
One is that value is usually linked with pricing issues, and that is an under-researched subject. The second reason
is that the term value has different meanings for different people, and it is not easy to define and quantify.
Walker (2008) explained the primary means of creating value or being different from competitors. Companies
used to focus on the actual product or service they provided. However, to create value, they should focus on the
features and functionality of products or services. To identify them, they should identify the term value from the
customer prospective. Several tools are used to collect information, for example, market research, customer International Journal of Marketing Studies Vol. 4, No. 3; June 2012
Published by Canadian Center of Science and Education 71
satisfaction surveys and customer focus groups. Walker listed five questions that an organization should clarify
when establishing its value proposition. These questions are concerning who the customers are, what they are
being sold, how products are differentiated from competitors’, success factors, and potential for improvement. A
recent study of effective management practices concluded that innovation works effectively if a clear customer
value proposition is at the base of strategy. It must be sharply defined, clearly communicated and well
understood by employees, customers, owners and investors (Hardy, 2005).
Organizations are free to choose the best value proposition model(s) to suit their external and internal needs.
Therefore, an organization must understand how customers behave compared to when they deal with other
suppliers. Consequently, organizations must gain insights into customer behaviours at particular times and
locations. For an organization to be successful, its value proposition must be compelling, differentiated and
clearly communicated to customers and stakeholders. However, Tuominen states that value creation alone is
insufficient to achieve competitive advantage and financial success, and therefore firms that do not have the
ability to restrict competitive forces are unable to appropriate the value they have created. An important point is
that value proposition should be based on customer insights and knowledge rather than guesses and imagination.
From the corporate prospective
The mission and vision statements and the objectives help to provide value from the corporate prospective.
According to Johnson, Scholes and Whittington (2008: 164) “A mission statement aims to provide employees
and stakeholders with clarity about the overall purpose of the organization. It is therefore to do with building
understanding and confidence about how the strategy of the organization relates to the purpose. However, a
vision statement is concerned with what the organization aspires to be. Its purpose is to set out a view of the
future so as to enthuse, gain commitment and stretch performance”. A study shows that the stakeholder groups
that the company is more dependent on are addressed in mission statements more frequently. Mission statements
also clarify the legal origin, provide a profile of the industry and describe the ownership concentration.
Objectives consist of lists of tasks to be achieved, for example, a desired sales or profit level, market share, and
customer service. Companies must identify buying motivation factors, so that they can be formulated as strategic
priorities in areas such as marketing communication, differentiation and segmentation (Rintamäki, Kuusela and
Mitronen, 2007).
From the Customer Prospective
Customer value can be seen as a more personal and holistic view of quality. It is therefore an assessment of both
the positive and negative consequences of using a product or a service (Rintamäki, Kuusela and Mitronen, 2007).
Fifield (2007) listed six questions for organizations when they begin to create or deliver a value statement. These
1) Who are the target customers? Researching the target customers will clearly identify market and
customer groups.
2) What are their needs and problems? What type of value do they seek (price, benefits, efforts, or risk)
and what would be the best way to communicate the problem internally and externally?
3) What is the target context or occasion? That refers to customer purchasing behaviours, the time they
choose to buy, the place (from where they prefer to buy) the physical location, their feelings and emotions when
making buying decisions.
4) What will the product or service do for them? The value proposition should be used properly to
interpret the offer exactly with no questions. Consequently, a customer who chooses to buy the product or the
service will know exactly the features and benefits on offer.
5) How is your offering unique? This is somewhat dependent on the customer. The only option for the
manager is to ensure that employees at operational level are doing their job perfectly. They should also
understand the value proposition that an organization has promised to deliver to its customers.
6) Why should they prefer your offer over the competition? This is a real test, as to how customers
show their preferences towards the organization and purchase its offerings. The most important part is to deliver
and communicate the offer very well to the customers, so that they clearly understand its advantages.
3.3 Value Creation
Customer Value Creation (CVC) is a process introduced by Plaster and Alderman (2006) for building a
profitable growth platform for an organization based on creating and delivering the expected value to customers.
CVC is a “customer-centric framework for helping companies choose the best opportunities for growth by International Journal of Marketing Studies Vol. 4, No. 3; June 2012
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optimizing the value creation between the enterprise and its customers” (Plaster and Alderman, 2006:1). They
formulated this equation:
CVC = Customer Value Analysis + Operational Excellence
Where customer value analysis is the ability of a company to understand how value is created and captured with
their customers. In other word, it defines value from customer perspectives. The operational excellence in
contrast is the process(s) required by the organization in order to deliver the optimal value to its customers.
Following Osterwalder and Pigneur’s (2003) study, Fifield (2009) adopted the findings to formulate the equation
below which identifies how customers see value in terms of four elements:
Value = Benefits – Efforts – Risk – Price
Where value is perceived by customers, but not just in terms of the product or the service itself. Benefits and
efforts are the two elements that add more value to customers. Benefits are gained from the usage of the product
and whether it provides solutions. Additional benefits increase the value. On the other hand, minimizing efforts,
risk and price also have a positive impact on the value proposition. Efforts are the innovative ways that a
company must introduce to make customers’ life much easier, for example, e-business, lower search, cheaper
maintenance and training. Reducing customers’ risk should create value to them. This reduction can take many
phases, for example price risk, such as buy-back guarantees and other financial options. Product risk, that can be
reduced by representing a substantial problem to the customer, where risk is the perceived downside in time,
image and peer recognition. Finally, price is the perception of a downside as regards price and opportunity cost.
3.4 The Value Cycle
Osterwalder and Pigneur (2003) state that the value proposition must be studied through its entire value life cycle.
Value elements can be created in each of the five stages of the value life cycle. These stages are: value creation,
value appropriation, value consumption, value renewal and value transfer (Appendix B).
1) Value creation: The traditional view of the value creation process does not allow customers to take
part in feeling the value. Marketing and research and development are mainly responsible for adding value at this
stage based on historic data and observations. However, these days, the customers of several companies are
included in this stage. For example, Dell customers can make their own PC’s according to their needs.
2) Value appropriation: Value can be created in this stage by developing, improving and facilitating
customers’ buying experience. This can be done in two steps, firstly improving how transactions are conducted
and secondly by making customers feel fulfilled.
3) Value consumption: The core value proposition, at this stage customers see and feel the value
through the actual use of the product or the service. At this stage value can be created trough a bundle of benefits
that are linked to the product or service. It can be improved through observation and resulting feedback.
