Retail, Proximity & IoT Marketing

Acosta Analyzes Evolution of US Shopper Behavior Amid Growing Threat of COVID-19

New research finds online ordering is ramping up; more shoppers are making additional stock-up trips
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Acosta, a leading full-service sales and marketing agency in the consumer packaged goods industry, today released its second round of research providing insight into how consumer shopping habits are continuing to evolve amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The report, which found 28 percent of online grocery shoppers made their first-ever online grocery order in March due to COVID-19, also provides guidance to help retailers and brands navigate unprecedented challenges.

“Our first round of research into consumer behavior was conducted just as this crisis was beginning to take shape in the U.S.,” said Darian Pickett, CEO of Acosta. “This second round, conducted at the end of March, offers a stronger snapshot of current consumer behavior with 65 percent of respondents reporting they have changed their shopping habits due to COVID-19, compared to just 23 percent in our previous survey. As the number of cases unfortunately continues to rise and more states and counties impose quarantine measures, we expect to see further changes in consumer behavior in the coming weeks martech news.”

Acosta’s second COVID-19 research report, gathered via online surveys between March 20 and 29, provides insight into shoppers’ changing habits, as well as recommendations for retailers and brands, including:

Changes to the In-Store Shopping Experience:

  • When comparing channel shopping behaviors, many shoppers reported going to stores less frequently, especially mass merchandisers. Among those who shopped at a mass merchandiser in March, 47 percent reported making fewer trips.
  • Stocking up is becoming more commonplace. More shoppers indicated purchasing pantry food items in addition to cleaning items/paper products compared to Acosta’s previous survey. About half of U.S. shoppers said they made an additional stock-up grocery trip in the past week.
  • Eighty-eight percent of shoppers experienced out-of-stocks, and of those shoppers, 47 percent found a substitute for half or more of their unavailable items.

Increased Online Ordering for Groceries:

  • While shoppers are making fewer grocery store trips compared to Acosta’s previous survey, more shoppers are turning to grocery e-commerce.
    • Twenty-eight percent of online grocery shoppers made their first-ever online grocery order in March due to COVID-19.
  • Many consumers who had previously ordered groceries online reported ordering more frequently.
    • Of the 36 percent of shoppers who ordered groceries online for store pick-up, 33 percent reported making more orders in March.
    • Of the 38 percent of shoppers who ordered groceries online for home delivery, 37 percent reported making more orders in March.

Rules of Engagement for Retailers and Manufacturers:

  • Retailers should continue to implement solutions that reduce the risk of shopper and employee transmission of the virus, such as aisle flow solutions and expanded cashier-less checkout options.
  • Retailers should expand online ordering fulfillment and pick-up/delivery time slots in order to meet the needs of new e-commerce shoppers who prefer not to shop in the store.
  • Manufacturers should consider limiting production assortment to high velocity items to optimize manufacturing and replenishment.
  • Manufacturers should ensure their brand marketing messaging supports shoppers in these uncertain times, or consider temporarily discontinuing or adjusting the marketing message.

Acosta’s research was gathered via online surveys using the company’s proprietary shopper community between March 20 and 29, 2020. The report also includes comparison data from online surveys conducted between March 6 and 12, 2020. To access the full report, visit

Acosta will continue to conduct research and will share updated data and recommendations for retailers and manufacturers on how to best meet consumers’ needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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