Families’ New Normal is Shaping Grocery Retail Loyalty

15.07.2020 research

By Inez Schmitz – Insights Manager at UNGA


We recently looked back at the past few months and tried to understand how the Coronavirus has strongly impacted supermarkets and food retail loyalty campaigns. But what about consumers? How are they adapting to the New Normal, and what matters the most to them now?

As UNGA’s Insights Manager, I study and research families’ and children’s behavior. Looking at all the things that have been and are still currently happening, I see 3 main consumer trends that are being accelerated by the Coronavirus crisis: ‘Digital is everything’, ’Home is where the heart is’ and ‘Sharing is caring’.

As marketing professionals, you need to ensure that your strategy aligns with your customers’ behavior as well, especially families. So, let’s decrypt these trends and what they mean with regard to grocery and food retail loyalty.

Digital is everything

With the help of various online tools, consumers are now easily shopping from home, working from home and studying online. More than ever, they are digitally connected with friends through group video chats, and online gaming has boomed during lockdown. As a mix of these two trends, games that allow live social interaction with friends have been especially popular with social distancing measures in place.
(Source: Statista, +45% in the US)

Digital platforms for companies have proven to be absolutely crucial in this period. And, since we are now experiencing the clear advantages of all these digital solutions, we are very likely to continue to use them in the future as well. Because now we can.

→ With regard to loyalty, this also means that digital campaigns and digital add-ons to in-store campaigns are very likely to grow further. As grocery retailers, along with loyalty experts like UNGA, you will need to invest (even more) in this area.

Home is where the heart is

Since they haven’t been able to go out as much as they used to, consumers have found a new appreciation for their homes and families.

The life-work balance has really shifted because of the lockdown and families are spending much more time together now than they used to. This, in general, has led to more understanding and stronger bonds between the different family members. Families have been working hard, but they have also been trying to make this time together more fun.

Due to this increase in family time, board games are being considered as a favorite toy by children aged 5 to 18. Their popularity has, in fact, almost doubled during the lockdown in the UK, Italy, Spain, Germany and the US. (Source: Kids Insights)

Not only are families playing, but also taking on new fun and offline activities such as gardening, baking and cooking. Cooking is a hobby they embraced due to restaurants being closed. As a result, the habit of ‘dining in’ is likely to stay and becomes the new ‘eating out’.


→ Not knowing what the future will look like and if a similar crisis will occur again, consumers now look for ways to make their living environment as enjoyable as possible. Contributing to improving families’ homes and helping families spend quality time together is what will help grocery and food retailers make a difference in the New Normal.

Therefore, purposeful family-oriented loyalty campaignssuch as Little Garden, Little Shop and other playful concepts that suit this trend—move from being nice-to-haves to must-haves for retailers. All fun for children and grown-ups alike!

Sharing is caring

Research shows that 72% of the public do not appreciate companies putting profit over people during this crisis (Source: World Retail Congress). That is an insight that companies in general, but particularly grocery retailers, have taken in. Consequently, brands have already adapted their tone of voice during the Coronavirus crisis.

People are helping the elderly and other vulnerable groups. Kids are very concerned about the whole situation, and consumers really appreciate it when companies care and show that they help.

Another vulnerable group is smaller, local businesses. They suffer from the Coronavirus crisis as well, and shoppers have therefore been very supportive for the past few months. Consumers are indeed stimulated to shop more locally instead of buying (only) from big international companies. The ‘shop local’ trend has been growing for the past few years, but it will be worth monitoring in the coming months and years to see if the Coronavirus crisis will play a role in strengthening it.

banksy's artwork

Moreover, we have seen a stronger appreciation from the public for healthcare workers and other vital professions. They are currently getting a lot more applause than Ronaldo and Messi: healthcare professionals are the modern-day heroes. Children are really looking up to them and becoming a doctor is now, in fact, the number one ambition for kids. (Source: KidsInsights, UK)

The painting hereby, that you might recognize, is a piece created by Banksy which shows exactly this phenomenon. The artist donated it to a local UK hospital. Banksy’s artwork shows that healthcare workers are the new heroes for children. (Source: BBC)

→ For the loyalty industry as well, now is a good time to think about feel-good community campaigns, that are not focused too much on promotions and sales but rather on doing good and helping others. As grocery retailers, if you actually show how sympathetic and empathic you are towards your customers now, you will undoubtedly be rewarded in the long run.

The rising importance of family-focus in loyalty strategies

Based on all of the changes that we see around us during this crisis, I strongly believe that grocery and food retailers need to take the necessary steps to stay relevant to their customers in the New Normal. And it is our role, as loyalty experts, to support you in doing so. It is only by closely monitoring consumer trends, and linking them to family insights and proven loyalty mechanics that you can nurture loyalty.


The key takeaways
  • There have emerged interesting new themes for food retail loyalty campaigns to be based on, resonating with the importance of helping the community, the new heroes of our times and the whole theme of connecting with loved ones, both at home and at a distance.
  • Also, this is the time to really start going digital in loyalty campaigns. The online channel has really boomed so coming up with innovative solutions becomes a priority.
  • And, in general, I believe that this crisis has shown that a focus on long-term loyalty is probably preferred for both supermarkets and customers rather than focusing on short-term benefits – which especially now has a negative connotation. Relying on research and qualitative insights is necessary to understand how to connect with shoppers, especially families.


To gain more insights into families and children, and to discuss how UNGA’s portfolio can help you build relevancy to families, feel free to contact us. Our team can help you define a food retail loyalty plan that fits your goals and consumers’ needs in the New Normal.

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