Survey of Food and Drink Promotions in an Online Retail Environment - A Report

Our new survey provides the first Scotland-based analysis of food and drink promotions in an online retail environment.

Conducted at two time points in 2020, the survey captured online grocery retail environment just before the first COVID-19 lockdown and then was repeated at the end of the year. The survey included 6 online supermarkets (all that delivered shopping in mainland Scotland in March 2020) and used two shopping lists to collect data on food and drink promotions based on 18 separate shopping events.

The key findings were:

  1. During an average online shopping event a shopper in our survey was exposed to 510 promotions, of which 61% were non-monetary and 39% were price promotions.
  2. Around a fifth (21%) of all promotions were for discretionary (unhealthy) products and around a tenth (11%) for alcohol. Most often promoted discretionary products were confectionery, crisps, ice-cream and dairy desserts, and soft drinks.
  3. Supermarkets employed different combinations of price promotions and non-monetary promotions, demonstrating that many combinations work. This suggests that the introduction of restrictions to only some types of promotions is likely to lead to compensation with other types.
  4. There was clear seasonal trend for food and drink promotions with more in November/December than in March 2020. The trend was stronger for discretionary products and for alcohol than for food and drink in general.
  5. Temporary price reduction was the most frequently employed type of price promotion (57% of price promotions). The most frequently employed non-monetary promotion was location on product landing pages and in the search results. However, there were large variations between the supermarkets in numbers and types of promotions used.