Nielsen survey shows increase of buying online, picking up in-store

Dan Ochwat
Executive Editor
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A heavy increase of online shopping amid the pandemic has heavily influenced Nielsen’s Omnichannel Shopping Fundamentals survey, finding that U.S. omnichannel consumption increased by 50% throughout 2020 and that nearly half of all consumer goods purchases were done online. 

The survey looked at U.S. shoppers of food and nonfood products, and not surprisingly e-commerce was the talk of the survey, with the number of shoppers who consider themselves to be heavily or exclusively online shoppers grew by 133% between September 2019 and September 2020. 

Nielsen also learned that shoppers prefer in-store pick-up buying, seeing an increase of shoppers doing that activity by 26% during the same 52-week period. 

“The new Omnichannel Fundamental Survey was specifically created to bring clarity to the industry’s most pressing questions, such as: the pandemic’s impact on impulse and planned purchases, omnichannel category drivers, decision influencers and fulfillment method and delivery preferences across the omni retail landscape,” said Nikhil Sharma, Nielsen’s vice president of North America consumer analytics.

The survey questioned roughly 25,000 U.S. consumers using its Homescan panel, looking at more than 150,000 category transactions. Other insights pulled from the survey included a bump in pet supplies, vitamins and skin care items. Each of those performed very well, seeing sales across the omnichannel landscape increase around 80% each. 

Interesting, Hispanic consumers were a standout demographic, registering an increase of 54% of Hispanic shoppers using online and offline fulfillment tactics like pick up in-store during the September 2019 to September 2020 time frame. African Americans also increased heavily here, seeing a bump by 43% and Asian Americans increased by 31%.

“Within the U.S., new behaviors have emerged that retailers and manufacturers must acknowledge, accommodate and swiftly act on — especially as online shopping habits begin to solidify. While we do expect a return of some kind to pre-pandemic habits, consumers will not be returning to a pre-pandemic retail environment,” Sharma said. “Undeniably, consumers have more choices than ever in their path to purchase, meaning, as consumer needs and preferences continue to evolve, it is crucial to have an omnichannel strategy in place to sustain and grow momentum in 2021.”

The full survey can be accessed here.