Blue Yonder research reveals dramatic shift in shoppers’ behaviour since COVID-19


New research from Blue Yonder highlights how shopping behavior has changed globally since the COVID-19 pandemic started. Blue Yonder surveyed 6,000 European adult consumers in April and 1,000 U.S. adult consumers in both March and April. 

Online versus instore shopping behaviour

A key finding on both continents shows that the grocery retail sector has been greatly impacted by more consumers ordering online for grocery delivery – and getting bogged down by delays.

  • U.S.: Almost three quarters (74%) of consumers surveyed during April said they were doing more shopping online as opposed to in-store in response to COVID-19 – this has increased from 57% when the same research was carried out in March.
  • U.S.: More than two-thirds (69%) of U.S. consumers continue to shop in-store for groceries despite the COVID-19 pandemic based on the April survey results. Of those U.S. consumers that had groceries delivered, more than half (54%) said they experienced delays, with 28% stating their delivery was delayed by more than three days.
  • Europe: Almost two-thirds (64%) of shoppers who are spending more online say they will continue to do so once the crisis subsides.
  • Europe: While shopping in-store will continue to play an important role in the post COVID-19 world, 19% said they would visit grocery stores less than they did before – a figure that jumps to 27% for non-grocery stores.

“Online grocery delivery services have seen a big upward trend and attracted a lot of new customers, as a result of people being unable or unwilling to leave their homes. For new customers, their initial online grocery delivery experience will likely influence their repeated custom in the future, so it is crucial it is a positive one,” said JoAnn Martin, vice president of retail industry strategy at Blue Yonder.

“It is clear that both online and in-store shopping behavior will change as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Wayne Snyder, vice president of retail strategy EMEA at Blue Yonder. “On the one hand, many retailers are going to need to ramp up their online fulfilment operations to meet growing customer demand and expectations. On the other, they will need to carefully consider the changing role of their store estates in terms of supporting both their online and offline business in the future.”

Ensuring the right assortment mix

Stock availability has been one of the major challenges facing retailers during the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • U.S.: Almost nine in ten (87%) consumers encountered out-of-stock products during their most recent shopping experience in March.
  • U.S.: Three quarters (75%) were more likely to buy the same product from a different retailer if their desired product was out of stock, while 78% were more likely to buy a different brand of product from the same retailer if their desired brand of that product was out of stock, based on the April survey.
  • Europe: More than one third (38%) of shoppers said their favorite items and brands are more often out of stock at grocery retailers, compared to the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis.
  • Europe: Within grocery retail, before the COVID-19 crisis, only 48% of shoppers cited stock availability as important, after price (72%) and range of products (54%). However, stock availability is now the most important (58%), ahead of price (56%) and range of products (39%).

“Shopping patterns are shifting, and we are seeing a resurgence of the big weekly food shop. It is clear that consumers are willing to compromise on product and price, provided the items they need are in stock. Retailers must think about the knock-on effect this behavioral shift will have on availability and adjust product assortments in line. For example, if they find people seeking the security of purchasing a larger number of longer-life items, due to lockdown restrictions or supply problems, retailers could consider scaling back the number of fresh items on offer,” added Martin.

Longer-term impact on non-grocery shopping habits

Key findings revealed that in Europe almost half (47%) of consumers are spending more on grocery shopping since COVID-19 crisis measures were put into place, with more than a third (35%) stating their online grocery shopping had increased. Meanwhile, COVID-19 will clearly have a long-term impact on spending behavior in non-grocery retail. In Europe, more than half (58%) of shoppers have spent less money on fashion since COVID-19 restrictions were put in place. There was a similar trend for DIY and electronics retailers, which saw 40% and 45% of shoppers spending less respectively. Understandably, healthcare did buck the trend, with 23% of shoppers saying they have spent more during this time (higher than the sector-wide average of 17%).

“The ongoing concern for retailers is the risk of shoppers spending less, or not visiting stores as frequently. To position themselves for success, retailers’ supply chains must be geared up to provide people with the goods they want, either online or in store, as efficiently as possible. This will require them to improve their forecasting capabilities and have greater visibility into their supply chains than ever before. AI and machine learning can play an important role in helping retailers better anticipate demand, as well as identifying and resolving issues at a more granular level,” concluded Snyder.