Since the start of the global pandemic over a year ago, grocery shoppers have taken a definite online turn and many still see the pandemic’s impact on store shelves, according to recent studies.

Forty-five percent of consumers report shopping online for groceries more now than before the pandemic, with around a third of those polled said they’re shopping less at grocery stores than pre-COVID. Of people making online grocery purchases, 46% indicated they use online delivery more now than before the crisis began, and 40% use online pickup more. Only 11% use delivery and 15% use pickup less than prior to the pandemic.

According to experts in the field, COVID-19 has significantly impacted consumer behavior and accelerated trends we were seeing prior to March 2020. While many believe we’re headed towards normalcy, it is highly likely that certain pandemic-related shopping habits — particularly consumers’ reliance on e-commerce — are here to stay.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

When buying groceries online, 45% of shoppers said they receive their orders via home delivery. The same percentage use click-and-collect service, but more consumers opt for curbside pickup (28%) than in-store pickup (17%). Just 9% of online grocery purchasers pick up their orders from lockers. However, 20% belong to online subscription programs, which typically offer members free unlimited pickup and/or delivery based on transaction size and frequency, among other benefits.

Online memberships had a strong affinity with younger shoppers, with 40% saying they use these programs when purchasing groceries. Similarly, seniors led age groups in the use of home delivery (48%) and curbside pickup (32%). Two-thirds of those surveyed said they place online grocery orders via computer. Twenty-seven percent of respondents use smartphones when ordering groceries online. What this indicates is that shoppers have become accustomed to ordering groceries online or through subscription services, with contact-free pickup or delivery options. As we move into a new phase of the pandemic, these grocery shopping channels will remain significant, as will consumers’ increasing focus on product availability, low prices and promotions, whether they are shopping in-store or online.”

Surprisingly, grocery customers now exhibit more concern about key shopping elements — in-stock products, pricing and deals — than at the start of the year. Sixty-four percent of respondents in the July surveys said product availability will be most important in the post-pandemic period, compared with 60% in January. Likewise, 63% cited low prices as most important (52% in January) and 40% named availability of promotions and deals (33% in January).

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The roll-out of vaccines and grocers’ protection measures appear to have allayed much of shoppers’ COVID safety concerns. Now, just 27% of consumers rank safety as the most important post-pandemic, dropping from 42% in January. Customers also continue to exhibit a predilection for easier shopping methods, as 32% now rate convenience as most important versus 34% in January.

These findings underscore that out-of-stocks remain a big issue. Two-thirds of in-store grocery shoppers surveyed said they recurrently see out-of-stock products, with 14% encountering them often and 52% sometimes. Thirty-one percent reported rarely seeing out-of-stocks in stores. Among online customers, 51% continue to notice out-of-stocks, including 42% finding them sometimes and 9% encountering them frequently, compared with 39% saying they rarely see unavailable items.

Sizable percentages of consumers also perceive on-shelf shortfalls in a range of product categories, namely those that were in high demand early on the pandemic’s stockpiling phase. Thirty-four percent of shoppers said they now see fewer paper goods (e.g. paper towels, bathroom tissue) on shelves than pre-pandemic, while 28% say the same for laundry and cleaning products and 22% find this situation with fresh meat.

Other categories cited by customers as having reduced variety on shelves include canned goods (18%), frozen food (17%) and fresh produce (15%). At the same time, 10% of consumers named each of those three categories as have more on-shelf items, while 15% cited cleaning/laundry products and 14% paper goods as having increased variety.

The at-home status will remain an ongoing factor for grocery retailers and CPG marketers to consider as they gauge post-pandemic consumer behavior, Acosta’s research indicated. Overall, 48% of respondents worked from home during the pandemic, including 37% most or all of the time and 11% some of the time. And looking ahead, one in four shoppers expect to make this a permanent change. So to remain competitive in today’s retail market, it’s imperative that you have a robust online presence!

With the Deliver by Linkeo platform, your SME is guaranteed to have all the tools required to keep you competitive and thriving, easily adapting to the challenges of our current reality. Be sure to get in touch with the experts at Linkeo Ltd. today for more details.