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In our latest look at the Coronavirus' lasting impact on global Grocery Retail, we examine eight emerging trends that are set to redefine the industry's future.


1. Value becomes a decision maker

As global economies tighten, financial strain will prompt certain behaviours from shoppers; not only will they become more frugal in their spending, they will also make greater use of existing food stores and become less wasteful in their quest to reduce outgoings. As a result, value will become an increasingly vital factor in store and product choice.

This has major implications for Retailers and CPG brands:

  • Private labels and discount brands will experience strong growth amongst value-centric shoppers.
  • Non-grocery spend will fall as budgets tighten and non-essential purchases fall away.
  • Discount stores that can deliver a "one-stop shop" experience could make significant gains.

2. Localized shopping means new challenges ahead

Even as lockdown measures ease in some countries, many shoppers are likely to try and stay as close to home as possible. Hypermarket-sized stores may have provided shoppers with bulk-buying opportunities during the initial outbreak, but sales volumes in those formats have now tapered off significantly. Instead, smaller and convenience format stores are now the de facto choice for consumers who would prefer (or are still mandated) to stay local.

As a result:

  • Spending patterns are changing, with Customers choosing to carry out full shops closer to home.
  • Cross-shopping has fallen by the wayside as shoppers limit the number of stores they frequent.
  • Strong action will be required to retain new shoppers and regain lost custom as the situation evolves.

3. Food adventures will continue to happen at home for the foreseeable future

One in five British shoppers are now cooking every meal from scratch, up from just one in eight before the pandemic began. While restaurants, cafés, and bars will slowly begin to open up as social distancing restrictions ease, many Customers – particularly higher-risk individuals – are likely to continue their food adventures in the comfort of their own home rather than risk potential exposure.

For Retailers, this means:

  • Meeting greater demand for fresh and frozen products in favour of pre-prepared lines.
  • Educating and inspiring shoppers to try new recipes via online platforms.

4. Health, wellbeing, and humane behaviour become new benchmarks

Not only has the virus prompted Customers to raise their spending on personal and home hygiene products, we've seen it drive a similar rise in healthy eating as shoppers seek to build their natural immunity as best they can. Concerns aren't just limited to their own wellbeing, either; recent weeks have seen debates ranging from the safety and protection of Retail staff, to the need for a wholesale re-evaluation of global meat consumption.

Addressing this heightened awareness around health means:

  • Supporting Customers with their renewed focus on health, nutrition, and mental wellbeing.
  • Focusing hard on hygiene and humanitarianism – not only with regard to employee and Customer wellbeing, but in terms of animal welfare in the supply chain, too.

5. Online Retail reaches the tipping point

Soaring demand for home delivery and click and collect services prompted many Retailers to ramp up their online operations, and early indications suggest that this change will be anything but short-lived. Online sales now sit somewhere between two and four times those seen pre-outbreak, limited more by Retailer capacity than by Customer demand. The digital tipping point is here, Customers convinced by recent experience that online represents a viable way to shop going forwards.

Retailers looking to optimise their online operations now should consider:

  • Expanding capacity via 'last mile' innovations, from offering click and collect in smaller stores to partnering with fulfilment companies in order to expand delivery networks.
  • Ensuring that new shoppers become repeat Customers, making first shops easy, reliable and value-laden.

6. Expectations for digital grow in tandem with the online boom

As frugality and wellbeing come to dominate the Customer mindset, their expectations around technology won't be limited to online channels alone. Digital innovations that make shopping easier, faster, safer and lower-contact will all be sought after, with shoppers looking to Retailers to deliver useful and helpful new applications.

Areas of focus should include:

  • Pre-trip planning applications that enable crowd avoidance based on levels of in-store custom.
  • Touch-free replacements for vouchers, receipts, lists and payment.
  • Additional investment in technologies that reduce one-on-one contact such as self-scan and self-service checkouts.

7. Public goodwill must not be misspent

In 2020, stores have become something more. Customers have come to see supermarkets, stores, and employees not merely as a means to an end, but as pillars of their local community – essential services and key workers helping them navigate a period of unprecedented disruption. This social capital will prove to be hugely valuable, but only for Retailers who demonstrate an unwavering willingness to operate for the public good.

Harnessing the power of this deeper connection with Customers will mean:

  • Increasing or maintaining activities that benefit local communities such as food banks and charity initiatives.
  • Supporting local and national food producers and minimising their overall supply chain.

