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How Covid-19 Is Changing the Way Consumers Grocery Shop

February 25, 2021
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Nobody expected to risk their health shopping for groceries, but COVID-19 changed that and brought multiple mandates with it. From wearing gloves and masks to restricted entrances and exits, COVID is changing how consumers shop and grocers operate. This post explores these changes and provides tips on how you can adapt to keep customers, employees, and your business healthy and thriving.

 
Online ordering for curbside pickup or delivery
Online grocery orders ramped up and increased 233% when the COVID lockdown began in March 2020. Before COVID, ordering online for curbside pickup or delivery was a convenience offered at a few larger grocery stores for busy and tech-savvy customers. All that changed in 2020 — and now grocers are fine-tuning their digital ordering experiences to ensure they aren’t missing out on the curbside and delivery demand.

 

Shoppers want a secure, personalized, and simple user experience. If they’re frustrated with your website, ordering app, load times, or checkout flow, they’ll go to a grocer that has something better. Sales increase when digital experiences are easy to navigate. Providing functionality like filters for dietary preferences, food suggestions, and purchase tracking can streamline shopping. Also remember, great customer service satisfies your shoppers’ needs and keeps them coming back, so don’t hesitate to step in with a phone call or other personal touch. 

 
Stockpiling and bulk purchases
Yes, the search for toilet paper was real. People reacted to the unknown and stockpiled. But no one could have anticipated the shortage of toilet paper, hand sanitizer, or family-pack chicken thighs that would follow. The intense surge in panic-buying has eased, but most people still limit the number of shopping trips they take. Instead of a casual jaunt to the store a couple of times a week, families are stocking up and spending more on each trip. 

 

Because of bulk purchasing, stores are finding creative ways to keep food on their shelves. Farm-to-business is a model adopted by grocers that enables a steady stream of items with less middle-man bottlenecking. Selling less variety is also an option. The average number of different products brought into grocery stores dropped by 7%. Limiting items simplify orders and help with product availability. And as always, best practices in purchasing, inventory control, and first-in-first-out rules help keep fresh products consistently available for your customers.

 
Increased rules and regulations
By now, it’s no surprise that COVID has brought with it a slew of health and safety measures around mask-wearing, hand-washing, and social distancing. With that said, it’s still important to clearly communicate rules and regulations, so shoppers are not confused or frustrated. Set good examples by having employees follow the regulations. Consider creating social distancing cues with signs and floor markers, especially in high traffic areas. Also, provide plenty of hand sanitizing stations throughout your store to help slow viral spread. Staying on top of the regulations allows for the safest environment for employees and shoppers. 

 
Samples, yes please
Remember going from sample booth to sample booth as a kid; by the time you left the store, dinner was done. Those days have slowly slipped away. But companies still need to get the word out about their product by letting shoppers experience it first-hand. This is especially true for introducing new items or fresh and exciting flavors, or for companies that are less-known or newer to the market and need exposure. Plus, who doesn’t like a nice sample or two? 

 

Some grocers are going back to traditional demos with safety controls in place. Dry demos are another way to get the product out there. These consist of sealed packaged samples handed out to customers (sometimes even whole units). A grab-and-go option is also a safe way to promote try-and-buy samples and increase sales in the process. 

 
Payments with a wave
Touchless payment helps limit the amount of high-touch areas to clean in between customers. It works by simply waving your card or using your phone without touching anything. Tap to Pay, Mobile Wallet, QR-code payment, or paying online ahead of time through a website or app is already how half of Americans pay for items. And 85% of those people use it to purchase groceries. 

 

For the other half of Americans that don’t use touchless pay yet, communicating the safety, efficiency, and how it all works is key to buy-in. Embracing this trend is a good move for grocers as well, and not just one that helps during the pandemic. Touchless pay is projected to increase in the coming years and is quickly becoming an important expectation for shoppers.  

 
We’re all in this together
Doing your part as a grocer by supplying essential needs to our communities while creating safe environments for customers and employees is a challenge. Doing so brings the satisfaction of knowing the importance of all you provide. Want to continue to fuel superior experiences? Grab-and-go options are in high demand with both customers and hungry employees. Get all the right tips by checking out: Rise of Grocerant: Ready-Made Tips for Success.

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