Grocery shopping habits of UK consumers have been permanently altered, research shows


Research released from Ensono, a leading hybrid IT service provider, reveals that the coronavirus lockdown is set to have a significant, long-term impact on the grocery shopping habits of UK consumers.

According to the research by Ensono – which serves well-known brands in the food, grocery, and retail sectors in the UK – grocers should expect a permanent multi-billion-pound shift to grocery shopping online when the lockdown lifts. Ensono’s data suggests that the percentage of shoppers doing at least half their grocery shop online is due to increase from just under 20% (before coronavirus) to just over 30% (after), with the most significant changes to grocery shopping habits seen in the 35-44 age bracket. Almost 4 in 10 (39%) from this age group plan to do at least half of their grocery shopping online once coronavirus ends – an increase from just under a quarter before the outbreak.

While grocers have had to contend with panic buying and the impact this has on stock levels, Ensono’s research found positive public reaction to the way the major supermarket brands have responded to the crisis. 58% of consumers agree or strongly agree that the major supermarkets have been quick to restock, with only 9% in disagreement. Moreover, just over 55% of consumers agree or strongly agree that the major supermarkets have done well to quickly hire more staff. Overall, public perception of the major supermarkets has improved. Exactly one third of consumers trust the major supermarket brands more because of their reaction to the coronavirus pandemic, and just 12% are less trusting.

Much of the resilience demonstrated by the supermarket chains can be attributed to their use of mainframe technology, which grocers have long used to process transactions, keep track of inventories, and manage payroll and employee processes. Previous research run by Ensono and the Cloud Industry Forum found that 50 per cent of retailers rely on mainframe estates.

Barney Taylor, Europe MD, Ensono, said: “The pandemic has seen grocers adjusting their operations to keep up with customer demand as buying habits have shifted. Demand for online delivery has risen dramatically, and 22% of those who had never done any online grocery shopping are now doing so. While this has put a huge strain on inventory and payroll management, the major grocers have been resilient, and this is already reflected in positive changes in public perception. Shoppers are impressed with the customer experience they are receiving and mainframe – the workhorse for many grocers – has played an integral role so far in providing reliability and stability.

“Other data points from our research show how online has accelerated as the battleground for grocers. Long-term, grocery shopping behaviours won’t return to their pre-coronavirus ‘normal’. New online grocery buying habits have become cemented, and business as usual has changed for good. For grocers, the need to innovate and transform to achieve a great online customer experience is now even more of a priority.”