4) Value renewal: This stage is when value expires or finishes, for example, expiry products at a
supermarket or expiry of subscription to a magazine. The value can be created at this stage by adding more
benefits and features to the product or the service in the renewal process. New software upgrades is a good
example of this stage, as the new software gives more features and options to the users.
5) Value transfer: The final stage of the value life cycle is the stage when customers can no longer
acquire value. However, value can be created in new channels, obtaining benefits by transferring value. An
example might be selling used books at Value abundance can occur at this stage, when customers
need to pay for disposing their used goods, such as TVs and computers.
3.5 Value Status
Fifield (2009) stated that perceived value and willingness to pay are correlated. Customers are willing to pay in
several circumstances, for example, when they are faced with different offers, when they are in a partnership
with the supplier, when the need to buy is urgent, when there are no substitutes and when there is a high positive
relationship between the value perceived and the price. Companies must choose the best pricing strategy to
deliver value from both the customer and corporate perception. Capon & Hulbert (2007) introduced some factors
that a firm must consider before making pricing decisions. Some of these factors are important for delivering
perceived value to end customers, namely:
1) Perceived substitutes: differentiation on offers and prices compared to competitors.
2) Unique value: customers weigh the benefits and features of the product and perceive these benefits
as a unique value provided only by the organization. International Journal of Marketing Studies Vol. 4, No. 3; June 2012
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3) Price/Quality: firms must consider that customers always seek to have a positive price/quality
relationship for a product to make a purchase decision.
Lanning (2000) stated five interrelated decisions that must be taken by an organization when choosing a
complete value proposition, namely identifying the intended customers and what can be done for them,
determining the proposition’s time horizon, identifying the competitive alternatives for customers, and what
results will be derived compared to alternatives. Ulrich, Zenger, and Smallwood (1999) argued for five potential
value propositions, namely low cost, quality, speed, service, and innovation. Organizations must offer all of them
and specialize in at least one.
Zeithaml (1988) studied three consumer defined values: (1) Low price, (2) Quality and value for money, and (3)
Features. The study concluded that “perceived value is the consumer’s overall assessment of the utility of a
product based on perceptions of what is received and what is given”. Some customers may see value in cheap
price and others in terms of volume obtained.
3.6 Value Dimensions
Bititce, Martinez, Albores, and Mendible (2003) added hard and soft dimensions to value, thus creating six value
propositions. The hard and soft dimensions can be both tangible and intangible. They include:
1) Innovators: companies who continually develop and improve their technology, their value
proposition being that customers are usually advanced in technology.
2) Brand Managers: companies that develop a strong brand name based on certain characteristics, such
as style or image. The value proposition to customers is a product that can make a customer look good or a
product that sends a message about the customer’s life style.
3) Price Minimisers: The value proposition here is value for money. This dimension focuses on selling
the product at the most competitive price.
4) Process Simplifiers: companies provide simple and easy solutions to their customers. The value
proposition is a perception that using a product or service will be more productive and less complicated for the
5) Technological Integrators: companies offer specialist technological solutions to clients. Their value
proposition will be about knowing customer needs and designing a product to fit them exactly, effectively and
6) Socialisors: companies create and develop an interpersonal relationship with key customers. The
value proposition is trust, interpersonal relationships and familiarity.
Lanning (2003) created a strategy framework (Appendix C) that delivers value to customers by restructuring the
traditional concept of the value chain (Appendix D) which was introduced by Porter (1980). The value chain
framework treated business as a product supply system, reinforcing the business internally as a
customer-compelled system, while the delivery value system seeks to clarify what value proposition the
organization should deliver and how the resources, products and processes must be aligned towards profitably
delivering this value.
Aligning the value delivered with the business strategy is an integrated process that all functions in the
organization are responsible to take part in, in order to achieve the value based on the organization’s strategy.
Peat (2003) introduced the process of aligning business practices with value-based pillars. He emphasized that it
is not a question of the strategy that an organization chooses (low price or innovation), but the main issue to
make it work is that it is sharply defined, clearly understood and well communicated to employees, customers,
investors and partners. At the operational level he stresses on never disappointing customers even, if it is very
difficult to please all of them. Value at the end must be aligned with customer expectations and how the
company delivers value. Marketing ensures that the company is delivering exactly what customers want to buy.
The process includes digging deeply and investigating the market. The job is to define the exact needs and wants
of customers. New distribution channels are based on the insights that marketing provides. Creating new
promotions, reliable offers, competitive prices and social responsibility are means to adding value to customers.
Finally, a good value proposition must answer all questions. It needs to be clearly superior to alternatives. In
addition, it should be deliverable in a relevant time frame. It must produce more revenue than cost (Lanning,
1998: 80).
The essential idea of marketing is to develop superior value to customers. According to Doyle (2004), customer
value creates shareholder value. He emphasized that the marketing approach for creating customer value is based International Journal of Marketing Studies Vol. 4, No. 3; June 2012
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on three principles. First, customers usually choose the best offer that delivers value to them when comparing
between competing companies providing the same product or service. Secondly, customers do not look only at
actual product or service, they also evaluate whether or not it suits their needs. These needs may be emotional or
price related. Therefore, value is the ability to estimate what the product or service will deliver, according to the
customer’s exact needs. The third principle is to create a relationship and build customer loyalty in order to have
customers who buy and re-buy from the company.
3.7 The Role of Marketing
The marketing role in providing superior value to customers is firstly to understand their needs. Customers
usually want the product that satisfies their needs. They do not buy a product for its own sake. For example,
supermarket shoppers go to a shop every week to buy food to eat and survive. Marketing research is required to
understand their exact needs and to satisfy them based on that. The second step is to understand and develop
market-oriented production, where the production takes place according to the information gathered from
customers. The process in market oriented companies (Appendix, E) starts with identifying actual and potential
customer needs and wants, and based on that, looking for potential market opportunity. Then, businesses must
look at the production and marketing capabilities required. The execution stage is followed by feedback from
customers. According to Doyle (2004), value based marketing requires not just understanding the market, but
also the competitive dimensions. This is not a role confined to the marketing department but it is integrated work
that must be accomplished in conjunction with other departments to achieve competitive advantage and fulfill
the value proposition. The overall business operating model must be based on value analysis and competitive
analysis (Appendix, F). Doyle (2004) listed the strategies that can offer more to customers, for example product
leadership, service leadership, customer intimacy and brand leadership. A winning value proposition must meet
the criteria of customer benefits, uniqueness, profitability and sustainability.
