Pandemic Habits - Grocery shoppers are less brand loyal

Paige Murphy
By Paige Murphy | 30 June 2020
Thinkstock

Brand loyalty among grocery shoppers is becoming a thing of the past as a result of the pandemic and the panic buying it has caused.

The resulting scarcity of certain products from supermarket shelves, be it from supply chain issues or grocery hoarding, has meant that 61% of consumers have been forced to try new brands over the past few months.

Only 18% of those consumers plan to shift completely back to their original brand choice and 3% say now that they’ve tried challenger brands, they wouldn’t return to any pre COVID-19 brands.

The remainder planning to stick with some or all of the new brands they have recently tried.

The findings come from a recent survey conducted by publisher and insights business WOM Network which looked at the impacts of COVID-19 on grocery buying behaviours. 

“Brands will need to work harder than ever to re-establish connections and loyalty with their customers in the coming months, possibly years,” WOM Network co-founder and CEO Warwick Hills says.

“Those that experienced short-term spikes in sales due to hoarding may suffer a longer term decline as their loyal customers were forced to consider their competitors during COVID-19 induced outages.”

The study also explored other changes in shopping behaviour, new attitudes to grocery buying and the likelihood of COVID-19 shopper behaviour becoming the “new normal”.

Since 2012 there has not been a big shift in the frequency of trips to the supermarket with the majority of main grocery buyers visiting the supermarket three times per week.

However 70% of main grocery buyers now say they are visiting the supermarket less frequently than pre-COVID.

What has changed since 2012 is that the time spent inside the supermarket has consistently declined year on year and it appears that COVID has accelerated this trend with 62% of main grocery buyers saying they are spending less time in the supermarket regardless of whether they are shopping more or less times than previously.

Prior to COVID 12% of main grocery buyers said that they shop regularly online for groceries.

This figure has consistently, but slowly, grown since 2012.

As a result of the pandemic the survey found that 22% of shoppers say they are doing more online grocery shopping than pre-COVID.

The decline in time spent in store, and the rise of online shopping, are both long term grocery shopping trends. It appears that COVID has turbo-charged these changes at a level of acceleration not seen before.

What will the new normal look like?
Main grocery buyers were asked if they thought the COVID experience would change their shopping habits permanently, and most agreed it likely has.

Those COVID-induced behaviours most likely to continue for the long term include:

  • 44% said they will likely continue to do less frequent, larger shops.
  • 43% said they will continue to do more cooking at home.
  • 49% said they are more likely to keep their pantry more stocked than previously.
  • 27% said they are likely to do more online shopping for groceries.

WOM Network conducted the survey with over 1,700 Australian grocery buyers on review site Mouths of Mums.

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