The pandemic has changed shopping habits for good, with Australians spending more money locally and doubling the amount they spend on food online.
Increases in online shopping were expected after lockdowns restricted access to major retailers during swathes of 2020. But analysts and the leading supermarkets believe the shift is permanent.
The New Daily says “shoppers are sticking with e-commerce for food after trying it for the first time during the pandemic”.
“We’re now buying twice as much food online every month than we did two years ago – a $117 million weekly change in shopping habits.
“That could mean as much as 50 per cent of the retail space at your supermarket could be repurposed to feed the rapidly growing realm of online shopping.”
QUT’s Professor Gary Mortimer says supermarket giants Woolworths and Coles will “reverse back” to almost being greengrocers due to the growth of online shopping.
“Part of the space will become a mini-fulfilment centre facilitating online delivery of dry groceries, and the other half (will) remain fresh produce, dairy and deli,” Prof. Mortimer said.
Digital food sales increased annually in January by 76 per cent, about 30 per cent of all online spending, a record. A NAB report estimated that online retail to December 2020 was up 44 per cent on the previous year.
Reserve Bank assistant governor Michele Bullock last year said the growth of online shopping triggered by the pandemic was likely to be a permanent shift.
Jarden analyst Ben Gilbert told Nine the independent sector gained significantly on Coles and Woolworths during the pandemic and may have “retained a decent chunk of those shoppers”.
Read more: The food shopping revolution
The NAB research found that the challenge for bricks-and-mortar retailers had “clearly accelerated” since the pandemic lockdowns, with 36 per cent of respondents to its surveys saying they now spent more locally.
One in four consumers surveyed by NAB said they bought items online during the last three months of 2020, which had previously been purchased in store.
Dean Pearson, NAB’s head of behavioural economics, said pandemic purchasing habits were lingering.
“We’ve ended up with more cautious, more informed, more sophisticated and more demanding consumers,” he said.
“When consumers were asked which behaviours they expect to change most in the future, personal hygiene (such as hand washing) topped the list followed by fewer overseas holidays, less plane travel, less travel on public transport, more saving for emergencies, spending less time in shopping centres and more purchasing online,” Nine reported.
The death of cash is another change coming faster because of COVID-19. A report by Worldpay predicts Australia will be 98 per cent cashless by 2024. It expects ecommerce to grow from $47 billion to nearly $70 billion in that time.
“Ecommerce exploded in 2020 to post the highest growth rate in five years as home-bound consumers sought alternatives to shuttered brick-and-mortar stores. Global ecommerce growth accelerated in 2020, despite recessionary headwinds, posting US$4.6 trillion in transactions, a 19 per cent increase from 2019. This growth accelerated the rate of ecommerce penetration by almost three years, with total transactions jumping from 8 per cent in 2019 to 10 per cent in 2020.”
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In the UK, specialtyfoodmagazine.com says more than a third of people surveyed say they will reduce their food waste, nearly a quarter have become more conscious of the environmental impact of their food, and 22 per cent say they will continue to shop online after lockdown.
“COVID has not simply accelerated the digitisation of food shopping … it has accelerated our love of food and our awareness of its importance in our lives and those of our communities,” says Kevin Flynn, director of retail strategy at ThoughtWorks.
A Deloittes report, The Future of Fresh: Patterns from the Pandemic, offers a sobering statistic that explains some of these trends.
“More than half of consumers surveyed (54 per cent) feel stressed by instore shopping.”
In the US, research from the International Food Research Council revealed the impact of that nation’s pandemic restrictions.
Of the respondents surveyed, 38 per cent said they would buy groceries online more post-pandemic.
“We’ve been closely watching the massive shift toward online grocery shopping throughout the pandemic,” Ali Webster, director of research and nutrition communications at the International Food Information Council, told Forbes.
“Since we know that this process hasn’t been flawless – ordering delays early on in the pandemic, missing items, produce that might not fit the specific preferences of the shopper – we were curious to see if people would beeline it back to stores once the pandemic subsides.
“What we found is that most people who’ve done more online shopping during the pandemic plan to continue doing so even in a post-pandemic world. It really seems that the convenience factor has people hooked and ready to make a long-term change to their grocery buying habits.”
Have you changed your shopping habits during the pandemic? Do you intend to shop online more post-pandemic?
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