3.8 An Overview of Supermarkets in Southampton
This section of the literature review concentrates on the four supermarkets in Southampton where the study took
place. It emphasizes the value they seek to deliver to end customers and the corporate and marketing activities
introduced in order to create value to retain existing customers and attract new ones. The following is a
description of each supermarket’s vision, mission, strategy, social responsibilities and some marketing activities,
aligned to deliver value to end customers. The information is derived from supermarket websites and from some
articles. One point that needs to be considered is that these values are related to the whole company’s prescript,
where they are not just providing retail services, but also financial services, petrol pump services as well as
selling and managing properties. In this study, an attempt has been made to look at these businesses separately in
order to obtain the clear value perspective that the company seeks to deliver.
3.8.1 Asda
The company was started in 1949 by the Asquith and Stockdale families in Castleford, Yorkshire. Associated
Dairies and Farm Stores Ltd. was the start point for a huge supermarket chain that has been successful over the
last six decades. It became a part of Wal-Mart, the world’s largest and best retailer in 1999. Asda began
operating in the south of the United Kingdom in the 70’s, establishing its first store in Gosport (15 miles from
Southampton), then in Southampton itself and other locations in the South.
Asda supermarket is ranked second in terms of sales in the United Kingdom. The company’s core value is
statement communicated to customers “saving you money every day”. They lately won the 12th award for the
lowest priced supermarket in the United Kingdom. The company perspective is to lead the way in giving UK
customers the products they want at the lowest prices and to continue to widen the gap with competitors, and this
is what customers should recognize (
3.8.2 Tesco
When introducing Tesco, space should be given to mention the success of the loyalty card campaign which was
awarded the UK’s most successful supermarket loyalty card scheme (Thomas, 2009). One of the benefits of
loyalty cards is that they give the supermarket insights into what its customers prefer to buy. Tesco designs
offers and gives vouchers to customers on the basis of their previous history, so that customers receive the
product that they prefer (on promotion). Tesco is the top ranking UK retailer and also the third in the world. Its
website contains the world’s most successful online grocery retail business ( As stated by
David Potts, the retail and logistics director, it is still important to use the statement: “every little help” providing
customers with every bit of help and efforts. He explains that a small amount of work by a member of staff can
translate into a great service in the end. He emphasized that this point is truer than ever before. Tesco considers International Journal of Marketing Studies Vol. 4, No. 3; June 2012
Published by Canadian Center of Science and Education 75
the community, the environment and social responsibilities. They have introduced many activities that should
create customer lifetime loyalty, which they seek to achieve with consistency.
3.8.3 Sainsbury’s
The company gives continuous commitment to customers and suppliers, has a strong perspectives on ethics in
business, a passion for good food at a fair price and commitment to deliver value to customers. Sainsbury’s have
been operating for 140 years, serving customers and delivering the value they seek. The brand originally was
built upon providing customers with healthy, safe, fresh and tasty food with quality at a fair price. Their market
share currently is around 16 per cent and they serve more than 68 million people a month (annual report and
financial statement 2009 J. Sainsbury’s Plc.). Sainsbury’s has belief in its statement “Our value makes us
different”, and that includes five aspects, namely best food and health record, sourcing with integrity, respect for
the environment, making a positive difference to the community and making Sainsbury’s a good place to work.
These five aspects involve all responsible parties delivering value to end customers and employees, as well as
social commitment and environmental support. These are in general the most important factors that deliver value
and good image for an organization these days.
3.8.4 Waitrose
Over 100 years in operation running nearly a total of 200 stores, Waitrose, a part of the John Lewis Corporation
is one of the most recognizable grocery retailers in the United Kingdom. Their business model acknowledged
that they want to provide customers with the best possible shopping experience, with outstanding choice, value
and polite knowledgeable and consistent service (CSR report). Early this year Waitrose was nominated top food
retailer for customer service (Waitrose Press Release). Waitrose differentiate itself from others by the following
factors: firstly, quality food. Waitrose established its reputation on quality and fresh food. It is committed to
being a source of a quality food, which gives them the edge over all other supermarkets; secondly, partnership
value: That is a result of its cooperation with John Lewis. It claims that it is not owned by shareholders but by
each member working for this partnership. Thirdly, Waitrose has quality and so its prices are higher than other
supermarkets, but it claims to sell “quality food, honestly priced”. Finally, they seek to make the shopping much
easier by providing several services, such as packing, carrying customers’ shopping to their cars, free minicab
phones, wheelchairs and wheel trolleys, accompanied shopping, online shopping and home delivery.
To summarize, each of the supermarkets has presented and communicated a company perspective and other
factors that must deliver value to the end customers: They are similar in some of them and different in others. On
the other hand, customers are not equal in value proposition. They expect, seek, and understand values and
services provided differently, depending on their needs, wants and sometimes on their education level.
4. Methodology
4.1 Research Philosophy and Paradigm
The choice of a research philosophy is an early research consideration. Identifying an appropriate research
philosophy is at the basis of a strategy for data collection and analytical methods. According to Burke (2007), a
philosophy can be defined as the questioning of basic fundamental concepts according to a need to embrace a
meaningful understanding of a particular field. Identifying a research philosophy, according to Smith (2002),
allows a choice of research approach and method(s), in spite of constraints that may impinge on the research
(Knox, 2004). The research philosophy considered for the present work is interpretivist, as it provides contextual
depth on how customers perceive the value offered by supermarkets. Interpretivism “is an epistemology that
advocates understanding of the differences between humans in their roles as social actors” (Saunders, Lewis &
Thornhill, 2007: 106). Epistemology is the philosophical theory of knowledge, which concerns what constitutes
acceptable knowledge in a field of study (Saunders, Lewis, & Thornhill, 2007). One of the advantages of using
this philosophy, according to Hussey and Hussey (1997), is that it situates people in their social context,
allowing greater opportunities to understand their perceptions on company activities. The approach demands an
empathetic stance in order to gain the acceptance of participants and maximize the amount and the quality of
information that can be elicited. When the philosophy has been chosen, a paradigm can subsequently be made.