8. Market consolidation will define the years ahead

As the economy contracts, competition will only get fiercer. As weaker operators begin to struggle, larger Retailers are likely to benefit from their scale, forming global alliances and buying groups that enable them to operate more efficiently and purchase key lines in larger volumes. A period of consolidation is likely to follow, these larger chains scaling up as smaller competitors fall away.

To prepare for this period, Retailers should:

  • Focus on resetting and simplifying their assortments, as discussed in our previous post.
  • Lay the groundwork for new partnerships that can enable more efficient and productive operations.


For more information on retail strategies beyond the virus, please watch our webinar on demand | Future Outlook: Consumer and Retail shifts for Grocery & Pharmacy post-Coronavirus


[This is the fourth in a series of articles advocating the voice of the Customer in the highly competitive food-retail industry. David Ciancio is Global Customer Strategist for dunnhumby, a pioneer in Customer data science, serving the world's most Customer-centric brands in a number of industries, including retail. David has 48 years experience in retail, 25 of which were in Store Management. He can be reached at David.Ciancio@dunnhumby.com].

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The new wave of online grocery customers

Throughout the COVID-19 crisis we've seen the sharp rise and fall of many trends. As countries veered from one phase of the pandemic to the next, we've seen everything from panic-buying and stockpiling, to a booming demand for hygiene products. While some of these trends have stuck, the resumption of a more 'normal' life in many parts of the Asia-Pacific have seen others tail off.

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While general retail has been building momentum online for some years, grocery has been something of a laggard, rarely accounting for more than 15% of the overall grocery market. Historically the major barrier to entry to online grocery has been trust – over 50% of customers do not trust online grocery deliveries to pick the freshest and best items[3]. For years this has been a catch-22 scenario for retailers: customers don't trust the quality of online grocery because they haven't tried it, but they won't try online grocery because they don't trust the quality.

COVID-19 has caused a new wave of customers to finally take a leap of faith into digital grocery. Retailers can be happy that they've won new customers online, but now comes the hard work of retaining them.

The need for Customer Infrastructure

Much has been made of retailers' attempts to keep up with surging online demand during the early phases of the pandemic. Even in globally advanced eCommerce markets like the UK, the lead retailer has had to significantly expand delivery capacity to keep up with demand[4]. In order to meet the needs of new customers, retailers have rightly focused on having the right physical infrastructure in place.

However, if retailers want to keep meeting the needs of customers, they'll now need to focus on a different kind of infrastructure - the online customer experience.

The ease of shopping online is a double-edged sword for retailers. If customers can shop online with one retailer, they can shop online with any retailer. Your competitor store is no longer 1 kilometre away, it is one click away. Customers can literally browse competitor shop windows while they are in your store, and for countless retailers in the Asia-Pac region where online sales have historically been low, their digital stores may be looking rather outdated.

So while you may have won new customers, the fight to keep them is much more challenging.

Getting the digital experience right

The principles of great customer experience online are the same as instore. It's about helping customers easily find what they want. It's about helping customers feel they've got a good deal. It's about having a well-laid out store. Fundamentally, a great digital experience is about putting customers first and responding to their needs. Thankfully, the nature of eCommerce makes it possible to know these needs in detail through the wealth of data available to retailers. The data you're likely already collecting will tell you everything required to build a better overall and individual shopping experience for each customer who shops online.

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  1. Bring the offline online
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    In a world where customers can price compare at the flick of a tab, maintaining price perception is vital. This is easier said than done online, as customers won't spend time browsing the 500 products you have on special that week. Instead, use relevancy algorithms to curate your promotions list at the customer level using their previous behaviour, and show each customer the offers that actually matter to them.
  3. Optimise the navigation
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Retailers in Asia have a limited window of time to win the continued business of new online customers. As these customers become more familiar with the experience, the greater will be their demands and their likelihood to look elsewhere when their experience is sub-optimal.

At dunnhumby, we've been advising grocery retailers on digital best practise for over 10 years, led by 30+ years of leading experience in data science and we have developed a range of products for retailers to deliver exactly these kinds of industry-leading customer experience online, powered by retail data.

In the next part of our series on the post-COVID landscape in Asia-Pacific, we'll explore the diverging needs of customers in the wake of the pandemic, and how omnichannel personalisation can help retailers meet those needs efficiently and effectively.

[1] E-commerce drives China's stay-at-home economy in coronavirus aftermath & China's online grocery sector set for explosive growth, says GlobalData

[2] Chinese shoppers are staying online. That's great news for JD.com

[3] Study cites barriers to online grocery shopping

[4] Tesco Delivers One Million Online Orders In A Week In The UK

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