The Surprising Data Behind Today’s Grocery Shopper Behaviors

Habit 1: Routine Rules The Day 

With a focus on understanding the dominant influence of routine along the Path to Purchase, we lay the foundation for our forthcoming in-depth shopper whitepaper. By unravelling the habitual loops that govern shopper decision-making, brands and retailers can gain invaluable insights to forge stronger connections with customers.  

The Dominance of Routine in FMCG Shopping 

Research reveals that shopping for Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCGs) is largely driven by routine and habitual behaviors.. These “habit loops,” whether conscious or subconscious, shape the shopper's journey and are often resistant to change. To counteract this, PRS IN VIVO adopts a behavior-first approach to understanding these habits, recognizing their significance in driving purchase decisions.

It’s simple, really . . . if you don’t understand these habits, then you won’t know how to break them or reinforce them.


Global Shopper Survey Insights 

In our recent Global Shopper Survey, we delved into the shopping habits of 6,000 participants across six different countries. Surprisingly, nearly half (47%) of respondents described their shopping trips as routine, with little to no research involved. Notably, France (54%) and the UK (55%) had the highest percentage of shoppers embracing routine shopping. On the other hand, Germany and China exhibited a more thoughtful and open approach, with only 39% of shoppers favoring routine trips. These findings align with our observations in our live, fully-shelved Retail Labs™, where 60% of shoppers attribute their purchase decisions to habits or routines. More importantly, years of observational data – both in our labs and in actual grocery/convenience stores – prove this to be true. 

The Routine Shopper's Mindset 

Exploring the research habits of shoppers, we discovered that nearly half of them forego extensive pre-shopping research. In fact, less than 20% of participants reported engaging in thorough research prior to their shopping trips.  

For the research-inclined shoppers, however, they primarily seek enticing deals, which can significantly influence their choice of retailer and brand. Hence, identifying critical touchpoints where shoppers conduct their research becomes paramount for both brands and retailers to effectively engage with their target audience. 


The Still Surprising Role of Traditional Paper Supermarket Flyers 

Despite how digital our world has become, traditional paper supermarket flyers emerged as the primary source of information for shoppers during pre-shopping research, except in the UK and China. Across the US, France, Germany, and Italy, the majority of shoppers (ranging from 55% to 71%) regarded paper flyers as their go-to source. These flyers, received via mail or newspaper inserts, foster a passive and habitual approach to information gathering. 


Embracing the Power of Paper Coupons 

Just as surprising, paper coupons continue to wield influence as a prominent source of information across all surveyed countries. Shoppers in the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, and China consistently ranked paper coupons among their top three sources of information. 


The Emergence of Online Supermarket Flyers 

Our survey also revealed the escalating prominence of online supermarket flyers, particularly in the US, UK, France, Germany, and Italy. For shoppers who do research, they’re increasingly turning to online flyers accessible through retailer websites or apps, indicating a more proactive and engaged research approach. Retailers keenly recognize the value of online shoppers and actively promote the use of their apps. To optimize conversion rates, brands must differentiate themselves within online flyers, offering enticing bundle deals, delivery discounts, and personalized offers leveraging retailers' first-party data. 


Unravelling Routine in the Chinese Market 

In contrast to other countries in our study, in China neither paper nor online supermarket flyers rank among the top three. Instead, Chinese shoppers heavily rely on paper coupons, online coupons, and influential Chinese e-commerce platforms as their primary sources of information. 


The Significance of Being Present During Research 

For retailers, establishing a strong presence during shoppers' research process is pivotal. Our Global Shopper Survey highlighted that 86% of shoppers are open to switching stores based on their research. In today's competitive landscape, where inflation and ongoing budgetary pressures further impact consumer choices, it is crucial for retailers to actively engage with shoppers during their research phase to retain their loyalty and avoid being replaced by competitors. 



By fully appreciating the power of routine and understanding the influential sources of information that drive shopper behavior, brands and retailers can forge stronger connections with their target audience. Whether it's traditional paper supermarket flyers or the burgeoning realm of online flyers, adapting strategies to effectively engage shoppers during their routine-based research becomes imperative. If your brand is performing well, then it’s imperative to reinforce the habits that lead to that reality. If your brand is underperforming, then research is needed to understand and break habitual behaviors and routines.  


IN OUR NEXT BLOG: The Power of Shopping Lists 

Research not only influences store choices but also shapes purchasing decisions and brand preferences – and the shopping list emerges as a key factor in conversion. In our next blog post, we will delve deeper into the significance of the shopping list and its profound impact on shopper behavior. 
Discover how to tap into shoppers' routines and establish your brand as their go-to choice for grocery shopping. Download the full white paper here to unlock valuable insights and strategies. 


Mike Dillon avatar

Mike Dillon