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Shopper Trends|July 20, 2020

These CPG Categories are Going to See a Big Online Lift

Our research indicates that online shopping for basics, including groceries, will continue to lift as more customers are won over by the channel’s safety, price, and ease. People who bought the basic groceries and health products online as a result of the pandemic tell us about their experience and their future plans.

One new long-term side effect of COVID-19: Shoppers trading quick trips for quick clicks.

More people are ordering their groceries, wellness products, and even beer online – many for the first time ­– due to the pandemic. And, our research indicates, they’re finding the shopping experience satisfying enough to stick with.

As a result, many categories are expected to see a significant bump in online demand in the coming months, particularly among specific sets of consumers. Here are some results of our latest How America Shops® research, detailed in our report “A Bridge to an Open Society”:

  • Among shoppers who bought basics such as frozen foods, beer, hair color, and baby care online during the pandemic, 30% to 55% of them did so for the first time.
  • One-fifth to one-third of shoppers who bought categories online said they plan to continue buying such goods [online] most of the time for the next three to six months.
  • 40% of shoppers want retailers to expand curbside pickup service.

Add this all up, and we’re looking at a pivotal moment for retailers – a chance to capture and keep new online buyers for the long haul. However, it also presents tough questions, such as how many stores does a retailer need, and how does it get more products in the e-basket?

For the answers to these questions follow shoppers right into the digital aisles.

Different shopper segments approach the online trip differently. A few distinct behaviors stood out:

  • Age factors. Baby boomers lead the demand for health products online – 79% will continue to order prescriptions online, while 64% will buy vitamins and 50%, over-the-counter drugs. Millennial shoppers will make up most of the demand for men’s facial grooming products (34%).
  • Income factors. Households that earn less than $50,000 are more likely to continue buying skincare (48%) and oral care (57%) online. Meanwhile, more upper-income households ($100,000+) ordered from for the first time (71%).

Winning Strategies to Keep Your New Online Shoppers

  1. The right price. Nearly 45% of shoppers told us they continue to buy certain products online because they can get lower prices; 48% do so because they can find items on sale. Brands and brick retailers will have to carefully monitor competitive pricing online.
  2. Fewer worries. Ease and selection were the original reasons for shopping online, and now safety joins the list for almost 60% of shoppers.
  3. Getting what they paid for. It may seem like a low bar, but skepticism about the accuracy of the grocery order was an online deterrent. Now, nearly two-thirds of our respondents (72% of them, Boomers) said they continue to shop online because the orders are “usually” accurate. Imagine the uptick if the orders are always accurate.

Price, safety, accuracy. Success in these strategies will influence shoppers to add more products to their e-baskets.

The next challenge will be what do to with the store formats – and all that space.

To learn more about the categories shoppers are buying online, and which specific retailers they shop most, get access to our latest report.

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