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03/19/2021

Pandemic Has Lasting Effect on Consumer Shopping Behaviors

Acosta research identifies 4 distinct groups
Bridget Goldschmidt
Managing Editor
Bridget Goldschmidt profile picture
Pandemic Has Lasting Effect on Consumer Shopping Behaviors Acosta Consumer Product Goods
In its latest report, Acosta research indicates COVID concern level directly corresponds with changing shopping habits.

It’s no surprise that a year after COVID-19 restrictions went into effect in the United States, consumer shopping habits have changed dramatically. In its recently released report, however, consumer packaged goods sales and marketing agency Acosta broke down the changes in shopping behaviors among four distinct consumer groups that emerged as a result of the public-health crisis.

The consumer groups identified by Acosta in “COVID Consumer Journey: Passive to Panic” were Staying the Course, skewing toward younger, employed males; Social Distancers, skewing toward employed Millennials and/or Millennials with kids; Hunkering Down, leaning toward older and retired or unemployed people; and Panic Button, more likely to be Gen Xers with children or older people with no children.

“While we’ve seen significant growth in the number of consumers stocking up, shopping less and buying more online, our research indicates COVID concern level directly corresponds with changing shopping habits,” noted Colin Stewart, EVP, business intelligence at Jacksonville, Florida-based Acosta. “In fact, 94% of the individuals in our Panic Button segment, which reported the highest COVID concern level of 8.6 out of 10, stocked up on groceries, while only 30% in the Hunkering Down segment, with a lesser concern level of 7.4, did so. Similarly, 63% of the Panic Button segment shopped more online during the pandemic, while only 25% of the Social Distancers, with a concern level of 7.7, changed this behavior.”

The report’s analysis of these consumer groups includes:

Shopping Behavior Changes by Segment

  • Panic Button, comprising 21% of shoppers, had high COVID concern and made considerable and fast changes, like stocking up and shopping online.
  • Hunkering Down, comprising 28% of shoppers, made moderate changes such as shopping less and spending less.
  • Social Distancers, comprising 28% of shoppers, made only small changes, like purchasing more groceries than usual.
  • Staying the Course, comprising 23% of shoppers, made no real changes to their shopping habits and had less overall COVID concern.

Enduring Post-COVID Shopping Habits

  • Panic Button shoppers are most likely to maintain their new habits: 82% plan to continue with at least some pandemic-inspired habits, while 27% plan to stick to all or most of their changed habits.
  • Social Distancers are most likely to return to their pre-pandemic shopping behaviors, with 29% planning to do so, compared with 19% of Hunkering Down shoppers and 17% of Panic Button shoppers.

Post-COVID Shopping Priorities

  • Among shoppers as a whole, product availability will be the top priority, at 60%, followed by lower prices (52%) and customer safety (42%).
  • Priorities by consumer segment are as follows:
    • Staying the Course: convenience, lower prices and good customer service
    • Social Distancers: customer safety and fast checkout
    • Hunkering Down: promotions, lower prices and the option for delivery
    • Panic Button: product availability, customer safety and options for curbside pickup and delivery 

The report was based on online surveys of Acosta’s proprietary shopper community, conducted between Dec. 30, 2020 and Jan. 4, 2021.