Pandemic Shopping Habits May Be Here to Stay

Health and safety efforts are key for getting them back in-store.

June 16, 2020

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Data from search and other Google-owned channels indicate many of the shifts one might expect from people cooped up in their homes, such as more interest in cooking, DIY crafts and far less regimented daily schedules. But according to Google, the trend toward home-centric living was in the works long before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, reports Adweek.

“We were already observing what we’ve described as ‘home centricity,'” said Marie Gulin-Merle, vice president of global ads and marketing, Google. “People are looking for flexibility and a better quality of life—often that means eliminating a long commute. And with more people spending more time at home, shopping patterns had already started shifting.”

For the past two years, Google has seen a growth among search terms like “remote jobs,” which has increased 210%, and “grocery delivery,” which has seen a 130% boost. Google also expects that many of the convenient purchasing methods consumers have adopted out of necessity due to COVID-19 could end up having a long-term effect on how they shop.

Because of consumers’ new-found confidence in online shopping, brick-and-mortar retailers will pay a price for not paying attention to in-store health and safety measures related to the coronavirus, reports Chain Store Age.

According to the Consumer Health & Safety Index, an ongoing health and safety benchmarking study by Ipsos, “the ability to deliver on health and safety efforts is now the most important aspect of the customer experience, and it will be for some time,” said Nick Mercurio, executive VP and service line head of U.S. Channel Performance at Ipsos.

The study found that, when deciding to return to stores, American consumers consider certain health and safety practices more critical than others. In fact, 62% of consumers surveyed say they would stop shopping at a retailer that is not taking health and safety seriously.

This includes the consistent use of company-issued face coverings, managing the number of customers entering stores, six-feet social distancing markers at checkout, employees visibly wiping down high-traffic areas and plexiglass dividers at checkout.

Ipsos uncovered several glaring gaps between these consumer expectations and what was observed at the stores by conducting mystery shops to measure health and safety attributes across 45 major U.S. brands in seven key industries to determine their performance. A random sample of 125 locations per brand were visited during this study, while ensuring geographical representation and a margin of error of 5-7%.

Among the findings:

● Employees at 25% of the stores visited wore face coverings improperly or not at all inside the store.

● Employees at 51% of stores visited were not wearing gloves inside the stores.

● 77% of the stores visited did not provide any hand-sanitizing or hand-washing solution inside the entrance.

● 82% of the stores visited did not provide any hand-sanitizing or hand-washing solution at checkout.

● 64% of the stores visited had no staff actively cleaning interior high-traffic areas, such as carts/baskets, counters, credit card readers, doors and demos.

● 31% of the stores visited did not have plexiglass dividers at checkout.

● 58% of the stores visited were not observed to be managing the number of customers entering stores.

Three brands stood out for best implementing the health and safety measures of the new economy: Whole Foods, the top performing retailer in the study; along with Costco at No. 2 and Trader Joe’s at No. 3.

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.