There is no specific definition of a research paradigm that has gained wide acceptance, and the term is used in
various ways according to the topic area. To illustrate, Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill (2007: 112) defined a
research paradigm as “a way of examining social phenomena from which particular understanding of these
phenomena can be gained and explanations attempted”. However, Bogdan and Biklen (2007) defined the term
paradigm as “a loose collection of logically related assumptions, concepts, or propositions that orient thinking
and research”. According to Mackenzie and Knipe (2006), interpretive approaches to research have the intention International Journal of Marketing Studies Vol. 4, No. 3; June 2012
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of “understanding the world of human experience”. Researchers tend to rely upon the participants’ views of the
situation being studied and recognize “the impact on the research of their own background and experiences”.
4.2 Research Approach
The approach assigned to this research is inductive, according to the nature of the results expected to gain, which
will constitute feedback from customers on their value propositions from their shopping experience, specifically
from marketing services and activities provided by each supermarket. The term induction has been defined by
Malhorta and Briks (2006: 141) as “a form of reasoning that usually involves the inference or repeated
combination of events that may be universally generalized”. According to Saunders, Lewis and Thronhill (2007),
the strengths of the inductive approach are that it provides alternative explanations for events and it enables the
researcher to understand how humans interpret cause and effect relationships. Thomas (2003: 2) listed three
purposes underlying the development of the general inductive approach: “to condense extensive and varied raw
text data into a brief summary format, to establish a clear link between the research objectives and the findings
and to ensure these links are both transparent and defensible, finally, to develop a model or theory about the
underlying structure of experiences or processes which are evidenced in the text”. He also emphasized that the
purpose of the inductive approach is to allow the research findings to emerge out of frequent, dominant or
significant themes inherent in the raw data, without the restraints imposed by structured methodologies. As a
result, the inductive approach is chosen to fill a gap in knowledge about value propositions in Southampton
supermarkets. The next step, after identifying an approach, is to set the research design and the strategy.
4.3 Research Design and Strategy
The research design helps to give structure to the collection and analysis of data. The design selected was of the
explanatory kind, as it helps to establish causal relationships between variables (Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill,
2007: 134). According to Malhorta and Briks (2006: 58), the research design is a “framework or blueprint for
conducting the marketing research project. It specifies the details of the procedures necessary for obtaining the
information needed to structure or solve marketing research problems”. It will explain how value is perceived by
customers in their shopping experiences. Wilson (2006) emphasizes that causal or explanatory research provides
the type of evidence necessary for making inferences about relationships between variables. However, some
potential errors might appear in research designs, which may be related to the sources. Firstly, random sampling
errors exist because of the imperfect nature of the sample selection process. Secondly, non-sampling errors may
occur, such as errors in problem definition, approach, methods of interviewing, responses, data coding and
analysis (Malhorta and Briks, 2006). To overcome these errors following care was taken, first by using a random
sampling method that covered a considerable area of Southampton city. Second, used very simple questions so
that everyone could answer them irrespective of their level of education.
As regards the research strategy, it will have a dramatic influence on procedures in terms of collecting, coding,
storing and analyzing the data. The explanatory design entails ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions, to explore the causal
links between independent and dependent variables (Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill (2007). The experimental
group is the customers of the supermarkets that seek to deliver value.
4.4 Research Method
A research method, as defined by Ghauri and Grønhaug (2002), is a “systematic, focused and orderly collection
of data for the purpose of obtaining information from them, to solve/answer our research problems or questions”.
The research method for this dissertation is qualitative. Qualitative research uses an unstructured or
semi-structured approach with a small number of carefully selected individuals, and produces insights into
behaviour, motivations and attitudes without necessarily quantifying them (Wilson, 2006: 105). According to
Marshall and Rossman (2006), qualitative research is pragmatic, interpretive, and grounded in the lived
experiences of people. It clarifies the participants’ view of the context in which they operate. The qualitative
research method is chosen to gain detailed perceptions on customers’ shopping experience in supermarkets in
Southampton. Other benefits of qualitative research are listed by Ghauri and Grønhaug (2002). Qualitative
methods focus on understanding from the respondents’ point of view. They are subjective, oriented towards
exploration and provide a holistic view. A qualitative method is preferred, because it does not rely on
measurements, but upon explaining reasons behind facts. Mariampolski (2001) listed the benefits of qualitative
research. It produces a deeper understanding at a high level of involvement with clients; it is easy to organize,
flexible, provides greater confidentiality and raises the quality level of the research. Qualitative data are
attractive for many reasons as noted by Ghauri and Grønhaug (2002). They are rich, full, down-to-earth, holistic,
real, and their face validity is optimal. The next section is divided into two subsections, data collection and data
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4.4.1 Data Collection
The data collection methods are set to provide the answers to the research questions. Two stages were made to
collect the required data. The first was to collect secondary data and the mini-depth interviews for primary data
stage. The secondary data was mainly collected in the literature review. The concept of the value proposition has
different definitions as well as different criteria, as identified in the literature review. The primary data “are the
data originated by a researcher for the specific purpose of addressing the problem at hand” (Malhorta and Briks,
2006: 85). The technique was to conduct mini-depth interviews with supermarket shoppers in Southampton.
Interviews were conducted face-to-face to gain a detailed response based on each customer’s experience.
Mini-depth interviews usually last for 15-30 minutes. They were semi-structured and used non-standardised
questions. To increase objectivity, Whyte (1978) suggested that a researcher should treat the interview as a
sharing of insight and experiences, which may encourage the interviewee to reveal more idiosyncratic factors,
such as moods and feelings (Maylor and Blackmon, 2005: 233). Responses are usually recorded with an
audio-recorder, which allows the conversations to flow and be saved for future reference, such as when coding
and conducting analysis. Wilson (2006: 109) listed eight key factors related to interviews, namely length of
interview, information collection techniques, topic lists of questions and themes, location, which is normally the
place where to conduct the research, paired interviews, such as with married couples, rapport, body language and
interviewer skills. Giving respondents’ confidence can influence the success of the interviews. The
disadvantages of interviews are that they can be more expensive and time-consuming at both the performing and
analysis stages.
Before starting to collect data, it is necessary to develop a sampling plan. The process can be summarized in six
steps, according to Wilson (2006). The first step is to define the population of interest, that is the total group of
people the researcher wishes to study, in my case the population of main family supermarket shoppers in
Southampton’s Asda, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose stores. The second step is to decide whether to sample or
to conduct a census. A census is when data is gained from every member of the interested population, but that
was impossible in this study. The third step is to select a sampling frame, where the population of interest can be
interviewed. The sampling frame was assembled from a list of places to cover as big a section as possible of
Southampton. Those places were not in store as the response from store managers was too slow. Instead
individuals in Bassett, Eastleigh, Portswood, Shirley and at the University of Southampton were interviewed.
