The Independent’s Playbook: Give Them More In Store

May 5, 2021

By Jim Dudlicek, NGA Director of Communications and External Affairs

One of the biggest retail stories to come out of the pandemic is the turbo boost in the growth and consumer acceptance of online grocery shopping. Within a matter of weeks, the quest for safety as the coronavirus ravaged the countryside drove shoppers to embrace pickup and delivery at levels not anticipated for several more years.

Now, as more folks across America are vaccinated and they slowly regain the confidence to resume previous routines, will consumers start visiting the supermarket more often? A new study says yes – but don’t expect the tables to turn back completely.

According to a new survey from Inmar Intelligence, 27% of consumers said that, once fully vaccinated, they expect to do most of their grocery shopping at stores, while 38% will do so both in-store and online.

“As vaccines become more widely available, it is natural that today’s shoppers choose to head back into the store as a part of their grocery shopping routine,” observed Spencer Baird, executive vice president and president of Inmar Intelligence’s MarTech division. “Most consumers are familiar with an in-store shopping experience – browsing and discovering new products – and there are some products that shoppers prefer to buy in-store.”

In fact, Inmar notes that a return to the physical store is already underway. While nearly half (48%) of shoppers are hybrid shoppers, about a third (33 percent) are shopping for groceries in-store, suggesting a steady return to normalcy.

As folks emerge from the shadows of the pandemic back into the sunlight, they’ll be craving experiences they’ve been deprived of for the past year. For independent community grocers, it’s an opportunity to meet and exceed consumers’ expectations, to make sure their confidence isn’t for naught.

As comfort levels and local guidance allow, showcase everything that can’t be found online. Let your shoppers continue to buy center store products online (as long as it’s from you) while ramping up the sensory experience in the fresh perimeter. Give them everything they remember and loved about going to the grocery store, but don’t stop there – build, innovate, explore.

Remember, you’ll be dealing with shoppers who spent the past year getting used to delivery and pickup out of necessity. They could very well go back to that after their cabin fever wears off, if you don’t offer compelling reasons to visit your store. As Inmar notes, online shopping is not going anywhere, despite a few lingering hurdles to acceptance, like quality, price and delivery charges. Plus, more folks will be returning to restaurants as restrictions on indoor dining are lifted.

“As consumers head back to the physical store, they plan to continue stockpiling everyday items, indicating the importance of longer-term preparedness,” Inmar’s Baird said. “Retailers must prepare for this longer-term shift, not only in terms of stock, but also providing today’s hybrid shoppers with a seamless omnichannel experience across a variety of touchpoints. No matter the age, shoppers expect to receive personalization, convenience and cost savings during each of their grocery trips.”