While consumer behaviours have changed — as reflected in consumers' choice of living with less and re-evaluating purchases, businesses need to rethink their engagement strategies and practices.
Some of the newly adopted consumer behaviours during the pandemic — as tracked by the EY Future Consumer Index since April 2020 — have become embedded within the consumer mindset, said EY recently when releasing the index based on a survey of 16,000 consumers.
- 63% say the new behaviours they have had to adopt now feel “normal.”
- The “planet first” and “experience first” consumer segments (rather than the society, health and affordability first segments identified in the Index) grew during the pandemic, rising from 16% to 26% and from 11% to 18% respectively.
- Sustainability is important when making purchase decisions for 85% of respondents.
- Respondents are reprioritising their purchase decisions and are spending less on what they perceive to be unnecessary goods for financial (49%) and environmental (30%) reasons.
- This is likely to have a longer-term impact on attitudes to conspicuous consumption. In fact, brands are less of a factor for 44% of global consumers (49% for millennials and 47% for Gen Z).
- It is even less of a factor for Chinese respondents, with 59% of them saying brands are less important in purchase decisions.
- When it comes to the latest gadget and technology trends, close to half of global (41%) and American (45%) respondents feel less pressure to keep up.
- Only 27% of all respondents say that they now buy more things because it makes them feel happy, while 48% disagree with that statement.
- Nearly half of global respondents (47%) also now say they feel more comfortable in their own skin, without the need for beauty products. This number goes up to 51% in the US, 57% in Brazil, 60% in China and 73% in India, while it remains low in some parts of Europe (37% in France and 43% in Germany).
- Overall, the pandemic has helped consumers realize they can live with less and consume “better”: they feel they have more clothes than they really need (48%) and are more likely to repair things instead of replacing them (53%).
Saving is the top reason for this shift to”living with less”, but environmental concerns, spending on better quality items that will last longer, or pursuing experiences rather than things are also important drivers, said Kristina Rogers, EY Global Consumer Leader.
“Consumers are bringing new values into this shopping season and into 2022. Companies will have to analyze these new shopping behaviours, rethink the way they engage with a consumer who lives, works and plays from home more, and enable seamless and consistent physical and digital brand experiences,” she advised.
Why consumers are returning to physical stores this season
The Index suggests younger consumers will drive sales participation this season: 71% of Gen Z and 68% of millennials, compared to 37% of baby boomers, are planning to participate in the next big shopping event, EY pointed out.
However, how they shop has changed year-on-year, the firm added.
While increased e-commerce penetration has been a major theme since the onset of the pandemic, over half (51%) of global respondents are planning to look for deals in-store, up from 39% last year, survey results indicate.
The Index indicates that two factors could explain this trend: not only have restrictions eased and stores reopened in most parts of the world, but consumers are also choosing to shop in-store more to avoid increased shipping costs and delays caused by supply chain disruption, according to EY.
Indeed, for the consumers who will shop online this season the top frustration is expensive shipping (32%), followed by product availability (25%), EY said.
What should businesses do?
To mitigate this, companies will therefore have to rethink supply chain, inventory and logistics, especially as the quality of service they offer is growing in importance for at least 57% of consumers, EY noted.
Given that consumers are much more discerning in how they spend their money, it will be imperative for brands to remove these points of friction and facilitate fluidity between the virtual and physical worlds, the firm advised.