Step four, is to choose a sampling method which might be a probability sampling method or a non-probability
sampling method. I considered for my research the simple random sampling technique under the probability
sampling method. According to Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill (2007), the advantages of simple random
sampling are that it is an accurate technique for sampling and the sample can be easily accessible. It may cover a
significant geographical area and it is not too costly. Step five concerns the process of sampling and determining
the sample size. The sample size I considered to best fit my research, available time and resources was forty
respondents (ten per supermarket). However, in order to avoid bias, I increased the number to sixty to make sure
that at the analysis stage I had sufficient data. Finally, the interviews were conducted with as much accuracy as
There are two approaches for the interviews. The first is to ask the respondents introductory questions about age,
marital status, and number of family members. These types of questions would indicate whether the interviewee
fitted with the study characteristics. The main inclusion criterion in this research is for the interviewee to be the
main shopper of a family. After confirming this, the interviewee was asked for the amounts spend each month in
supermarkets. Customers are then asked to identify mainly what value they are looking for in a supermarket and
whether they see the value as actually delivered by that supermarket. For example, questions like reasons for
switching supermarket (if the customer has switched), will illustrate a new value perception by the customer or a
previous impression or bad experience with a previous supermarket. Another question to ask is why the customer
prefers his/her chosen supermarket above others. The answer could reveal what special services provided by the
supermarket attract the customer more than the other supermarket chains in Southampton. The most important
question is what are the values that a customer seeks from supermarkets in general and what values does the
chosen supermarket provide. By answering this question I can compare and examine whether the same values
written in the vision and mission statements are actually delivered to customers, or whether there is a lack from
one side or the other in receiving the communicated values. Finally, I asked customers to rate the level of
credibility for each supermarket in delivering the value that they promise to deliver, as a percentage. That would
indicate whether the value is delivered perfectly or poorly or not delivered at all. Eight examples of the
interviews are available in the appendices section (two respondents from each supermarket).
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be considered by a researcher in order to express confidence to the respondents, so that they act normally and
without restriction. Data were stored by me personally in a secure location; interviewees were promised that
there would be no revealing of names or any personal details in the report. Apart from me, only my supervisor at
the University had access to the data. Ethics and risk assessment forms issued by the University of Southampton
are pre-signed.
4.4.2 Data Analysis
At the analysis stage, I used the inductive approach. The data display and analysis approach contains three
sub-processes, as described by Miles and Huberman (1994: 11): data reduction, data display, and drawing and
verifying conclusions. Data reduction is the process of summarizing the relevant data. Data display involves
organizing and ordering the reduced data. Miles and Huberman present several ways of organizing data, such as
in matrices, graphs, charts and networks. I made use of the network system, because it indicates relationships
between variables. Malhorta and Briks (2006) added one more analysis process, called data assembly, which
means “the gathering of data from a variety of disparate sources”. This may include theoretical support from
secondary data, audio tape recordings and transcripts of recordings, notes taken during interviews, and
suggestions from other researchers or moderators involved in the process of collecting the data. Morse (1994)
found four approaches to analyzing qualitative data. The first step is to acquire a full understanding of the setting,
culture and study topic before the research commences. The second is to synthesise, sift and reduce. The third is
to theorise after “continual development and manipulation of malleable theoretical schemes, until the best
theoretical scheme is developed (Hussey and Hussey, 1997: 257)”. The final step identified by Morse is
recontextualising, and that is the process of generalization, so that the theory emerging from the study can be
applied to other settings and populations (Hussey and Hussey, 1997: 256-7).
This dissertation mainly adopted the processes identified by Miles and Huberman, as the data are simple and
clear and the sample is small. Whyte (1978) suggested some steps to overcome bias, namely to check whether
the story seems plausible, to consider the reliability of the interviewee and to list and evaluate obvious influences
for bias (such as political) (Maylor and Blackmon, 2005). At this stage a researcher’s experience plays an
important role in analyzing data. It is very important to match the results and the research objectives to answer
the research question(s) properly. I used Excel software to create graphs, tables and charts to present the findings
and the relationships between variables.
4.5 Reliability and Validity
Reliability refers to “the extent to which your data collection techniques or analysis procedures will yield
consistent findings” (Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, 2009: 156). To prove the reliability of this study, from my
point of view, I could obtain the same results if the study were repeated on other occasions. One of the reliability
threats may be subject or participant errors. To overcome question bias, I revised the interview questions with
my supervisor and with four PhD students at the University of Southampton before the main work. I considered
their comments and suggestions, but only minor changes were necessary. In addition, to overcome participant
bias, I chose to meet respondents in their offices or homes, because they would be more at ease and there would
be less rush.
According to Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, (2009: 157), validity “is concerned with whether the findings are
really about what they appear to be about”. In other words, “validity refers to the truth and accuracy of the
representations and generalizations made by the researcher; how true the claims made in the study are or how
accurate the interpretations are” (Moisander and Valtonen, 2006: 24). In this study the concept value proposition
and the way that a customer perceives value are different. From my point of view, the results of the study are
valid because the respondents replied with clear values about services provided by their chosen supermarkets.
5. Results
The results chapter of this study is divided into three parts: the first part is the general findings about the value
proposition concept found for all four supermarkets. The second part is to illustrate and then discuss the findings
on each supermarket with the literature review section under the value proposition concept. Finally there are
recommendations from my point of view about some considerable action that might be taken by those
supermarkets to deliver proper value to end customers that meet the company’s objectives and create value
awareness from the customer perspective, as a result delivering profit to the organization. One point should be
mentioned is that the analysis was only for the most accurate forty respondents, while the sample was 60 but I
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5.1 General Findings
This section will identify the general findings of the research in the value proposition context. That is to clarify
the relationships between customers and supermarkets in Southampton in general. One important fact commonly
found is that the majority of customers become more loyal when they shift supermarket for any reason. Then it
became very difficult for a competitor to pull and attract loyal customers. More than 90% of the respondents
have at least one loyalty in their chosen supermarket, while the other 10% do not too much care about where
they shop or how much they spend.
