Grocery shoppers have taken a definite online turn since the onset of COVID-19, and many are still seeing the impact of the pandemic on store shelves, according to new research from sales and marketing firm CPG Acosta .
Forty-five percent of consumers say they shop online more now than before the pandemic, according to “COVID-19 Shopper Insights: What habits persist? From Acosta. report, published yesterday. Meanwhile, about a third of those polled said they shopped less at grocery stores (30%) and retail stores like Walmart and Target (35%) compared to the pre-pandemic period. The results come from online surveys of the community of buyers who own Acosta conducted between July 1 and 6.
Of those shopping for groceries online, 46% said they used online delivery more now than before the COVID crisis, and 40% made more use of online pickup. Only 11% are using delivery and 15% are using pickup less than before the pandemic.
“COVID-19 has had a significant impact on consumer behavior and accelerated the trends we were seeing before March 2020,” said Colin Stewart, executive vice president of business intelligence at Acosta, based in Jacksonville, Fla., In a statement. âWhile many believe that we are moving towards normalcy, there is a good chance that some shopping habits linked to the pandemic – especially consumers’ reliance on e-commerce – are here to stay. “
When shopping for groceries online, 45% of shoppers reported receiving their orders via door-to-door delivery, Acosta said. The same percentage uses the click-and-collect service, but more consumers opt for curbside pickup (28%) than in-store pickup (17%). Only 9% of online grocery shoppers collect their orders from lockers. However, 20% belong to online subscription programs, which typically offer members free unlimited pickup and / or delivery depending on the size and frequency of transactions, among other benefits.
Online subscriptions had a strong affinity with younger shoppers (Gen Z and Millennials), with 40% reporting using these programs when purchasing groceries. Similarly, seniors (baby boomers and older) led the age groups for home delivery (48%) and curbside pickup (32%). Gen X were the top users (20%) of in-store pickup, and Gen Z / Millennials were the top users (13%) of locker services.
Two-thirds of those surveyed reported ordering groceries online through a computer, leading baby boomers (80%) and Gen Xers (66%). Twenty-seven percent of those surveyed use smartphones to shop online, with Gen Z / Millennial consumers by far the top users of mobile orders with 40% vs. 27% for Gen X and 13% for Gen Xers. baby boomers.
âBuyers have become accustomed to ordering groceries online or through subscription services, with options for pickup or contactless delivery,â said Stewart. âAs we enter a new phase of the pandemic, these grocery channels will remain important, as will the increasing attention of consumers to product availability, low prices and promotions, whether they shop in-store. or online. “
Surprisingly, grocery store customers are now more concerned with the key elements of the purchase – products in stock, prices and offers – than at the start of the year, the Acosta study found. Sixty-four percent of July poll respondents said product availability will be greatest in the post-pandemic period, up from 60% in January. Likewise, 63% cited low prices as the most important (52% in January) and 40% cited the availability of promotions and offers (33% in January).
The rollout of vaccines and grocer protection measures appear to have allayed much of buyers’ concerns about COVID safety. Today, just 27% of consumers rank safety as the most important after the pandemic, up from 42% in January. Customers also continue to show a preference for easier shopping methods, with 32% now prioritizing convenience, up from 34% in January.
Acosta’s findings underscore that stockouts remain a big problem. Two-thirds of in-store grocery shoppers surveyed said they regularly see out-of-stock products, with 14% seeing them often and 52% sometimes. Thirty-one percent said they rarely see stockouts in stores. Among online customers, 51% continue to see out-of-stock items, with 42% finding them sometimes and 9% encountering them frequently, compared to 39% saying they rarely see unavailable items.
Significant percentages of consumers also perceive on-shelf shortages across a range of product categories, namely those that were in high demand early in the storage phase of the pandemic. Thirty-four percent of shoppers said they now see less paper products (eg, paper towels, toilet paper) on shelves than before the pandemic, while 28% say the same for products laundry and cleaning and 22% find this situation with fresh meat.
Other categories cited by customers as having less variety on the shelves include canned goods (18%), frozen foods (17%) and fresh produce (15%). At the same time, 10% of consumers cited each of these three categories as having more items on the shelf, while 15% cited cleaning / laundry products and 14% paper items as having greater variety.
Home status will remain an ongoing factor for grocery retailers and staple merchants to consider when assessing consumer behavior after the pandemic, Acosta research said. Overall, 48% of respondents worked from home during the pandemic, with 37% most or all of the time and 11% sometimes. And going forward, one in four buyers expects this to become a permanent change.