Sainsbury’s says finding ways to help customers is a big theme for the company during the economic downturn, as it uses its insight from data and interviews to find ways to assist people.

It says it is differentiating itself by competing on both price and quality, but says competing just on products is no longer enough.

“We are consistently asking ourselves how we can help customers,” said director of brand communications Claire Harrison-Church. “If all you are trying to do is sell products you won’t succeed. As retail brands we need to think about how we can help customers. It’s about finding new ways to connect with customers.”

She said Sainsbury’s recent initiative of providing customers with five meals for £20 is a good example, after customers told the grocer they had trouble coming up with meal ideas for the whole week.

Speaking at the Retail Week conference, Harrison-Church said customers are also keen to have control over their finances: “For many their budget hasn’t changed, but they have this feeling that they need to be more in control.”

Sainsbury’s talks to 600 customers a month and benchmarks itself against its major competitors to keep track of its performance on customer service. Harrison-Church said: “It’s a very important metric for us and I’m happy to say we are ahead of the pack.”