Figure 1 identifies the major elements of the value propositions described by customers in their shopping
experiece. It clarifies the relationship between the number of respondents and the perceived value. The majority
of customers find that the highest delivered value is store location, distance to the store, other distribution
channels such as via internet delivery, available car parking and bus access. The second element is quality. A
quarter of respndents mentioned quality as a value creator. Definition of quality in this study is quite general. It
includes any product that differs from others in terms of better taste, more freshness and better packaging. Those
are the quality characteristics stated by respondents. Third comes price. Customers value cheap prices. Seven out
of forty customers saw the value on cheaper prices. Finaly, elements such as loyalty card, product range and
promotion was the lowest value producers from customers perspictive in this study.
Table 1 details the value perceptions from the customers point of view. It shows that Asda and Tesco have more
than one source of value to its customers, while Waitrose and Sainsbury’s are different, and they deliver one
major value basis. To illustrate, Tesco is recognised as a supermarket that is in good locations (good access to
stores, internet shopping, parking and nearness), loyalty cards, quality and range of products. Therefore it is a
kind of supermarket that delivers more than one attribute of value. Waitrose has only two attributes of value,
namely quality, which is the major one, and location. Therefore, excluding customers who shop in a shop
because of its location, Waitrose is the only one providing a quality attribute as its main value proposition.
Figure 2 clarifies in percentage terms how much respondents believe that their chosen supermarket delivers the
value promised. Table 1 had previously revealed percentages. 90% of Sainsbury’s respondents shop there
because of its location. Tesco, Asda and Waitrose’s customers have different value propositions elements, such
as cheap price and quality, which gave them nearly 80% compared to Sainsbury’s 72%. These answers were
based on a question on the clearness of the communicated statement that each supermarket conveyed. These
statements are, Asda “saving you money every day”, Tesco “every little helps”, Sainsbury’s “Doing something
different today” and Waitrose “Quality food, honestly priced”.
A question was asked of all respondents at the beginning of each interview on the level of impact that
supermarket location affects their decisions when selecting a supermarket to shop in. Results were that nearly
one third were not affected at all by how far they live from the supermarkets. One third is sometimes affected by
the location and the rest was always affected by the location. These results indicate that nearly half of the
customers can make a journey of five miles or more sometimes in order to shop from the supermarket that they
are loyal to and that delivers them the value proposition they seek.
5.2 Other Findings
From the total of forty respondents, only one male less than 30 years old mentioned the social, community
contributions and environmental awareness activities that all supermarkets are trying to deliver in order to meet
expectations from customers (that they are contributing in developing the community).
As the number of family members changed (increased or decreased), the value proposition changes as a
result. Customers with children are more likely to buy at cheap prices and good offers. However, older
customers mainly focus on the location rather than anything else and they prefer the closest shop to their home
because they do not spend much and therefore there is no reason to go far to shop.
Shopping online has the same impact on creating or damaging value perceptions. For example, even when
people live quite far from a store, they use online shopping and they perceive the same value that they tended to
perceive in in-store shopping.
Two main factors have been mentioned by respondents as main assessment areas in a supermarket. If a
supermarket fails to meet customers’ expectations in these areas, then a supermarket is no longer a good
supermarket. These two factors are the deli area and the bakery. The majority of respondents indicated that the
range of products and the freshness of items in these departments are the most important reasons for shopping
from the selected supermarket. International Journal of Marketing Studies Vol. 4, No. 3; June 2012
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5.3 Discussion
As described in the introduction to this chapter, this section will compare and discuss the findings with the
literature review part. Each supermarket is taken individually.
5.3.1 Asda
The first supermarket is Asda. I made two categories of factors, the first is individual factors and the second is
collective. The majority of respondents stated the value perception they had of Asda, cheap prices. Many
comments were made by respondents about the cheap prices, lesser spending, and all these factors match the
company’s perspective that Asda seeks to deliver to its customers, mainly advertised in their slogan “saving you
money everyday” or “always low prices”. Respondents had other value perceptions, listed below:
Helpful staff and good customer service: half of the respondents were concerned with these issues in
shopping at Asda.
Easy access to the store, including parking availability, location of the store and whether the bus service
covers that area or not. Four out of ten saw a part of the value delivered by Asda as the ease in accessing their
Range of products, which is the choices available from each product, the majority of customers saw this as
one of the facts that give them the value they seek. Having many products makes them more competitive in
product range and price.
Speed at the check-out is as important as other factors. Shoppers needed to feel that their supermarket
shopping journey was not lengthened by queues and delays.
There are also value perceptions of individual kinds about shopping at Asda. These include, late/early opening
hours, good quality of store’s private label products, including the three lines of smart price, Asda brand, and the
extra special. That sort of categorization created a belief that Asda is treating its customers at their level of
available budget with quality. Reliable and attractive promotions were mentioned by ten respondents as a value
proposition. One gentleman saw value and was loyal to Asda because he was familiar with the store layout, he
could find what he needed always in the same place, which reassured him on his journey to the supermarket.
Finally, Asda sells everything from groceries, foods, house ware, electronic goods, petrol and provides services,
and the value proposition is that sells all these at the most reasonable prices.
5.3.2 Tesco
Considering its strategy marketing approach, Tesco’ customers perceive the expected value. Tesco customers are
very loyal to the brand. They see the loyalty card scheme as a main reason for them to keep shopping with that
supermarket chain. Nearly all respondents mentioned the Tesco club card as a source of value to them. They
appreciate the reward scheme that provides them with offers based on their shopping history and the vouchers
they get each quarter of the year. They also agree on other value elements such as, range of products, local store
and better quality. These three elements were almost standard answers from all Tesco customers. Seven
respondents out of ten agreed on these factors. They defined the range of products as a varied selection at
different prices. They saw the store as an English company and support home industries. The majority of Tesco
customers defined value for money as the ratio between the price they spend and the quality they receive. They
acknowledge that no one is providing the same quality as Tesco at the low prices they offer. Less than one third
of respondents mentioned the stores’ layout and the attractive offers. Tesco customers see offers as being reliable
and attractive, and no other supermarket has the same offers.
Some particular factors were stated by a couple of respondents, namely that a recycling centre is available at
some stores, there are small shops in nearly every district as well as the main super-stores, and they deliver better
food in terms of freshness to online customers than other stores. Two respondents complained of a bad
experience with one supermarket that delivered low quality and nearly expired items ‘not as fresh as in store,
however; Tesco has the best quality products and the freshest items. One respondent stated that Tesco covers all
Southampton; it has everything he needs and provides him with a reward scheme as well. He said that there was
no competition in his opinion.
