The better shopping experience


How shopper behaviour is impacted by the pandemic

COVID-19 has changed lives rapidly across the globe, and, with it, the way we shop groceries. As countries re-open, which changes in shopper behaviour will become part of the new normal?

Changing shopper behaviour as reaction to the crisis

Many consumers have seen their personal finances being impacted negatively since the crisis hit. While lower disposable income and overall economic insecurity has led many to reduce their spending in categories from fashion and apparel to services, electronics and restaurants, spending for groceries has increased as consumers have stocked up on pantry staples, cleaning and safety products.

The way consumers shop has changed, too: while smaller shopping trips several times per week were on the rise previously, recent months have marked the return of the weekly shop.

In a recent survey by Oliver Wyman, around 60% of shoppers stated that they shop for groceries less often with a considerable number purchasing bigger pack sizes than before. A reason for this might be that around one quarter of shoppers said that they do not feel comfortable inside a physical store. Shoppers also choose grocery stores differently: proximity, hours of operation and availability of online ordering options are the basis for store selection.



Which changes will last?

As countries re-open, the question is: what are the longer lasting effects on shopping behaviour? Given that the challenging economic environment is likely to endure for a period of time, value and price considerations will most likely be on top of many shoppers’ minds and discounters might be uniquely positioned to gain market share. On the other hand, shoppers might be less willing to visit several stores to cover their full shopping list, and therefore might prefer traditional grocers over the limited assortment offered by discounters.

As consumers plan to eat out less often, grocery retailers might look for ways to cater to shoppers looking for inspiration for home cooked meals. Recent months also saw a surge of shopping for groceries online with many shoppers trying online ordering for the first time. It remains to be seen if this is a permanent change in behaviour or if shoppers fall back to preferring physical stores as data suggest will be the case for at least those countries where online grocery shopping enjoyed low penetration pre-crisis.

To ensure traffic to brick-and-mortar locations, retailers need to prioritise the implementation of permanent health and safety measures in stores protecting both shoppers and store employees.

While only time will tell which shifts in shopper behaviour are more permanent, one thing is for sure: we will see the impact of the crisis for many months to come and adapting quickly will be key to manage the effects successfully.


Oliver Wyman Customer survey, 2020.

McKinsey, COVID-10 Consumer Pulse surveys, 2020.GfK survey via McKinsey, Italy, 2020.
IDG research, 2020.
Euromonitor International Macro Model, 2020.


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