Consumer Shopping Habits Changed With COVID-19

Shoppers say pre-pandemic behaviors won’t return any time soon.

July 02, 2020

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—COVID-19 has impacted the way Americans live and how they shop. Results of a recent survey conducted by Epsilon, the Texas-based management consulting company, show that consumers have different opinions about when the pandemic will end, but all seem to feel that recently changed shopping behaviors will remain for the future.

According the Epsilon survey report, Gen X survey respondents were most optimistic about an end to the pandemic, saying they expect it to last “a few months.” The silent generation, those born before 1945, say they expect it to last until the fall or longer.

Among those surveyed, 60% reported that their spending is down since the start of the pandemic, and 80% said they are delaying purchases until the crisis is over, although Gen Z is least likely to do so.

The majority across all generations are still purchasing their groceries at grocery stores (84%). They view grocery stores as one-stop shops where they can get most necessary foods and non-grocery items, which eliminates multiple trips to different stores and mitigates their risk of exposure to the coronavirus. However, 32% said that in the past two weeks they’d purchased groceries at a convenience store or gas station.

Consumers still like going inside a store to buy groceries but only at stores that make them feel safe. They like to see stores cleaning carts and baskets after each use and limiting the number of customers that can enter at one time. Gen X, millennials and Gen Z are most likely to use an app to order for pick-up, and Gen Z and millennials are most likely to order from an app for delivery.

When asked if they’d re-order online in the future, over 40% of consumers across generations said they would because it’s easier, and they’re pleased with the timing of order processing. Close to 50% of consumers are using technology to stay connected to their favorite brands. Email is the preferred channel of receiving communications from those brands, and half of consumers across all generations would like those emails to contain special offers for delivery. Gen X said they want to hear less about a retailer’s COVID-19 response, while the silent generation wants more information.

The report noted that consumers aren’t brand loyal right now. Epsilon advises brands to refine their identity strategy and better understand shoppers’ purchasing patterns, which will enable them to reach the consumers most interested in their products.

Coronavirus Resources

NACS has compiled resources to help the convenience retail community navigate the COVID-19 crisis. For news updates and guidance, visit our coronavirus resources page.