Shoppers move online and opt for healthy products in pandemic, report finds

New faction of at-home workers could affect future of consumer markets, says PwC

In-store shopping remains consumers’ channel of choice for daily or weekly shopping. File photograph: Getty

In-store shopping remains consumers’ channel of choice for daily or weekly shopping. File photograph: Getty

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More people around the world are shopping online and many of them opting for healthier options since the Covid-19 pandemic struck, according to a new report from PwC.

The report, which polls 8,738 consumers across 22 territories, does not include Ireland but a spokeswoman for the group said the trends were evident here also.

The report found that despite the impact of Covid-19, in-store shopping remains consumers’ channel of choice for daily or weekly shopping. However, mobile shopping continues to steadily accelerate as other types of shopping, including in-store shopping, decline.

Across most product categories, a greater number of people said they have been shopping more or exclusively online, compared with shopping more or exclusively in-store. “Consumers are making their online shopping priorities clear, emphasising a need for fast and reliable delivery,” the report said.

Online engagement also extends to social networks. More than half of consumers said they interact with the top four digital platforms, and more than a third of those respondents, on average, said they were actively clicking on advertising.

With grocery shopping in particular, consumers across the board said that, out of a variety of product attributes, they’re most willing to pay a price premium for healthier options, local produce and sustainable packaging, regardless of whether they’re shopping online or in store.

The report also noted that Covid-19 has created a cohort of shoppers who have changed their behaviour due to heightened health and safety concerns.

Almost a quarter of respondents ranked “increased health and safety measures” in their top two priorities when shopping. This same cohort also ranked “Covid-19 certification” higher than other survey respondents. These individuals are shopping in store less across all product categories.

‘Zoom effect’

The “Zoom effect” is described as the phenomenon of at-home workers who have embraced a more digital, environmentally friendly lifestyle than those working primarily away from home.

“Covid-19 has created a new faction of at-home workers, many of whom will continue to work remotely even after the pandemic ends,” the report said.

“This sea change will not only shape the future of work, but our research tells us it could also affect the future of consumer markets, because the behaviours of at-home versus away-from-home workers differ substantially.

“External data from the US indicates that those who have switched to telework during the pandemic are also likely to have higher incomes and be more educated than those who have had to continue working outside of the home.

“Global data also shows that those who have had to continue to work outside the home are more likely to hold lower-paying jobs. These demographic differences most likely correlate to the consumer behaviours of the at-home cohort we have identified in our survey.

“Regardless of the reason for at-home workers’ consumption patterns, though, the fact is that they are shopping in very different ways than those who work outside of the home.”

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