Much has been written on what has changed in grocery stores over the past few months as we move through the three phases of COVID’s impact. However, what hasn’t been covered in as much depth is how consumers have changed their in-store shopping behaviour and how grocers should respond.

We started this discussion in a recent post on Consumer Habits with one of our partners – Fusion Analytics.  In this post, we’ll share a few observations from our industry research and explore a few key questions all grocers should be asking

Before we begin, it’s worth noting that these observations more closely reflect a state of shutdown, and there will be differences by region and over time. 

Pre-COVID shopping behaviour 

Before COVID, larger weekend shops were often paired with separate, focused trips throughout the week that had a clear, measurable goal.

Weekend grocery baskets were larger and contained basic staples (e.g. bread, milk, eggs, other proteins), while more specialized trips throughout the week focused on specific needs (e.g. baskets filled with household cleaners, paper towels, dusters and laundry detergent for a cleaning mission)

Pre-COVID, industry data shows that a typical grocer may have found weekend baskets were ~10-20% larger (on average), with more transactions covering a larger number of departments – significant pattern across millions of transactions each year.

graph comparing pre-COVID and COVID basket sizes

Pre-COVID basket sizes increased over weekends as consumers paired a large weekly shop with smaller trips. Post-COVID, consumers are moving to a once-weekly shop either on a weekend or weekday, dampening day-of-week dynamics.

Current in-store shopping challenges 

COVID has changed how consumers shop and grocers run their stores. Multiple trips per week have been reduced to a single shop at the “store of choice, with shoppers aiming to make a single pass through the store with a heightened sense of their surroundings due to social distancing. 

Basket sizes are significantly larger, and the line between weekend and weekday shopping has blurred

Store managers want to move customers through as efficiently and effectively as possible for customer safety and to help manage the long queues outside – many have even installed unidirectional aisles to guide shoppers through the store. 

The net effect is less time spent in the store with fewer steps retraced. In other words, when shoppers forget the peppers for tacos while at checkout or in the car, fewer are going back to get them because the barrier is much higher. 

To ensure shoppers can capture all their staples as well as sets of items previously purchased during smaller, focused trips, grocers must evolve their in-store strategy

3 strategic questions grocers should ask 

Grocers should ask themselves three key questions as they start to adapt their customer experience strategy: 

  1. Store Layout: What changes do we need to make to our store layout to drive convenience and ensure customers can capture each use case and all associated items in one pass? 
  2. Flyer Planning: How has our flyer changed to convey that we are open for business and the best place for customers’ once-weekly shop? 
  3. ForecastHow much visibility do we have into the demand for our products, and how do we ensure we have what our customers will be looking for during their once-weekly shop (which could be any day of the week)?  

As the retail landscape continues to change, the most successful grocers will not be the ones with just the best products, prices, or current market share, but the ones who are able to ask the right questions and adapt to this new environment. 

At Daisy, we continue to help retailers around the world answer these questions, powered by the AI-based tools they need to win. 


Michael is the Director of Analytics and Advisory at Daisy, where he supports Retail and Insurance clients through advanced analytics and strategic advice.


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