5.3.3 Sainsbury’s
The main reason for selecting Sainsbury’s is location. Its customers stated that it is not worth making a five mile
journey when they have a shop close to home and work selling the same products at the same quality, and nearly
the same prices. Customers at this supermarket prefer the easy access store and available car parks. They see its
value in competitive prices, reasonably sized stores, and not being too crowded. Respondents who shop at International Journal of Marketing Studies Vol. 4, No. 3; June 2012
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Sainsbury’s perceive value from the product range, offers and promotions. Eighty percent of customers who
prefer Sainsbury’s are over forty years of age. The negative point about Sainsbury’s was that no mention was
made by respondents about the Nectar reward scheme provided to customers.
A particular factor was introduced by a male respondent, who was the only one to recognise Sainsbury’s socially
responsible activities and the environmental awareness that they promote and engage in. He emphasized that
these issues must be the main value creator for all organizations these days, especially supermarkets, because, as
he said, all supermarkets can deliver attractive prices and promotions but not all of them are contributing
honestly in the community while this must be the most important point for the value proposition.
Sainsbury’s is a huge supermarket chain that covers almost every city in the United Kingdom. They provide
many services to meet customers’ expectations and to add value to their shopping experience. However, this
study shows that they might have failed in communicating or using the right marketing techniques to deliver the
clear value elements that they strategically identified in their annual report. They must clearly communicate
them and make them feasible and perceptible, so that all customers understand clearly what the exact and
complete bundle of offers provided by the supermarket is.
5.3.4 Waitrose
“Quality product, honestly priced” is the short expression that explains what is the core value that Waitrose
provides. The majority of respondents who shop there frequently are quality seekers, as they said. They see
Waitrose as a five star supermarket which creates for them an image of a high standard shopping place.
Customers are from different age groups, but with small households (three or less). They agree on the elements
of the value they perceived from their shopping experience.
Apart from the quality products, these elements are:
They sell many things different that others do not.
The stores are quiet and queuing time is not a problem.
The ready to eat foods are fantastic, almost similar to what restaurants offer.
The staff is helpful and well organized.
The store’s private label products have nearly the same quality as the major labels.
Shopping online is useful and delivery is speedy.
Some particular points were made in addition to the quality and the other above mentioned factors. Customers
like the product pack sizes which are suitable for smaller households. One respondent believed that it was worth
spending 20% more to have this kind of product and service.
Waitrose is mainly a quality food provider; customers see and feel its value tangibly and intangibly. Based on its
corporate social responsibility report, it successfully delivers the value it seeks to deliver and customers perceive
the core values offered to them.
5.4 Recommendations
The results of the study show some failure to some aspects of value. Consequently, customers may receive the
offer they wanted to receive, but not as it should be. Companies are responsible for defining and shaping their
strategic and tactical approaches in several aspects. These elements must be defined in marketing according to
customer feedback. They must be communicated, promoted and advertised clearly to all customers, so that they
know exactly what is the complete offer. Woodruff (1997) recommended implementing a customer value
delivery strategy based on customers’ value learning process. The learning process starts by developing
marketing information systems to complement internal performance and operation-oriented information systems.
Learning about customer value can be made through a customer value determination framework (Appendix E)
which is designed to provide managers with answers to critical questions about their customers, especially about
how they value the product or service that an organization offers. The process begins with what target customers
value, and that includes all stages of collecting data about customers and analysing them to identify a link
between product or service attributes and values. The second step is to minimize those value dimensions to what
are the most important attributes required by customers and to examine the strongest and weakest position of the
organization in delivering the value required by the targeted customer. Then it must answer questions about why
the organization is doing poorly in delivering values, which can be learned through qualitative interviews with
target customers. Apparently, companies must predict the future and shape their predictions to define what
values target customers are likely to have in the future. After gathering customer value information, a process of International Journal of Marketing Studies Vol. 4, No. 3; June 2012
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translating these into action is required (Appendix F). The process is simply to create a value strategy then
translate strategies into internal processes, implement the value delivery strategy on customers, and track the
performance of the value deliveries in an ongoing process. As a result of successful completion of these
processes, companies will create clear values based on customer perceptions.
Marketing has a recognizable role in delivering value, first by researching the exact needs of customers, then by
introducing a product or services that suit these needs. The second is to set the pricing strategy that delivers
value from both sides, the corporate side and shareholders’ value, and the customer side. Price is the most critical
element of the marketing mix, because it is the only one that produces return, while all others generate costs.
According to Doyle (2004), effective pricing has four underlying principles:
It should be based on offers to customers, not on production costs.
Pricing should be integrated with overall corporate strategies and goals.
Pricing decisions for a firm should be based on competitors’ objectives and long term strategy.
Customers perceive value differently, therefore prices should be customized and consider those
Customers pay for what creates value to them; they do not mind what was the cost of the product or service.
They first consider the product or service, then they start comparing prices between competitors. They also see
what is the best offer that provides economic value to them. Doyle and Stern (2006) named two advantages of
customers buying products based on that: economic and psychological advantages. Marketing must differentiate
the product or the service of a company from competitors; so they can set the best price based on a differential
The third role is to communicate the values, as it is not enough to have a good product or service. Doyle (2004)
stated that without a decisive communications strategy competitors can catch up and usurp the brand’s position
in the customer’s frame of mind. Spending more on advertising and communication, sales can be increased as a
consequence of that loyalty and value increase. Supermarkets must use more communication channels to reach a
wider number of customers when making sales promotions, regular advertising and public relations. They should
invest more to communicate their social activities and the values they seek to deliver, so that regular customers
can be exactly informed of what their chosen supermarket is providing.
In addition, an important strategic decision that can be introduced by marketing to create and sustain value is
innovation. According to Doyle and Stern (2006: 196), innovation is “developing and delivering products or
services that offer benefits that customers perceive as new and superior”. Innovation must be a continuous
process, because of the environmental changes that create new opportunities; firms must catch in order to create
new solutions based on newly realized needs. Innovation can be done through establishing new strategic
opportunities, such as expanding the current market, repositioning the business, and product development.
Supermarkets can establish new distribution channels; they can also focus on private labelling, while its margin
is higher than other top line products with almost the same quality. They can also put on social events, inviting
families and their children to them; this is good to do especially in summer time. Doyle and Stern (2006) stress
management’s role in setting the objective of innovation, which is to have satisfied customers. Feedback can be
obtained from customers about what they have recognised as good ideas, innovation and product development
which might reflect in their shopping behaviour.
