The last year proved to be the most difficult retailers have ever faced. At a time when shoppers needed to stock up, retailers were forced to place limits on select items. As lines and basket sizes increased, retailers had to pull back on the number of people allowed inside stores. It was an ongoing situation of uncertainty and change.
I applaud retailers for the work they’ve done to respond quickly in the face of crisis. They rose to the occasion and, as a result, now have a playbook and are prepared to fulfill shopper needs in any situation. Whether enduring an unexpected obstacle or simply reacting to changes in what consumers want, the industry is ready. Furthermore, we can learn a lot from shopper behavior over the past year.
Availability and Price Can Supersede Brand Loyalty
When toilet paper, disinfectant wipes, pasta, canned goods and other essential items were scarce, consumers had to make a choice: choose the brand that’s available or go home empty handed. Often, they chose to try a new brand and, in many cases, found that it was just as good as the item they would have purchased had it been in stock. This presents an opportunity for lesser-known brands and a challenge for the go-to advertisers that sold out first, which will now have to work a little harder to earn back any customers they lost.
Dollar value also became a more prominent issue as consumers strived to stretch their paychecks a little further. I don’t foresee that changing even as places begin to open up. Consumers are looking for economic stability as much as they're hoping for a return to normalcy. Value speaks to consumers and will continue to be highly important, if not essential, in promotional strategies.
Hybrid Grocery Shopping is Becoming the Norm, Not the Exception
In prior years, consumers had become increasingly interested about digital grocery solutions. They had warmed up to the idea of in-store pickup, and curbside pickup was gradually gaining steam. Grocery delivery was beginning to come into its own, albeit on a small scale. That all changed over the course of 2020, however, when shoppers began to explore ways to get their groceries as safely as possible.
Consumers have and will continue to return to in-store shopping, but they’ll still rely on e-commerce to purchase certain items, like dry goods, thanks to its convenience. According to a report by Mercatus, roughly 90 percent of online shoppers will continue to shop online in the future. The report also showed that more than four-fifths of consumers (87 percent) are satisfied with their preferred brick-and-mortar retailer and plan to stay loyal during future shopping trips. Retailers need to be prepared to meet the expectations of both audiences — regardless of where or when they want to shop.
2020 Was a Year to Learn; 2021 Will Be a Year to Act
After a year of many unexpected challenges, grocers have the chance to show what they’ve learned and highlight their expertise by continuing to react quickly to changing consumer needs. A combination of value, availability and omnichannel shopping experiences will ensure that retailers can deliver what consumers want and need in 2021.
Steven Boal is the CEO of Quotient Technology, a leading CPG and retail marketing technology provider that delivers personalized digital promotions and ads to millions of shoppers daily.
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