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Panic buying is on the wane, while trip planning is on the rise: Survey

Ongoing shopper insights study takes the pulse on how Canadians are grocery shopping during the pandemic

For many Canadians, popping into the grocery store has given way to planning grocery trips with military precision.

A new survey from 6 Degrees Integrated Communications found that today’s pre-shop has become more deliberate than before COVID-19. Nearly half of Canadians (47%) surveyed the week ending April 12 said they are increasing their deliberate planning to get everything at once, and 41% have either stopped or decreased previous “pop into the store as I need things” behaviour. Once in store, they’re focusing more on their lists, with 54% taking their time in store to get everything they need—a 5% increase over the previous week.

For the past few weeks, 6 Degrees has been surveying 500 household shoppers every week to understand how COVID-19 has affected how they shop, what they shop for, their openness to shopper marketing, how they feel overall, and more.

Overall, shoppers are continuing to shift behaviours as they grow increasingly nervous about in-store shopping. In the third wave of survey (ending April 4), 81% of shoppers said they are nervous about shopping in grocery stores, up 7% from the first wave (ending March 24); and 72% are going into grocery stores less often, up 4%.

However, the results indicate that panic buying is waning. In the fourth wave (ending April 12), 65% of shoppers said they are stocking up more than usual, down 3% from the previous week. Forty-eight per cent are concerned stores will run out of supplies, down 9%.

“We’re in this phase now where we’re settling in ,” said Adrianne Gaffney Wotherspoon, EVP operations and chief strategist at 6 Degrees. “Many people are very concerned about their health and safety, and the government has even said try to keep your shopping trips down to one trip per week. Our data certainly falls in line with that.”

However, as many Canadians are in financially precarious positions, their motivations will start to shift. “Financial concerns and a desire for value will be what continues to drive pre-planning and a low number of overall trips,” says Gaffney Wotherspoon.

As shoppers are increasingly planning their trips in advance, they’re turning to digital planning tools to help. The most recent survey found that:
•66% of respondents are using digital flyers, with 24% using them more frequently than before.
•60% are using a retailer/loyalty app; with 18% using them more frequently than before
•47% are using a third-party flyer app; with 15% using them more frequently than before.
•46% are using digital coupons; with 14% using them more frequently than before.

The latest findings also show that whether shopping in store or online, Canadians want brands to help them stretch their budget. Survey respondents said they are “actively seeking” or “passively open” to: in-store displays promoting a sale price (88%); online advertising providing a special offer (79%); online advertising introducing a new product (73%); and in-store displays introducing a new product (70%).

That said, paper isn’t dead yet: one third of respondents said they plan to use printed coupons just as often as before COVID-19; and only 11% have said they’ve stopped using them.

“Moving forward, recessionary concerns are going to be significant and people will want to stretch their dollar,” says Gaffney Wotherspoon. “If they have to do that using a paper coupon, many will do so.”

With Canadians wanting to stretch their dollar, she adds, “it’s incumbent for brands and retailers to meet people on their level and make sure they provide the communication and value frankly that shoppers are going to be looking for.”

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