How consumer shopping behavior has altered

In just a few weeks, the effects of the coronavirus crisis have rippled through the country. The impact on public health is immediate, but the economic repercussions may be even more substantial and extensive over the long term.

Bizrate Insights surveyed its consumer panel to understand how shoppers’ behavior has changed in response to the spread of COVID-19, and how they felt it would affect them over the coming months.

Reports about consumer panic may be overblown – for now

COVID-19 has required a strong response from retailers who have needed to change their business to ensure the health and safety of their employees and customers. Overall, their response to the crisis has met consumers’ needs.

How do you feel about the messaging from retailers since COVID-19 started?How consumers feel about retail communications about COVID-19

Source: Bizrate Insights Flash Survey, March 2020.

A fairly high percentage of shoppers (16%) reported that they felt retailers were sending too many messages in response to coronavirus. While it’s important that retailers keep their customers up to date, they should also be mindful not to overwhelm them during a stressful time.

People are focused on purchasing the essentials

Although most shoppers aren’t panicking, they are still making sure to prepare. When we asked our panel what they had bought in response to news of the COVID-19 outbreak, the majority purchased essential goods like food, toiletries and medicine.

What items have you purchased in the past week in response to COVID-19?

Graph of what consumers were purchasing in response to coronavirus Source: Bizrate Insights Flash Survey, March 2020.

A smaller, though still significant, percentage of respondents purchased entertainment like books or movies, or purchased kitchen items to facilitate home cooking. Fewer shoppers bought other items to keep them busy at home, like home improvement materials, art supplies or home fitness equipment. However, this may change the longer the ‘stay at home’ advisory is in effect.

Shoppers are actively seeking alternatives to in-store shopping

One of the most significant changes in behavior is the rapidly growing interest in alternative forms of fulfillment, with the necessity of social distancing and lack of product availability driving this change.

Just 24% of shoppers indicated that they were able to find everything they needed. The rest reported that some, most or all of the items they wanted were sold out.

As a result, 60% of shoppers are more likely to consider alternatives to traditional in-store browsing and checkout, such as BOPIS (Buy Online Pick Up In-Store), with over 25% extremely likely to consider these alternatives.

How likely are you to consider alternatives to traditional in-store shopping and checkout?

Graph of consumer interest in alternative checkout Source: Bizrate Insights Flash Survey, March 2020.Source: Bizrate Insights Survey, March 2020
1 = Highly unlikely , 10 = Extremely likely

What this means for retailers

eCommerce retailers must reexamine their current supply chain and prioritize top selling items, even if it means longer delivery windows for other products. Brick-and-mortar retailers, on the other hand, must place a greater emphasis on their digital storefronts and developing a strong omnichannel program that can get consumers the items they need quickly.

The current crisis has driven home how important it is for brands to be flexible and adapt quickly. As demand shifts and traditional supply lines are strained, alternative omnichannel fulfillment solutions will be more important than ever. Consumer behavior in response to COVID-19 is constantly changing.

Bizrate Insights will continue to track consumer behavior. Check back over the next few weeks for additional updates on how consumer sentiment is evolving in response to COVID-19.