How Shopper Behavior Has Changed During COVID-19

In a recent report from Acosta, researchers found that two-thirds of U.S. shoppers said they have changed their grocery shopping habits in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The report, Grocery Shopping during the COVID-19 Pandemic, dives into how shopper behaviors have changed in recent weeks following stay-at-home warnings and the panic-buying that’s associated with the coronavirus outbreak. To best understand this information, let’s take a look back at grocery shopper behavior in 2019. 

In 2019, one of the biggest trends in grocery was the shift in dietary needs. “One third of households have at least one family member following a non-medically prescribed diet, and this rate is higher for younger generations,” said Leslie G Sarasin, President and CEO of FMI. This shift changed the grocery landscape by influencing grocers to expand their natural and dietary restriction sections in the store and helped introduce new products on the shelves that fit the new needs of their shoppers. The other leading trend in 2019 was online grocery shopping, with  roughly 43% of shoppers got their groceries online, and visited the store 1.7 times per week, higher compared to the national average of 1.6 trips per week 

Both of these trends were expected to grow in 2020, but nobody could have predicted that a global pandemic would be the reason that both trends went off the charts. 

One of the most grappling statistics of the report is that two-thirds of U.S. shoppers said that they have changed their grocery shopping habits in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Comparing March 20-29 to March 6-12, shoppers in all age groups reported making significant changes in the way they get their groceries. The leading age group making changes was the Gen Z & Millennial shopper group, with 68% of those surveyed changing habits. They were followed closely by Boomer shoppers at 64%, and Gen X followed them at 64%. 

In addition to changing their grocery shopping habits, 72% of those surveyed shared that they have been implementing new behaviors like social distancing, a trend even some grocers have picked up on with the introduction of one way aisles. 70% of individuals surveyed said they have been avoiding public areas, and 64% said they have been sheltering in place and at home. 

Acosta also reported that top categories are changing, recording that 44% of shoppers are buying canned foods and shelf stable foods like rice, pasta, and beans, and more paper products. 36% of shoppers are buying more household cleaners and disinfectants and 36% are buying bottled water. 

Unsurprisingly, 9 out of 10 shoppers experienced out-of-stocks during their most recent grocery trip, with 47% of shoppers saying that they were able to find some sort of substitute for items that were unavailable. 

Acosta concluded their report with helpful tips for retailers and manufacturers during this difficult time, including suggestions on implementing new solutions that reduce the risk of shopper and employee transmission of the virus with shields, re-establishing inventory of core items, and providing creative, budget friendly meal solutions in store and online. 

For more information on the report and best practices during COVID-19, click here