Case Study

Understanding How Consumers Shop for Immunity-Boosting Products


The COVID-19 pandemic increased consumer awareness of immunity strengthening products. Vitamins and supplements became important for those seeking to stay healthy. During the early days of the pandemic, a vitamins and supplements manufacturer came to C+R with questions about how consumers shop for vitamins and other over-the-counter (OTC) products, both pre-shop and in-store.

To answer the client’s questions, C+R created a robust mixed methods research program. The results were used to improve at shelf shop-ability of immunity products – helping more consumers focus on staying healthy.


Studying Shopping Patterns for Immunity-Boosting Products (During a Pandemic)

A vitamins and supplements manufacturer sought to understand how shoppers make decisions about which immunity-boosting products to buy and use – from awareness of products to final purchase. They also wanted to know what behaviors, if any, had changed due to the pandemic and what behaviors might remain, post-COVID. 


A Multi-Phase Mixed Methods Study Complete with Remote Shop-Alongs

To understand shopping habits, C+R created a multi-phase research program using both qualitative and quantitative methods. The first stage included an online community and remote shop-alongs. Using a combination of text, video, and photo activities on an online message board, 40 immunity product consumers led researchers through their strategy, mindset, and baseline expectations when shopping for products in the vitamin and OTC aisles. Participants were split by gender and retailer frequented (grocery, mass, online, and drug).

In the second phase, a subset of 14 participants were invited to participate in one-on-one remote shop-alongs. The research team and clients followed the participants in-store (via a mobile app) and observed how shoppers navigated aisles and found immunity solutions. Remote shop-alongs were conducted in brick and mortar stores and online.

For the quantitative phase, an online survey was conducted with 700 adults aged 25+ who purchase immunity solutions products and are non-rejectors of the client’s brand. Survey click-throughs were balanced to match Census data, ensuring a representative sample. The survey was also balanced by where shoppers typically purchase immunity solutions products (drug, mass, grocery, online). 

The C+R team used a discrete choice approach to understand what immunity solution product features are most important in shoppers’ decisions. The team also employed Bayesian network analysis to map how customers choose immunity products. Outside the discrete choice exercise, the survey uncovered brand preference, purchase and use frequency, and length of product use.

The result

Assuring a Stand-Out Product and an Easy Shopper Journey

The research provided the client with a detailed consumer snapshot and showed that most immunity shoppers stick with one brand when they can, but ultimately will buy what is available at their preferred retailer, as long as products are high quality and perceived to help keep them healthy.

Regarding COVID-19, most shoppers had not drastically changed their buying or usage habits. Some shoppers reported using products more often, and many who, prior to COVID, shopped in-store had switched to online or curbside pick-up options.

The discrete choice exercise identified multiple features/factors that are important when choosing immunity supplements at the shelf, but three distinct features stood out. Additionally, the shopping journey identified two primary paths in immunity supplement selection, which reinforced the results of the discrete choice exercise, giving the client a clear charge for developing new strategies and tactics to keep people healthy!

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