Consumers adopted new behaviours and priorities
In PAGB’s annual review of 2020, an analysis by NielsenIQ considers a series of shifts in consumer behaviour, some of which is summarised here.
Online and all-in-one-store shopping
Restrictions on store opening and freedom of movement inevitably led to a change in shopping habits. Consumers increasingly went online and signs are that this is likely to continue.
As an overall proportion, online sales in 2020 accounted for 10% of consumer healthcare sales – higher than ever before. This included ‘traditional’ bricks and mortar retailers whose online sales were up 76.3% in 2020 compared to the year before.
People also did more ‘all-in-one-store’ shopping – choosing to make fewer trips outside the home. Nielsen suggests that this changing behaviour could present a longer-term risk for the traditional pharmacy channel and that ‘now, more than ever, shoppers need a clear and unique reason to visit the pharmacy’.
Trust influenced buying decisions
The early signs of recessionary behaviours began to show and may be more evident in the coming year. Consumers look for value and price influences behaviour; however, trust also remains an important factor in consumer healthcare. In the uncertainty of 2020, trusted brands performed better than private label self care products.
Vitamins and minerals came of age
Health and hygiene inevitably moved up people’s priority list in 2020. The definition of health and self care widened to include wellbeing and nutrition. Both healthy eating and supplementation benefitted – the vitamins and minerals category growing 14.3% on the previous year.
The bigger picture
Looking at the market as a whole, beyond the COVID-19 impact, we see that pain relief remains the largest category and one of the few to end the year in positive territory – sales were up 2.7% on the previous year. Allergy products too, while not a large category, continued to do well with a 5.8% increase in sales in 2020. Eyecare and gastrointestinal products had looked promising at the end of the previous year but struggled in 2020, both in negative growth (-7.4% and -4.9% respectively). Overall, this was in stark contrast to 2019 when all categories experienced growth.
The consumer healthcare industry started 2020 in a good position, and although continued growth was in no way guaranteed, it was impossible to predict the very specific challenges that unfolded. As to what comes next, it is still too early to tell whether consumer behaviour will return to a pre-pandemic ‘norm’ or if social and shopping habits will be permanently changed. Manufacturers and retailers will be watching consumers’ behaviour closely and seeking to meet their changing needs in 2021.
About the data
Nielsen’s OTC read was defined by NielsenIQ in agreement with PAGB and its members. It covers over 75,000 stores, including multiple and independent chemists, grocery retailers and in-store pharmacies as well as impulse stores.