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Service Management Group (SMG) has published new grocery research about how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting consumer behaviour, shifting expectations and changing shopping habits.

Using BrandGeek®—SMG’s market intelligence tool and the fastest, most accurate source of behavioural data linked to customer feedback in real time—SMG collected feedback from nearly 6,400 respondents to understand consumer preferences and what grocery brands need to do to meet evolving customer expectations.

  1. Delivering a safe in-store experience is paramount – With 60 percent of respondents concerned about catching the coronavirus while in public and 85 percent of consumers reporting they’ve shopped in-store in the past 90 days, providing a safe and clean in-store experience should be the grocery industry’s primary focus. There are two key sources that concern customers the most: 57 percent of respondents are concerned about catching the virus from other customers and 19 percent are concerned with the risk associated with shopping carts or baskets. When it comes to maintaining social distancing in the store, 52 percent of customers are most concerned about shopping in the aisles while 27 percent worry most about waiting in line to check out.
  2. If consumers don’t feel safe, nearly 1 in 4 won’t return – Customers are prioritizing health and safety, and there are consequences for brands that don’t get it right. When respondents were asked if they had decided to no longer visit a grocery store because they felt unsafe during a recent visit, 23 percent of respondents said yes. The challenge for brands is that 62 percent of respondents cited they felt unsafe due to other customers—27 percent said it was due to other customers not wearing masks, 18 percent said because customers weren’t following social distancing guidelines and 17 percent said there were too many customers in the store.
  3. Consumers are cross-shopping less and spending more – Sixty percent of respondents indicate they’re visiting fewer grocery stores each trip compared to before the pandemic. While this can pose challenges for specialty grocers, it highlights the importance of product mix and item availability. Though the majority of respondents are visiting fewer stores per trip, 35 percent are spending more per visit, giving grocers an opportunity to increase the average ticket price with consumers who are stocking up on groceries and household items.

“In our research across industries, consumers continue to tell us they are prioritizing health and safety,” said SMG Senior Vice President of Research Paul Tiedt. “Winning brands are not only providing a safe and clean shopping experience, they’re proactively communicating health and safety standards, training staff to demonstrate cleanliness and redefining operational best practices.”

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