If coronavirus has you a little nervous about buying your food at the actual supermarket, you’re not alone. Results of a new survey from C+R Research shows that 60 percent of American shoppers are “now fearful” to shop at grocery stores, with 73 percent saying they are shopping less at physical stores.
Not surprisingly, C+R’s survey also found that grocery delivery has shot up 3.5x during the pandemic. Whereas consumers used to take an average of 2.3 weekly trips to the grocery store before the COVID-19 outbreak, they now average 1 trip a week.
While we’ve seen previous studies on the surge in online shopping, C+R’s survey highlights the emotional reactions people are having. In addition to being fearful of grocery stores, C+R found that 60 percent of respondents feel a sense of panic or anxiety when shopping, and 45 percent disinfect groceries when they get home.
This is actually completely understandable. Whereas grocery shopping used to be somewhere between fun and banal, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed all that. Aside from forced sheltering in place limiting our non-essential movements, the coronavirus grocery store is a far cry from what is was just a few months ago. Salad and hot bars are removed, workers and shoppers wear masks and gloves and there are plexiglass shields up around cashiers. This dystopian aesthetic, combined with a legitimate fear of catching a deadly virus, should cause a certain amount of fear.
The C+R survey reached 2,012 consumers from March 27 to March 28, 2020 via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. As the pandemic continued domestically throughout the month of April, the question now is how deeply embedded have these fears become and will there be a new normal for grocery shopping? The virus may recede, but how long will its effects last on the way we interact with other people in public? If fear of supermarkets is making online grocery shopping the new normal, perhaps more grocery stores should go dark and just act as fulfillment centers for e-commerce.
People will always need to shop for food, so I’d be curious to see C+R follow up this study on a regular basis to check-in on how people continue to cope with the ever-changing world.