Unleashing the Power of the Shopping List

Habit 2: The Surprising Data Behind Today’s Grocery Shopper Behaviors

Unlock the profound influence of shopper habits on FMCG shopping as we delve into the fascinating world of routine and its impact on consumer behavior.

We will explore the pivotal role of the shopping list and its significance in driving conversions. Drawing insights from our comprehensive Global Shopper Study and observations across different countries, we reveal key data to help brands effectively connect with customers. From understanding list creation and usage to exploring online grocery shopping, we will provide valuable strategies for brands to secure their place on shoppers' lists.

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.


The Holy Grail of Conversion: Getting on the Shopping List 

Shoppers rely on various types of shopping lists, be it physical or digital, to guide their purchasing decisions. We analyzed the data of shoppers who consistently make lists, revealing the significance of getting on their lists as brands' best chance of being purchased and repurchased.

Insight Spotlight: By delving into routine-driven shopper decision-making, we offer insights into how brands can tap into habitual loops to boost conversions.

Understanding List-Making Habits Across Countries 


The Shopping List Landscape

Through our extensive Global Shopper Study, we surveyed 6,000 shoppers across six countries to gain a comprehensive understanding of their list-making habits. Let's explore how shoppers create and use shopping lists while planning and shopping in both physical and online stores, whilst highlighting observations and nuances by country (USA ; UK ; France ; Italy ; Germany ; China):


Table 1: Percentage of Shoppers Making a List – Digital or Paper (Always or Often)

Country Percentage
USA 76%
UK 64%
France 73%
Italy 70%
Germany 74%
China 64%


Insight: The majority of shoppers across countries make shopping lists, with the US having the highest percentage.

Paper vs. Digital: Exploring List-Making Preferences

The Battle of Formats: We examined shoppers' preferences for paper or digital lists, highlighting the prevailing trends and to uncover notable exceptions. 

Table 2: Percentage of Shoppers Using Paper Lists

Country Percentage
USA 61%
UK 61%
France 69%
Italy 66%
Germany 69%
China 17%


Insight: The use of paper lists is predominant across most countries, except for China where 83% of shoppers use a digital or mobile list.

The Power of Inclusion: Sticking to the List

Adherence to the Shopping List: We investigated the extent to which shoppers adhere to their lists, unveiling the importance for brands being included. As seen in Table 3 below, most shoppers strictly follow their lists during physical store visits.

Table 3: Percentage of Shoppers Buying Only or Mostly from their List (Physical Stores)

Country Percentage
USA 86%
UK 81%
France 83%
Italy 85%
Germany 86%
China 75%


Insight: On average, over 80% of shoppers in surveyed countries primarily purchase items from their lists, emphasizing the importance of being on the list for brands.

The Temptation to Substitute: Factors Influencing List Modifications

Factors Influencing Substitutions: What are shoppers' willingness to substitute items on their lists? And what are the reasons behind such decisions? Table 4 below shows the two main reasons for breaking from the list:

Table 4: Percentage of Shoppers Willing to Substitute (Based on Reasons)

Country On Offer New or Interesting
USA 38% 30%
UK 34% 30%
France 40% 33%
Italy 39% 32%
Germany 39% 33%
China 22% 39%

Shoppers' willingness to substitute is driven by factors such as promotional offers or the allure of new and interesting products. Brands must optimize their trade promotions and packaging to capture shoppers' attention. 

Navigating the Online Shopper's Realm

The Online Shopper's Dilemma: We shift our focus to the realm of online grocery shopping and explore how the shopping list becomes even more crucial in this context.

Table 5: Description of Online Grocery Shopping Preferences

Country Saved List
Saved List
of Favorites
List of Favorites
with some Exploration
USA 32% 31% 28%
UK 15% 38% 34%
France 21% 37% 28%
Italy 24% 34% 25%
Germany 31% 33% 21%
China 12% 54% 24%

The use of saved lists and favorites is a prevalent behavior among online shoppers, presenting a serious challenge for brands aiming to influence their decision-making process. The reliance on these lists varies across countries, highlighting the importance of tailored strategies to effectively engage with shoppers. 

Across all countries surveyed, it is evident that on average almost 90% of online shoppers utilize some form of saved or favorites list. This significant adoption underscores the need for brands to optimize their offerings and position themselves within these curated lists to enhance their visibility and appeal to shoppers. Furthermore, an impressive 79% of online shoppers across all countries primarily adhere to their lists when making purchases.

Sticking to The List

  USA France United Kingdom Germany China Italy

I only buy I planned

30% 19% 18% 29% 18% 31%

I mostly buy what I planned

54% 58% 54% 49% 60% 51%


This statistic reinforces the importance of being included on these lists to increase the likelihood of conversion for brands.

Understanding and capitalizing on online shoppers' preferences for saved lists and their commitment to sticking with them provides a valuable opportunity for brands to establish a strong presence in the FMCG market. By tailoring their strategies to align with these shopper behaviors, brands can enhance their chances of success and foster meaningful connections with their target customers.

Third Party Shopping List Apps

It's important to note that in addition to traditional paper or digital lists, third-party shopping list apps also play a significant role in some regions. For example, in the US, AnyList, Buy Me a Pie and Out of Milk have gained popularity with Shoppers, while in Europe, Bring!, Flipp, and Shopper UK have emerged as prominent players. These tools provide shoppers with a convenient way to create and manage their shopping lists, presenting an opportunity for brands to connect with customers through these platforms. While on the flip side brands can use AdTech solutions like AdAdapted (US) to engage these app users at scale.    


Mastering the art of the shopping list is paramount for brands seeking to thrive in the FMCG market. By leveraging shopper habits and understanding their preferences, brands can secure their position on shoppers' lists, drive conversions, and foster lasting loyalty.

Want to leverage the power of shopping lists to boost your grocery sales? Get the complete white paper now and learn how to optimize your offerings for shoppers' convenience and satisfaction.


Mike Dillon avatar

Mike Dillon