Visits to most top retailers in the U.S. continued to drop in the second quarter of 2020, building on a sweeping decline in trip frequency that began the prior quarter as the COVID-19 pandemic kept shoppers at home. Yet there were some bright spots revealed by visitation patterns tracked by location data company InMarket.
Measured by the average number of repeat visits an individual shopper made to a store from April through June, the loyalty index for pack leader H-E-B declined by 0.36 quarter-over-quarter to 3.82. Yet the regional grocer maintained its top ranking as the most frequently visited retailer of those tracked through a partnership with the Path to Purchase Institute. The loyalty index for Walmart dropped 0.23 to 3.74 but still let the retail giant overtake 7-Eleven to become the second most-visited retailer on the list. Third in the ranking, the convenience store chain saw the second-largest loyalty decline, slipping 0.47 to 3.68 as it modified some of its largest summertime promotions to avoid drawing the usual crowds to its stores.
Grocery and club channels bucked the general downward trend with minor increases in trip frequency at some retailers. Though far from returning to pre-COVID-19 levels, the loyalty indexes for Albertson’s flagship (2.42) and Acme (2.71) chains, Kroger’s Ralphs (3.22), Ahold Delhaize’s Giant Food (3.11), as well as Costco (1.94) and BJ’s (1.78) showed slight quarter-over-quarter upticks ranging from 0.04 to 0.08. Kroger’s King Soopers (3.42) and Fred Meyer (2.91) along with home improvement retailer The Home Depot (1.66) held steady, maintaining first-quarter loyalty levels.
Although the grocery channel fared best overall, regional grocer Publix was the biggest loser, dropping from fifth to tenth place with a loyalty index decline of 0.55 to 3.05. Walgreens also took a big hit, falling from 11th to 17th place on the list with a loyalty index that declined 0.41 to 2.86. PetSmart was the least visited retailer overall with a loyalty index of 1.45 (down 0.19). Consumer electronic retailer Best Buy, which did not allow shoppers back in stores until late in the second quarter, received only slightly more visits than the pet supplies retailer with a loyalty index of 1.48 (down 0.11).
Deep into the pandemic, more retailers experienced a drop in dwell times (the average length of time shoppers stay while visiting store locations) than during the first quarter — when some trip lengths were still buoyed by pre-pandemic visits and even initial panic-buying. Shoppers continued to spend the most time per trip at Costco (51.53 minutes) and Sam’s Club (42.95 minutes) even though dwell times at both warehouse clubs decreased quarter-over-quarter. BJ’s was the exception in the channel, with a dwell time increase of one minute to 40.78 minutes letting the club overtake Meijer for third place in the overall ranking. (BJ's just reported soaring sales for the second quarter, as did Target and Walmart.)
In fourth, fifth and sixth place on the list, Meijer (39.26 minutes), Walmart (37.38 minutes) and Target (34.49 minutes) all experienced declines in dwell times ranging from 0.66 to 1.85 minutes. The home improvement channel also showed declining dwell time across the board, with Ace Hardware (22.69 minutes) down 8.81 minutes — the most time lost by any retailer on the list.
Grocery was again the bright spot, with ShopRite, H-E-B, Whole Foods Market, King Soopers, Ralphs, Giant Food, Acme, Publix, Aldi, Albertsons' Jewel-Osco, and Ahold Delhaize's Hannaford and Stop & Shop the only retailers besides BJ’s showing increases in dwell times.
As changing shopper behavior has generally resulted in fewer and shorter brick-and-mortar trips, retailers have adapted by enhancing and expanding digital purchase options such as curbside pickup that, in many cases, were already in the works. Marketers working with these retailers must also modify their strategies to adjust for having less time to influence decisions at the physical point of purchase. Several shopper marketers recently shared how they are engaging today's shoppers by embracing new tools and restructuring campaigns.
The full report with data for more than 45 top U.S. retail chains is available to Path to Purchase Institute members through an exclusive partnership with InMarket, a leader in 360-degree consumer engagement and insights. Members also can analyze individual retailer snapshots tracked over time within the Market Position and Strategy Overview section of p2pi.org's Retailer Profiles.