How shopping continues to evolve with social-distancing

On April 7th we published an article about the 235% traffic growth to our shop pages between February and March, as social-distancing measures began to impact retailers. We wanted to share how things have evolved since then, and what it means for shopkeepers looking to tap into new shopper behaviours.

Shopper demand for certainty has continued growing at pace

The demand for certainty from shoppers — knowing that the items they want are definitely in stock before visiting a store — has continued to rise at an incredible pace throughout April.

Shopper visits to our shop pages are now up 620% compared to pre-Coronavirus levels in February.

covid shopping
Traffic to shop pages from Feb 4th to Apr 27th 2020

The majority of the 620% increase occurred in the 6 weeks after social-distancing was introduced in March 16th. This is a phenomenal change in shopping habits in such a short period of time.

Shoppers are establishing a ‘new normal’

If you look at the last two weeks of April, the number of shoppers seeking local availability information has actually started to stabilise (with a dip on the bank holiday Sunday when most shops closed).

If this continues, it will mean shoppers are seeking out local availability information at 6–7x the level they were prior to social-distancing being introduced.

Social distancing has accelerated changes in the way we buy things. With online retailers offering unpredictable delivery times, shoppers are seeking certainty from their local shops. People need household essentials, and want to be sure that any visit to the shop is going to be successful.

corona shopping insights

Within individual verticals, shopper interest has jumped in Department Stores, Hardware Retailers, Health & Beauty shops, and Convenience (Liquor) Stores while more indulgent non-essential purchases in Fashion, Homeware, and Sports & Leisure have all declined.

How shopper behaviours are still changing

When shoppers visit our shops’ Google storefronts and their shop pages, they can take actions such as checking stock or calling. Over the last two months we have seen exceptional growth across all of these actions.

covid shopping data
Month on month growth in actions shoppers are taking to interact with local stores

When you compare today’s daily shopper interactions to pre-Coronavirus daily levels, the figures are even more striking:

  • Stock searches : +800%
  • Getting directions : +471%
  • Checking opening hours : +1,733%
  • Calling shops : +2,066%

Shoppers are quickly getting used to shops providing live in-store availability information, along with a new level of service and engagement from their local shops — whether via email, social media, or WhatsApp.

The change in growth for checking opening hours and calling the shop we think is related to shops using tools like Google See What’s In Store to make it easier for customers to get the information they need. This provides the certainty a shopper needs to make a visit.

Shops we’ve seen doing this well

diy shop covid online marketing
Coulsdon Home Hardware’s Facebook page

Coulsdon Home Hardware

Coulsdon Home Hardware have closed their shop and quickly adapted to provide a local delivery service. They’ve made it incredibly simple for shoppers visiting their Facebook page to access their Google storefront and place an order for local delivery.

health shop covid online marketing

Hanover Healthfoods

Hanover Healthfoods in Edinburgh have done similarly, and post regularly about their same day delivery service for essential health products. Customers can simply browse the shop’s live store inventory in Google, email them an order, and the Hanover Healthfoods team will have it biked over before the end of the day.

How to capture the socially-distanced shopper

Based on the latest data and how other shops using NearSt are continuing to succeed, we suggest four things shopkeepers can do to succeed in a new normal of socially distanced shopping:

  1. Make sure customers know they can browse your stock online
    Google ‘See What’s In Store’ is still very new. Help customers find it with posts and links from your website and social channels. If you’re not sure how, email our shop success team on to find out how.
  2. Provide customers an easy way to continue shopping with you
    Shops like Hanover Healthfoods and Coulsdon Home Hardware simply ask customers to check their live stock in Google, then email or phone the order in for delivery or collection. Simplicity is the key.
  3. Leverage Local Inventory Ads
    Shops running Local Inventory Ads have seen the highest levels of local customer engagement. Starting at £2 per day, they help ensure customers searching for your products know you’re still able to serve them.
  4. Treat this as a long term change
    While more shops will be allowed to re-open soon, social-distancing will stick around for many months to come and shoppers will expect the current level of service to continue. Think about ways you can continue serving your customers in this ‘new normal’.

As we start to move towards a socially-distanced ‘new normal’, local shops have a real opportunity to serve local shoppers in a way that can help build new local shopping habits.

Setting up features like Google See What’s In Store and Local Inventory Ads is surprisingly easy. Leave us a comment or get in touch on

Additional data

We mapped Google’s latest mobility reports showing relative changes in retail footfall against our own data, to see how the two correlate. While footfall declines plateaued at the beginning of April, it took a further two weeks for shopper usage of our platform to begin plateauing. We believe this was a period of shoppers continuing to adapt and find new tools to continue buying their everyday essentials, paired with retailers continuing to evolve and offer new services.

It will be interesting to continue following this and seeing how the numbers continue to track after the lock-down is lifted and a modest increase in footfall starts to materialise on high streets.

Traffic to shop pages mapped against the Google UK footfall index.

Highlighted areas on the chart:

  • 13th March — UK passes 200 daily cases.
  • 16th March — Social-distancing introduced.
  • 24th March — Lockdown introduced.
  • 10–13th April — May bank holiday.

Get more in-store customers

Make in-store inventory visible to millions of people searching for it nearby.

Find out more
Get more in-store customers