Unless you’ve been off-grid the past few weeks, you know COVID-19 is here, and it’s having a significant impact on shopping behavior. Not only are consumers stocking up on products they normally would not buy, they’re facing product shortages and having to shop in different stores or seek out what they need online.

As you can imagine, store traffic is up. Led by Senior Analyst Jessica Alexander, our team put together the numbers. Here’s a quick glance:

  • Walmart’s total store traffic was UP +8.9% vs. last year and UP +2.2% vs. the prior week.
  • +8.9% is equal to about 13.5 million more shoppers.

Essentially, the last two weeks have been like two major non-comped holidays back to back with 20.8 million additional shoppers in store.

This volume has led to temporary changes for Walmart as well as Sam’s Club. It’s also resulting in interesting shopper behavior and trends, such as an increase in online shopping.

Temporary Changes at Walmart and Sam’s Club

With the surge of panic buying alongside the virus, Walmart is implementing temporary changes so that store associates have time to stock and sanitize the stores. Here’s a quick look at what’s happening:

  • Operating hours have been changed to 7 a.m. – 8:30 p.m. at all Walmart U.S. stores.
  • Special shopping hours for seniors will be implemented March 24 to April 28. Every Tuesday, customers aged 60 and over can shop one hour before the store opens. This includes access to the Pharmacies and Vision Centers as well.
  • Walmart is allowing store managers to put item limits in place for certain categories.

At Sam’s Club, they’re shifting all club hours to 9 a.m. – 8 p.m Mondays – Saturdays. Much like Walmart stores, the goal is to allow associates more time to stock and sanitize the stores. They’re also encouraging customers to use Scan & Go to avoid the long lines.

Impact of COVID-19 on Consumer Behavior

According to a Numerator survey on March 13, 1 in 3 consumers indicated news of coronavirus has impacted their shopping behavior. There’s also a growing level of concern among consumers about products being out of stock when they go to a store.

Nielsen investigation identified six key consumer behavior thresholds tied to the coronavirus. These thresholds show the change in consumer behavior has COVID-19 spreads. What begins as interest in health and wellness eventually becomes “a new normal”. Of course, we’re not quite at that “new normal” yet – Nielsen predicts permanent shifts in the supply chain, eCommerce and hygiene practices.

As the virus continues to spread in the US, the Nielsen investigation shows that the spike of in-store visits will fade and consumers will move to online shopping. This will put online shopping infrastructure to the test and strain the supply chain.

But online shopping isn’t the only thing surging as an alternative to in-store shopping. Services like grocery delivery and pickup are becoming more heavily adopted by consumers as well.

Record Download Rates for Grocery Delivery Apps

As more and more people adopt social distancing, it should be little surprise that we’re seeing a surge in downloads for grocery delivery apps. According to the MorningNewsBeat:

“Comparing the average daily downloads in February to yesterday (Sunday, March 15), Instacart, Walmart Grocery and Shipt have seen their daily downloads surge by 218%, 160% and 124%, respectively…”

Several grocery delivery services have even started offering a “contactless” delivery option, contributing to a huge sales boost. One such app, Instacart, saw their sales growth explode to 10 times higher than the week before and as much as 20 times higher in states like California, New York, Oregon and Washington.

Key Takeaway

Right now, everything is shifting and changing quickly. Undoubtedly, there is a huge influx of in-store traffic right now, but that may be shifting more and more to pickup and delivery as the situation progresses.

We hope this information is valuable and helpful. If any of this is foreign to you and you have questions or would like some help, please reach out.