6. Conclusion
The concept value proposition has no specific definition, even though the term is widely used. It can be defined
as the entire set of experiences that an organization brings to customers, including value for money. There are
three types of value proposition, namely all benefits, favourable points of differences and resonating focus. To
gain the best combination of value their must be a link between the internal perspective, which covers the
shareholders’ values and the external perspective represented by customers’ value. Customers define value
differently, depending on the product features; they balance between positive and negative consequences of
product usage. Customers see value by comparing the benefits they receive with the secrecies they perform, and
that includes price, effort, and risk. Superior value can create a competitive advantage through the unique ability
of a company to shape, reshape, configure and reconfigure the company’s assets to serve customers’ needs. In
order to deliver that, managers must think like customers and listen to them. Companies must choose between
providing generic low cost products or more differentiated ones for specific market segments. They must provide
consistent value across all geographical networks to help sustain the value. The value proposition can improve
the efficiency and effectiveness of the internal processes, resulting in more satisfied shareholders and customers. International Journal of Marketing Studies Vol. 4, No. 3; June 2012
Published by Canadian Center of Science and Education 83
It has been stated that one of the most successful strategies is for the organization to offer superior value.
However, it is very difficult to understand value because of two reasons. First, the term is usually linked with
pricing issues and second it has different meaning for different people.
Two main perspectives on value. Corporate value is found in the mission and vision statements and the
company’s objectives, and customer value needs to identify who they are, what their needs are, when they buy,
what they buy, how frequently they buy and why do they prefer on offering among competitors’. Companies are
recommended to use the customer value creation process to catch the best opportunities for growth within
change in the commercial environment. This process is based on customer value analysis and operational
excellence. Perceived value and willingness to pay are correlated.
The value proposition must be studied throughout the entire value life cycle, which includes the following stages
of value: creation, appropriation, consumption, renewal and transfer. Companies are free to use the best
framework to create and deliver their value proposition to their customers, such as a value strategy framework.
In addition, the process of creating the value is integrated if it is not only a marketing role. Marketing is to
provide insights on the exact needs on which to base the production process in market orientation. The more
active market research and customer contact there is, the more value that the company can create. Customers
want to see the source of value in their shopping; therefore it is marketing’s responsibility to identify what they
are seeking. Marketing has an effect on the pricing strategy, so that the company can deliver a price that is
competitive and that customers can afford. Marketing helps to identify new distribution channels to make
shopping easier for customers.
The research philosophy of this study was interpretivist, in that I was looking to provide contextual depth on how
customers perceive the value offered by organizations. The research approach was inductive as there was a
desire to understand the relationship between customers and their perception of value in their selected
supermarkets. The study was about four major supermarkets in Southampton, namely Asda, Tesco, Sainsbury’s
and Waitrose. Data collection took two approaches, secondary and primary data collection. The secondary data
collected from what had been written in the academic filed about the concept of value proposition. Primary data
was collected through mini-depth interviews with a random sample of shoppers. The overall method was
qualitative, because I looked for interpretations and reasons behind the shopping behavours of shoppers in these
supermarkets and why they prefer one supermarket over another.
The results indicated common findings in terms of the elements of value: location, price, quality, promotions and
range of products. They also indicated that customers perceive the exact value promoted by some supermarkets,
such as Asda and its prices. The results also showed some specific findings, such as that customer see value
according to their product choice, not just based on what the supermarket is offering. In addition, there was no
mention of other value elements, such as social activities conducted by the supermarkets.
Some recommendations have been identified from the study, which are to implement customer value, delivering
strategy based on customer value learning processes to help in delivering the right value using the right resources
and capabilities. In addition, companies must predict the environmental changes that often create opportunities.
It is marketing’s responsibility to catch opportunities according to research and identification of customers’
needs. That result in creating and sustaining values delivered to end customers. Marketing should also offer
strategic and tactical considerations about innovation, pricing and communication of values.
7. Limitations of the Research
Researcher tried to accomplish the study in the right way by following a correct and clear path that delivers
reasonable and actual results at the end, but there are naturally some limitations that appear at the time of
conducting any research, and during analysis of the data and results. These limitations are:
This research followed the interpretive paradigm, and one of the disadvantages of using this paradigm,
according to Kelliher (2005: 123), is that the results can often be criticized in terms of validity, reliability and the
ability to generalize, referred to collectively as research legitimization. However, the results I gained at the end
of my study provided me with the contextual depth which I was seeking to obtain.
Time is always an important issue in research. This research was carried out during the summer time, when
many supermarket marketing executives were on holidays, and some were not willing to offer time due to the
extra workload from that. Therefore, I was not able to meet any of them to discuss the strategies and tactics they
use to deliver the value to their customers. I used instead the published annual reports of each supermarket.
This study was conducted at the time of one of the worst economic crises for a long time (the credit crunch).
The economic crisis affected the entire world in the last quarter of 2008, and it is not over yet. The fact is that the International Journal of Marketing Studies Vol. 4, No. 3; June 2012
ISSN 1918-719X E-ISSN 1918-7203
majority of customers are defining value in terms of cheaper product prices or lowest cost shopping. This is a
matter of economical fact that affects the entire world, causing lack of money and job redundancies. This is an
external fact that is out of control and I could not do anything to overcome customers’ perceptions of this fact. It
is too difficult to change the way that customers behave during economic downturn.
Some elements of the value been explained in figure 4.1, for example: quality a term mentioned by 9
respondents from Waitrose, might affect the accuracy of the chart. However, it is a general indicator that
illustrates how customers see value.
Supermarkets do not all have the same physical departments. Some of them have food and non-food
departments and others have more departments, for example, textiles and electronics. Some customers
mentioned the value as finding everything under one roof and that is not the case of Waitrose for example hence
they just sell food and grocery non-food products.
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Table 1. Customer value perception per respondent
Value Perceptions Asda Tesco Sainsbury's Waitrose
Location 2 4 9 2
Loyalty card - 4 - -
Price 6 - - -
Promotion 1 - - -
Quality - 1 1 8
Range of Product 1 1 - -
Figure 1. Type of perceived value chart International Journal of Marketing Studies Vol. 4, No. 3; June 2012
Published by Canadian Center of Science and Education 87
Figure 2. Cudtomerd percived value per supermarket
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