Grocery retailers have been well and truly under the spotlight since the Covid-19 outbreak, dealing with a huge spike in consumer demand as lockdown became imminent, and ensuring that customers remain safe whilst feeding the nation. ESA and the BVA BDRC Group homed in on consumer sentiment and changing shopping behaviours whilst buying groceries.

For groceries, UK consumers are consolidating both the brands we shop with and the channels we use. While in-store shopping remains the most widely used method of buying groceries, there is now significantly less overlap between shopping channels. While respondents reported using an average of nearly four supermarket brands prior to the crisis, this average has dropped to just over two, creating a more acute ‘winner takes all’ scenario.

Online grocery shopping is definitely not a seamless experience. Social media analytics indicate wide-ranging emotions on supermarket brands and their handling of the crisis. 19% express unhappiness with the time it is taking to complete in-store grocery shops but a significantly higher 29% are unhappy with the time it takes to access online supermarket websites and complete their purchase.

James Keleher, managing director of ESA, commented: “The pivotal role of supermarkets in feeding the nation has brought with it significant reputational challenges in terms of online sentiment, particularly on issues such as safety, deliveries and product availability. Some brands have fared better than others, but there is clearly inconsistency from location to location.”

Major grocery retailers have reduced the range of products available to customers to help cope with consumer demand and keep shelves replenished. Health and safety, for customers and staff alike, now takes precedent over the convenience people have been used to in recent years, but retailers should not overlook the importance of price in this new environment. Nearly half of consumers are concerned about the price of grocery products and more than ever now, customers will be tightening their belts and looking to find best value for money.

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