Unlike other retail segments, grocery stores remained open throughout the pandemic to supply consumers with everything from toilet paper to sourdough starter. They kept the supply chain moving while grappling with shortages, provided food as restaurants shut down, and kept workers and shoppers safe. However, consumer shopping patterns changed drastically as new trends materialized, and grocery stores endured their fare of change and hardship.
Grocery Industry Trends
Several trends have dominated consumer shopping patterns at grocery stores throughout the pandemic. Curbside pickup increased, visit frequency decreased, and the digital grocery market exploded. In 2021, 142.9 million consumers made at least one digital grocery purchase, amounting to 51.5% of the US population and about 9.6% of all US grocery sales. Despite the e-commerce boom, Forrester reports that 72% of retail sales in the U.S. will continue to happen in-store. The report states that the top reasons to shop in-store are to test products (47%) and being able to walk away with an item after purchasing (38%). Grocery Dive reports that store traffic to several major grocery stores, like Albertsons, Kroger, Publix, and Trader Joes, has fully recovered from the early months of the pandemic.
However, grocery stores are combating rising costs. According to the Consumer Price Index, food prices have risen 4.6% since September 2020. Products like fruit, vegetables, cereals, bakery items, and non-alcoholic drinks have seen price increases, with meat and seafood prices increasing over 10%. With this in mind, it is more important than ever for grocery stores to strategically navigate the changing environment.
What Grocers Can Do
Increased prices, an e-commerce boom, and the pressure of restaurants reopening again means grocers must revamp their loyalty programs, marketing initiatives, and data usage. Traditional retailers have abundant data of the massive foot traffic and consumer segments they attract, but very few are focused on leveraging their data for effective digital engagement. Digital engagement doesn’t just mean online shopping, but instead refers to connecting the digital and physical worlds of shopping to understand the full customer journey.
Grocery stores can leverage location data to fuel digital engagement and gain important insights on consumer behavior. For example, using Spectus location data, we can understand when and where people do their grocery shopping. This map illustrates the most popular grocery stores by state in 2021. The stores we analyzed include: Publix, Aldi, H-E-B, Safeway, Trader Joe’s, Stop and Shop, Whole Foods, ShopRite, and Acme.