Insight: Shoppercentric – Times are tough, but we remain a nation of shoppers

Independent shopper insights consultancy, Shoppercentric, have for a third year, launched its Shopper Stock Take Index, enabling valuable year-on-year comparisons across UK shopper’s thoughts and feelings about the grocery retail sector. More than a thousand online survey responses were collected from shoppers and findings indicate more people are making changes to their shopping habits.

“This is the third year that we have conducted our Shopper Stock Take and our report delivers the shopper perspective behind the behaviours that have driven the latest retail sales results,” said Danielle Pinnington, M

managing director at Shoppercentric. “We asked UK shoppers how they felt about the stability of their household budgets; how their shopping habits are changing; and what brands and retailers need to do as a result.”

The 2018 Shopper Stock Take index launching today reveals:  

  • Times are tough – 
    • Shoppers aren’t yet feeling the same pinch as in the worst of the recession, but they are certainly starting to feel the pressure. Only 1 in 4 claims to be unaffected, with a considerable proportion of UK shoppers having to make minor changes to spending.
    • The speed of change is fast – just 12 months ago the proportion of those making minor changes was just 16 percent, today it stands at 44 percent.
    • 26 percent of shoppers have noticed prices increasing a lot, and 56 percent have noticed small increases. Shoppers primarily put these increases down to the state of the economy (54 percent) and Brexit (50 percent), although the exchange rate, cost of ingredients and greedy companies are also ‘blamed’ by a fair proportion of shoppers.
  • Changing behaviours as a result of pressure – 
    • 4 in 5 shoppers are now “being careful to avoid waste”
    • 3 in 4 shoppers are “avoiding being tempted to buy things I don’t need”
    • 1 in 2 shoppers are now “going out of their way to find the best prices”, and will “split shopping across different stores to get the best deals”
    • 3 in 5 are now buying “own label where I can to keep costs down”
    • 1 in 3 are now using “online shopping to check spending as I go”
  • Widening store repertoires –
    • 2017 saw a continued increase in the proportion of shoppers who had abandoned weekly main shops in favour of shopping little & often – rising from 11 to 16 percent. This year, however, there has been no change in that figure suggesting this trend may have reached its ceiling.
    • Instead shoppers are becoming more active as they make the most of the choice available:
      • Shoppers’ average repertoire has changed to five stores or websites in the last fortnight – an increase of 1 since 2017.
      • 26 percent of UK shoppers say that they fit their grocery shopping in where and when they can.
      • 33 percent of shoppers switch stores based on what they need – to get the best places for what they want (versus 28 percent in 2017).
  • Channels used for grocery shopping (in the past month) –
    • The biggest change in the five channels covered by the report was in the use of discounter stores – up 13 percent on 2017 figures to 57 percent of UK shoppers.
    • Use of the Big Four supermarkets rose by four percent on 2017 figures to 83 percent.
    • No significant change in convenience store or online grocery usage penetration – 49 percent and 30 percent of shoppers using those channels respectively.
  • Connected shoppers – Devices used to shop (in the last month):
    • With the exception on Smart TVs, all digital devices covered by this report saw increased usage by UK shoppers.
    • Computers/laptops were cited as the most used touchpoint – up six percent on 2017 figures to 63 percent. In second place was smartphones with a huge 18 percent increase on last year – to 45 percent. Tablets secured the third place spot with 29 percent of shoppers using the touchpoint – up eight percent on 2017.
    • Interestingly, despite a number of retailers and brands moving away from catalogues, usage by shoppers rose to 22 percent – up four percent on 2017.
    • SmartTVs and wearable devices have yet to make an impact on shopping patterns
  • Shopping activities carried out on a smartphone in the past month – 
    • The most striking shifts in usage this year are at the points of trigger and transaction – so motivating the purchase desire and closing the purchase.
    • There has been a seven percent increase (to 58 percent) in the number of shoppers that have been triggered to shop by content on their smartphone.
    • Using a smartphone to carry out ‘research’ has remained on a par with last year at 61 percent.
    • However, using the device to ‘find’ an item has risen by four percent – to 60 percent.  There has also been a significant seven percent increase in the number of shoppers using the device to buy a product – now accounting for 42 percent of shoppers.
  • Despite the considerable shift in shoppers using their smartphones as they shop, particularly in relation to actual purchasing, there has been no increase in the uptake of mobile-based promotions (20 percent).
  • Age-related differences – whilst 18-34 year olds are those most likely to use their smartphones to shop (66 percent), even 65+ year olds showed a year on year increase of 11 to 16 percent. In fact, 65+ year olds are just as likely as 18-24 year olds to shop on a computer / pc (64 vs 65 percent respectively) and 65+ year olds are more likely to shop via a tablet than 18-24 year olds (32 vs 25 percent respectively).
  • Information matters – 
    • Shoppers are making the most of the ability to access information in unprecedented detail – particularly in relation to product reviews.
    • 46 percent of shoppers reference product reviews every time they are considering buying a large electrical item such as a TV or fridge.
    • 42 percent of shoppers occasionally check reviews when buying clothes or shoes.
    • Even when doing that most habitual of shopping trips, food & grocery, 38 percent of shoppers will at least occasionally check reviews.

Pinnington concludes: “Retailers and brands must keep a finger on the shopper pulse and appreciate that each customer is now using a range of strategies to cope with increasing pressures on household budgets. Which categories or sectors will suffer most this year is likely to depend on how they react to changing shopper needs.

With shoppers picking and choosing between stores for particular items based on their own experience of how well different retailers deliver, there is even greater pressure to differentiate and create memorable in-store experiences. Equally, avoiding or challenging misconceptions based on bad experiences has become more important.

If, as our report shows, shoppers are actively widening their repertoires, loyalty as we used to know it is an outdated term. This is not the year to hunker down and hope the storm passes over with limited damage. Now is the time to get out and about amongst today’s consumers and shoppers so that marketing strategies resonate with their needs, flexing as those needs change to cope with whatever 2018 throws at them.”

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