Post Covid-19 Consumer Shopping Habits

COVID-19 has changed consumer shopping habits for the foreseeable future. This is especially true in the grocery sector. Dalhousie Universities’ spring study revealed that only 24% of Canadians felt comfortable with the idea of in-store grocery shopping.[i] In addition, there has being a surge in online food sales. This is significant given before COVID-19, Canadians were risk adverse to ordering food online. This was reflected in the online food sales market share – 1.2% for the 52-week period ending June 2019.[ii]  Adding to retailers’ misfortunes, a recent survey by IPSOS revealed:

  1. 28% of Canadians are delaying or canceling major purchases.
  2. 61% of Canadians are being more mindful of how they spend.[iii]

Will the retail sector recover? Yes, it will just take time. As with every volley in the economy, what goes down must go up.

The biggest question the retail sector faces post COVID-19; how will consumer shopping habits change? A recent research study undertaken by Momentum provides key insights into this question.[iv]

General Concensus

The study suggests consumers may not be as eager to rush back to the way things were. Only 16% of respondents said they would go back to stores and public places when the pandemic comes to an end. This would suggest most consumers will continue to embrace e-commerce.

Implications for Smaller Brands

With e-commerce brings increased competition. Brands must offer a unique selling proposition and stimulate brand awareness as the majority of consumers (65%) are not browsing on-line.[v] They know the brand they wish to purchase.

Grocery Pandemics Maintained

During this pandemic, consumers have opted to cook at home more often. This is re-affirmed by Momentum’s study. Sixty-one percent (61%) of consumers plan to do more cooking ar home and 60% plan to maintain the healthy eating habits they have embraced.

Implications for Smaller Brands

The keys to success are 1. Recipe dissemination and 2. Complete product transparency. Brands must provide meal solution ideas that provide consumers with easy to prepare at home meals utilzing their products.

Brands should be as transparent as possible with respect to:

  1. Their products ingredients, emphasizing the health aspect.
  2. Where their product ingredients originate from.
  3. Where the product is manufactured.

Research reveals close to 94% of customers are more likely to remain loyal to a brand with good transparency.[vi]

consumer shopping habits

Retail Pricing Strategy

Prior to COVID-19, many consumers shopped at discount retailers to save money. As a result of this pandemic, retail price and saving money will continue to be on consumer’s minds with 78% of consumers depending upon promotions to save money.

Implications for Smaller Brands

Smaller brands must be competitively priced. Competitive retail would be +/- $0.25 the medium price point in the category. As part of their suggestive retail pricing strategy brands should incorporate a promotional strategy into their costing so retailers can discount the brand’s retail 3-4 times per year. Brands should also investigate couponing as part of their marketing strategy.

Branded vs. Private Label

Seeking to save money on their food bill, there has being renewed strength in private label. While 71% of consumers indicated their preference is for name brands, 65% have purchased more private label since the pandemic began. Why are consumers purchasing a particular name brand;

  1. Brand trust is the # 1 reason for choosing a name brand.
  2. 42% indicated it was because of product quality.

Implications for Smaller Brands

Creating a brand image is critical for smaller brands when competing with no-name. Develop and emphasize the personality you wish for your brand to be recognized for.

Consumers Shop Rationally. They Purchase on Emotion!

Moving Forward

Though we are into month 6th of this pandemic, many people believe a second wave will occur in the fall. It is not too late for brands to come to the assistance of those who face insurmountable challenges. To this, Momentum research revealed:

  1. 87% of consumers say that companies that helped out during the pandemic has improved their perception of that brand.
  2. 82% seek out brands that provide support.

This pandemic has being tough on businesses all of all sizes, including ourselves. I just look at the picture of my father on my desk and it re-inforces my will to keep working that much harder. Business success is a marathon, not a sprint.




[i] Why COVID-19 Will Change Canadian Grocery Industry Forever: Expert,, March 2020

[ii] ACV% Channel Development, Nielsen, Period Ending June, 2019

[iii] Canadian Shoppers Hesitant to Spend Amid COVID-19: Survey, Retail Insider, July 2020

[iv] What Do Consumers Miss (or not Miss) About Shopping, Josh Kolm, August 2020?

[v] COVID-19 and Shifting Shopping Behaviours, Canadian Grocer Webinar, June 2020

[vi] Let’s be Honest: Brand Transparency and Consumer Trust,, April 2018