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How have consumer shopping habits changed the grocery industry in a post-lockdown world?

Date: September 04, 2020

Category: Industry news

The UK online grocery market is forecast to grow by a huge 33 per cent in 2020, which equates to an estimated value of £16.8 billion. This is up from £12.7 billion in 2019, when growth fell to a historic low of just 2.9 per cent.

It is no surprise, that this dramatic increase and been linked to the outbreak of COVID-19 and the changing consumer habits during the lockdown period.

Research conducted by Mintel at the end of April showed that 50 per cent of Brits attempted to limit the time they spend in store, while a further 9 per cent used click-and-collect options more.

So, what does our newfound taste for digital shopping mean for the future of the online grocery market?

Accurate, rich product information has become essential to give shoppers the confidence in the products they buy and ensure they are making the right purchasing choices. In some cases, information about the product has become as vital as the product itself.

When customers are in our stores, they can see products and check the product information themselves, so they have trust in what they’re buying. With more people shopping online – and many doing this for the first time – they are not able to pick up and look at the products themselves, so the data we share with them is even more important.” 


Andrew Hughes, director of commercial transformation at Tesco

And it is not just sharing more data that is important to online shoppers, but the type of data that is shared. 

“The type of information our customers want, now extends beyond simple ingredients in a product, to how the product is packaged, is the packaging material recyclable and, where possible, how sustainably was the product sourced,” according to Graham Biggart, director of commercial operations at Sainsbury’s.

“We need to provide more information, in more consistent ways to allow customers to compare their choice of products and complete their shop quickly and conveniently. It also means core operational data like measurements and weights need to be 100 per cent accurate to enable us to deliver through a supply chain operating at full pace,” added Biggart.  

The increase in online grocery shopping has, unsurprisingly, had a knock-on effect on grocers’ infrastructure.

Supply chains have been under added pressure to ensure that extra deliveries can be made to the new influx of online shoppers, and product set up online has demanded a more streamlined approach to meet demand. 

“We’ve invested in better and simple ways for products to be set up online at Tesco, but we have had some delays bringing new supply to the market because the data for these new products was sometimes incorrect or not available. Having the right information and images will allow us to expand and change the products we sell online more quickly and make the process as simple and smooth as possible for our customers,” said Hughes.

So, what is the solution to enable grocers to adapt more quickly in a business reality changed by COVID-19?

Retailers firmly believe that accurate, detailed, and consistent data needs to be at the heart of the solution:

For our suppliers, we know they are asked for different cuts of data, in different formats and that they have to send multiple samples to different retailers. We believe that enabling them to ‘bake once and serve many times’ will be a big efficiency, and responds to feedback that they have given us and GS1 UK. That’s why we have partnered in this initiative [productDNA], and it has been fantastic cross-industry collaboration, with retailers and suppliers, big and small, working together.”


Graham Biggart, director of commercial operations at Sainsbury’s

productDNA: by the industry, for the industry

As one of the last mature retail markets to attempt to deliver a standardised data set for products, 12 representatives of the UK grocery market signed an industry charter announcing their commitment to move to a single solution for managing and exchanging product data. That solution is productDNA

“Core product data offers no competitor advantage and so, as an industry, aligning around common data standards with GS1 makes so much sense. By standardising, we remove the specific requirements of retailers and, therefore, enable manufacturers to concentrate on providing consistent and accurate product data once – ideally through productDNA – which can be used by all retailers. This will save time, improve efficiency, and result in more accurate data for customers,” said Hughes.

“Completing this in collaboration with our supply partners and other retailers ensures we remove the cost and complexity from the process of sharing data. This will allow everyone to be more innovative about how we then share this with our customers, improving the shopping journey and providing a shopping experience that meets their needs,” Hughes added.

Find out more about productDNA and how the industry’s product-data solution can drive efficiencies for your business, by visiting