How Online Shopping Behavior of High-Value Food & Gourmet Customers Changed In 2020

online shopping behavior and trends in the food and gourmet retail industry

The coronavirus pandemic greatly accelerated digital adoption and transformation, but how did consumers react, adapt, and evolve with all the rapid digital and social changes? While we know that consumers turned to e-commerce for deliveries and essential items, how did their online shopping behavior change throughout the year?  NetElixir’s 2021 FACES report delves into the impact that the coronavirus pandemic has had on online shopping behavior. 

The NetElixir Retail Intelligence Lab analyzed over two million unique online consumer paths-to-purchase across ten retail categories. Our goal was to better understand ongoing changes in online shopping trends. We divided our data into three timeframes:

  • Pre-pandemic (Jan. 1 – Mar. 15, 2020)
  • Non-holiday pandemic (Mar. 16 – Nov. 15, 2020)
  • Holiday pandemic (Nov. 16 – Dec. 25, 2020)

The pre-pandemic timeframe serves as a baseline; had 2020 been a year like any other, e-commerce adoption and digital transformation would have continued at its expected pace. McKinsey found that the coronavirus pandemic accelerated the adoption of digital technologies by several years. The pandemic also helped thousands of shoppers cross the initial barrier to online shopping — and once these consumers regularly began shopping online, their average order value was 12% higher than pre-pandemic shoppers. According to NetElixir’s data, they also purchased more frequently.

As online shopping behavior continues to evolve, it is crucial for marketers and retailers to have a thorough understanding of their consumers to be able to meet them in the moments that matter.

For an overview of your high-value consumer profile, download our report now at Keep reading for a deep dive into the online shopping behavior of the Food and Gourmet industry’s high-value shopper.

Meet the high-value shopper for the Food and Gourmet retail industry: 

high-value customer profile for food and gourmet

The high-value consumer profile for Food and Gourmet is a woman aged 45-55.

Changes in Online Shopping Behavior for the Food & Gourmet Industry

During the onset of the pandemic from March into April, the Food and Gourmet retail industry experienced massive YoY growth. Back in March, as NetElixir was studying the daily changes in online orders, we saw unprecedented growth across the majority of online industries, but none saw growth quite like the Food and Gourmet industry. The Food and Gourmet retail industry experienced its greatest growth from March 22 to April 4, with online sales surging at nearly 600% YoY. Sales continued to increase at over 100% YoY through June, and skyrocketed again during the holiday season.

Pre-pandemic, 50% of food consumed was done outside the home and 38% of occasions were celebrated outside the home, according to NetElixir’s conversation with Parag Shah, the VP of Grocery at Wakefern Food Corporation. 

Prior to the pandemic, our high-value shopper took her time in her online search. She would first visit a website around 12 pm and was most likely to purchase around 9 am on a Sunday. She would visit a website five times prior to purchase and wait just over five days between initial website visit and first purchase. On average, she’d buy over two items per online order and spend $245.48.

As the pandemic progressed, people shopped more quickly; our high-value customer waited only two days between first website visit and first purchase. Although she still visited a website five times prior to making a purchase, as our high-value shopper was just as fastidious in her research as before the outbreak spread, she made her purchase decisions much quicker. She researched and shopped earlier, as she was more likely to visit a website and make a purchase almost first thing in the morning at 8 am. This was presumably to ensure her essential food items were available. She was more likely to make a purchase on a Tuesday. Her AOV dropped $15 to $229.96 and she shopped for marginally less items per order. 

Our high-value customer focused on finding the items she strictly needed. Brand loyalty dropped in favor of securing essential items. As an always-on shopper or new to online shopping, she still conducted thorough research, but had more time throughout her week to research and shop. She quickly finalized her order to ensure she could feed her family.

The Role of Mobile in the Food and Gourmet Customer Journey

role of mobile phone in online shopping behavior

While the majority of online food orders were place on a desktop, mobile purchases grew 20% throughout 2020.

Our high-value customer predominantly favors researching and shopping on her desktop. However, as the pandemic continued, she used her mobile device more. Prior to the pandemic, she used her mobile only 16% of the time when first visiting a website. During the pandemic, that rose to 20% of the time as she grew more comfortable using her mobile phone. Her comfort level only grew during the holiday season, as she conducted 21% of her initial website visits on a mobile device.

Presumably, she would see deals or meal ideas while already scrolling through her phone and researched there and then. She was less likely to make a purchase on her mobile phone, completing a mobile purchase only 15% of the time pre-pandemic, which rose to 19% during the pandemic. When the holidays came around, she preferred her desktop again, with mobile purchases dropping to 18% of total online orders. 

Online Shopping Behavior During the Holidays

The Food and Gourmet retail industry had the highest YoY growth during Cyber 5, growing over 95% compared to 2019’s Cyber 5 weekend, according to NetElixir’s dataset. Consumers wanted to make the holidays special with delicious home-cooked meals. With smaller holiday gatherings, more people had to buy their own food.

Our high-value customer’s sense of urgency to buy food items only grew during the holiday season. As she knew her way around e-commerce stores more by mid-November, she researched less prior to purchase: she’d visit a website only four times prior to purchasing and take one day and six hours to complete her purchase. She was more likely now to buy on a Friday at 1 pm. She was visiting the website later than she was during the pandemic, now at 10 am, but still not waiting as late as pre-pandemic. 

The biggest shift in her online shopping behavior was her attitude towards prices. While her AOV decreased during the pandemic in an effort to be mindful of costs, she wanted to make the holidays special this year. Her AOV rose 24% from pre-pandemic time to holidays as she spent about $305 per order, while the items per order decreased to just over two. She was now spending $150 per individual item for the holidays, compared to $96 during the pandemic and $101 pre-pandemic. 

In an effort to make the holidays unique in their own way, she zeroed in on what she wanted. She had an idea of what she wanted to make and quickly followed through with her purchases to make new traditions with her home-cooked meals.

Targeting and Engaging New High-Value Customers

To cater to this high-value shopper, ensure all product availability is fully listed and updated on your website so she knows exactly what she can get. Entice other high-value shoppers like her by including early bird deals or adding countdown clocks to your website. As she grows more comfortable using her mobile, consider offering mobile-only deals to encourage a quicker conversion.

Further Resources on Understanding Your High-Value Customers

Tune in each week for a deep dive into one of the ten retail categories explored in NetElixir’s 2021 FACES report

Why do we study high-value customers? NetElixir has found that high-value customers account for over 60% of total website purchases. We used our proprietary customer analytics tool, LXRInsights, to analyze and aggregate the data for FACES. 

Our cutting-edge customer journey mapping technology gives brands the power to engage the right shoppers responsibly and effectively in the moments that matter most. Please use FACES as a benchmark for your industry. Request a demo of LXRInsights for specifics into your business at

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