Grocers’ next challenge: Encouraging shoppers to spend time in stores (Research)

Mintel analyst says people need to be encouraged to slow down and try new products

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The pandemic has been an inadvertent boon for e-commerce, but grocers can’t forget about creating an enjoyable in-store experience.

According to Mintel’s ongoing research, “Global COVID-19 Tracker – Canada,” almost four in 10 Canadians (37%) were shopping more online, with 22% noting they were buying more groceries online due to COVID-19.

As of mid-April, 70% of Canadian shoppers were making less frequent trips to the grocery store than usual. At the end of July, 50% of Canadians were still worried about the risk of being exposed to the virus, driving two-thirds (64%) of consumers to limit the time they spend in stores.

Carol Wong-Li, associate director, lifestyles and leisure at Mintel, says the challenge grocery retailers face now is to convince consumers to come back into stores and shop for longer periods of time.

“Obviously health and safety is first and foremost in consumers’ minds, which has completely shifted the mindset,” she says. “[Grocery shopping] has become so much mission-minded—people are trying to get what they need in the most efficient way.”

And while health and safety is a top priority for grocers too, Wong-Li says they can start to encourage customers to slow down and re-engage in spontaneous behaviours like browsing and trying new products. “The process of discovery in stores is so important because people are getting ideas while they’re shopping,” she says.

As uncertainty around the virus lingers, Wong-Li says, “retailers will need to replace the tactile experiences—from choosing vegetables based on touch and smell to sampling new products—with more visual incentives. This, she says, will create opportunities to enhance the in-store experience in a safe way. Examples include providing QR codes that can be scanned by mobile phones to access full recipes or how-to cooking videos. “It’s something that will give them inspiration in the store, and it’s even better because they can access those resources [on their mobiles] at home,” says Wong-Li.

Mintel also identified an opportunity for “functional claims” on food products. The “Global COVID-19 Tracker – Canada” found that stressed-out consumers turned to comfort food during the pandemic. In mid-April, one third (33%) of Canadian women said they were eating more indulgent food like chocolate, ice cream or pizza to help them cope with the situation.

Wong-Li says as the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic is the reality for the near future, functional claims such as specific ingredients that relieve stress, boost their immune system, or improve sleep will be important to Canadians.