J Sainsbury Plc, the owner of the UK’s second-largest supermarket chain and of Argos, the catalogue retailer, is embracing e-commerce and contactless shopping as new behavioural trends to help see it through the challenges posed by COVID-19.

Speaking at the company’s recent Q4 2020 results call, outgoing CEO Mike Coupe expressed optimism that new consumption patterns, such as people having to eat in more, will benefit the brand over time.

He reported that Sainsbury’s has witnessed a very significant increase in online shopping – a facility the company has been investing in heavily over the past couple of years – with deliveries and click-and-collect both booming during the UK’s enforced lockdown. (For more, read WARC’s exclusive report: Sainsbury’s adapts to new shopping trends during COVID-19.)

“We’ve seen the number of [online shopping] slots available increase by almost 50%. Because the order sizes are higher than we’d normally see, we’ve almost doubled our online sales as a proportion of our grocery business – that’s moved from just under 8% to almost 15% in the last few weeks,” Coupe said.

“A proportion of the growth of the business is in click-and-collect, which means we’re not driving to people’s homes, we’re only driving into our own car park, which means that the same distances are a lot shorter and therefore a lot more efficient,” he added.

“What we’re seeing is a marked change in customers’ behaviour… they’re spending more than double what they’d spend on every shopping trip because they’re trying to get everything they possibly can in one go.”

COVID-19 has also pushed the company to become more agile and conduct ‘real-time experimentation’ to adapt their stores to a new socially-distanced reality.

In addition, the pandemic is hastening a need for smooth digital customer journeys as shoppers become self-sufficient and rely more on the company’s e-commerce platforms.

For example, usage of SmartShop, Sainsbury’s in-store shopping app that allows customers to scan products as they go around a store and skip checkout queues, has surged as consumers prioritise social distancing and embrace contactless shopping.

“If you take SmartShop in our stores, moving to 30-odd percent of transactions would be a classic example of something that might have taken three or four years to get to, and it happened in the space of less than six weeks,” Coupe said.

“Almost a third of our sales are now going through SmartShop in these stores that have handsets. That's good for our customers – it makes their shopping experience quicker and safer – but also good for our colleagues because it means that fewer customers are actually going through a checkout.”

Sourced from WARC