How the Pandemic Changed the Way People Shop for Food
When the pandemic hit US shores, it forever changed people's lives. What foods they buy, how much, and how they buy them, were the catalyst for customers and retailers having to adjust to the ever-changing landscape. Online Ordering One of the most significant changes is online grocery shopping, which has dramatically increased since the start of the pandemic. At its most basic, it was a reaction from customers to limit themselves to unnecessary exposure. In December of 2019,81% of consumers had never bought groceries online, but during the pandemic almost 79% of shoppers had placed an online order.Before February 2020, sales for online grocery shopping sat around 1.2 billion, but by June that year, online grocery sales in the US hit 7.2 billion. The recommendations customers receive when checking out or selecting an item can also be highly personalized. Stores have adapted by dedicating space in their parking lots for online pickups and in their stores to accommodate delivery employees who shop on the customer's behalf.
Andrew Smith - VP, Marketing at PowerReviews, says about the online/in-store trend: “Although consumer shopping behaviors have shifted online over the past year at an unprecedented rate, grocery was one vertical where consumers always seemed to place more value on the store over online. Our results show this is still the case to a certain extent, but shoppers are clearly more comfortable doing their grocery shopping online today than pre-Covid. The fact that consumer convenience is the biggest reason for this is indicative that this trend will continue long after the pandemic is behind us. Trends evident in other shopping verticals are mirrored in the grocery sector. Shoppers are relying more on validation from existing shoppers when making buying decisions in the form of user-generated content. Ratings and reviews are key to providing the buyer confidence necessary for grocery consumers to convert -- according to our survey, whether shopping online or in-store.”
Larger Orders, Increased Shelf-Stable Food & Plant Based Food Most households are making fewer trips to the grocery store but with the plan to purchase larger quantities. Before covid, 19% of Americans shopped at least three times a week for groceries. That number dropped to as low as 10% by June 2020. At the same time, customers are trying to find the balance between healthy foods and options that have a long shelf life. The latter is for peace of mind against any unforeseen event. Consumers are now leaning towards natural quality products for their health benefits and premium flavors.
Generally, we have seen many retailers focus on their core items and big sellers within categories. However, that does not signify that innovation is gone. Innovation is rising again, and if there is one consistent attribute in which almost all of the innovation has had in the past year, it has been healthy & plant-based.
In-Store Shopping Stores are reconsidering their need to have more efficient, convenient, and intuitive layouts. End caps now prominently display essential items or best sellers. That does not mean that new items don't catch eyeballs, as packaging plays an important role as customers search for both value and premium options. And shoppers are rethinking how they buy their food, how it got to the store, and what goes into the products. “Consumers are demanding transparency,” says Phil Lempert, food industry analyst and editor at SupermarketGuru.com. Many retailers have also expanded their cashier-less check-out options with the elusive Amazon stores famously letting customer walk right out while being charged through their app.
Conclusion Produce and frozen foods categories have also experienced a strong bump in demand. To conclude, although many people have started to enjoy going back out to restaurants, the last 12-14 months have left an impression too large to ignore regarding lifestyle and food choices. The forecast is that as the "new" normal begins, these trends are here to stay, and people will continue their exploration in the kitchen, and now consider their grocery buying experience more important than ever.
Eating well and cooking well, now give more emphasis to enjoying food at home, with others, leveraging newly developed preparation and planning skills. Americans want and expect to continue cooking and eating at home more, even as they crave some of the convenience and variety delivered by restaurants. Their ambitions are supported not only by newly acquired culinary tools and techniques but also by a newfound orientation toward planning ahead, consistent with less frequent shopping and with buy-for-later choices.
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