Omicron shook up Christmas shopping behaviours in December, IGD research finds

Rising uncertainty surrounding the Omicron variant had a direct impact on how and where shoppers bought their food at Christmas, the latest research by ShopperVista from IGD reveals.

While a large proportion of shoppers felt a return to normality for Christmas (56%), a significant number were more impacted by COVID-19 than they had expected. Just under a third of shoppers (32%) stated the news of Omicron affected their celebrations and 27% claimed to have avoided making plans altogether due to the uncertainty of potential last-minute restrictions. Meanwhile, Christmas shopping took a different form for some.

Rhian Thomas, head of shopper insight at IGD, said: “With the news in December creating some uncertainty of how people would be able to spend the festive season, shoppers looked to retailers and food manufacturers to help make the most of their plans, whatever their situation. Our pre and post-Christmas research showed some shoppers approaching the season differently in how they conducted their shopping to ensure they didn’t miss out, from the channels they used to the types of products they bought.”

Just over a third (35%) of shoppers claimed to start their shopping earlier this year – though 17% left shopping until the last minute due to uncertainty over plans. Of the shoppers who used convenience stores for some of their Christmas shopping, 45% did so to pick-up last-minute items. This was also the case for 25% of quick commerce shoppers.

Of those who claimed that they were directly impacted by the Omicron variant, 44% claimed they shopped online or used Click and Collect to avoid going into stores.

Looking ahead to 2022 trends

The shift in shopping behaviours seen at Christmas paves the way for the shopper trends IGD predicts will be key for 2022:

  1. Divided shoppers

For 2022, there will be a division amongst shoppers as we enter a COVID-19 recovery phase with a backdrop of rising financial pressures and taxes across various sectors, with shoppers who are better off having a very different experience to those who are less affluent.

  1. Reactive shopping

2022 is looking to be incredibly uncertain for shoppers, with mounting financial pressure and COVID-19 uncertainty. Shoppers will be more dynamic, adapting their shopping habits to deal with challenges as they arise. There will also be more shopping around as shoppers look for the best prices, with 31% already saying that they use multiple stores to get the best offers.

  1. Growth of disruptors

Shoppers will start to use non-traditional online retailers for a wider range of services, but with significant growth potential and a diluted market we expect the rise of quick commerce loyalty schemes in 2022.

Online shoppers have become more likely to shop around and switch between retailers. There is now more choice than ever online, and shoppers will be tempted by loyalty schemes on the non-traditional online operators.

  1. Value of time

In 2022 shoppers will be focused on saving time and will look to retailers and suppliers for faster and more convenient solutions for how they shop. Quick commerce will play a huge role in this as it continues to grow.

  1. Do it for me

In 2022 shoppers will expect retailers and manufacturers to continue to put words into action on sustainability and health. As the industry makes long-term sustainable choices, it will need to take shoppers on that journey and convince sceptics that actions are being taken as fast as they need to be.