New Consumer Index Charts What Sticks with Buyers

Some shopping behaviors that appeared during the Covid-19 pandemic and left retailers on their heels to quickly adapt are likely to stick around, according to a new index comparing repeat behaviors of shoppers.

The Covid-19 pandemic brought on a new wave of home-baking trends, leading to a shortage of baking supplies in some regions as consumers stuck at home attempted the latest sourdough craze. The shift to spending more time at home changed shopping habits across industries, affecting retailers differently. However, some of those shopping behaviors that appeared during the pandemic and left retailers on their heels to quickly adapt are likely to stick around, according to a new index comparing repeat behaviors of shoppers.

Numerator, a Chicago-based data and technology company focused in market research, has launched its new COVID Buyer Habit Index to understand the “stickiness” of new consumer buying habits catalyzed by the Covid-19 pandemic. The index includes seven categories--alcohol, baking & cooking, beverages, meat, snacks, personal care, and vitamins & supplements. Numerator compared shopping behaviors at the start of the pandemic, between March and April 2020, to the same span in 2019. It then determined repeat habits if the purchases repeated six times by the end of 2020 from the start of the pandemic.

"Consumers radically changed buying behaviors during COVID. Brands and retailers need to understand which new COVID behaviors solidified into habits that are likely to persist post COVID," Eric Belcher, CEO of Numerator, said in a statement. "This is important to define reopening strategies from marketing through inventory management."

Many of the trends follow viral moments in 2020, such as the sourdough craze that lead to an upswing in purchases of raw baking materials--including ingredients and flours and blends, with new buyers 49% and 33% more likely to form new habits. Within the alcohol category, wine made a big impression as the stickiest product, and 66% of new buyers were more likely to have repurchased it within the last six months of 2020, followed by beer (45%) and spirits (42%), according to the index.

Among beverages, new soda buyers were 29% more likely to form a new shopping habit in 2020 than in 2019, reflecting the shift to more at-home consumption. Fresh seafood saw a big jump in 2020 that’s likely to stick with new buyers, while frozen seafood also proved to be more habit-forming along with beef and frozen meat. However, meat alternatives, which have increased in popularity as more options have come to market, were 7% less likely to be habit-forming in 2020.

Compared to 2019, snacks were not particularly habit-forming, the index found. However, snack mixes and meat snacks were slightly more habit-forming in 2020, while healthier snacks, such as popcorn, nutrition and wellness, puffed snacks and vegetable snacks were slightly less habit-forming.

With salons and spas closed, shoppers were also more likely to turn to do-it-yourself options when it came to personal care in 2020. New hair color buyers and new nail color buyers were far more likely to stick with the habits. Staying healthy was also top of mind for consumers, with vitamins and supplements being more habit-forming last year.