Mar 9, 2021
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Global consumers say affordability will be key for shopping post-Covid

Mar 9, 2021

Hopes of a post-pandemic spending boom may be misplaced globally if a new report is to be believed. On Tuesday, the sixth EY future consumer index, which is a survey of 14,500 international consumers, found that consumers aren’t yet in a good place. They’re actually more worried than four months ago, about their health, their families and their futures.

Photo: Sam Lion/Pexels

It also means they’ll prioritise affordability (32%) and health (25%), over the planet (17%), society (14%) and experience (12%) in the future.

That said, given that the survey was conducted in January and February, even in countries where the vaccine rollout have been proceeding quickly, many survey respondents would have been questioned at a time when the latest coronavirus wave was at its height. That could have made people in countries such as the UK or US slightly more pessimistic than they might be today with large numbers already vaccinated.

But putting that caveat aside, what does the survey show us about where consumers are at the moment? Well, the share of people who think they will live in fear of the pandemic for at least another year has risen from 37% (October 2020) to 40% (February 2021), despite vaccines being rolled out.

The Index also found that because of the pandemic, people are increasingly concerned about the health of their family, access to necessities, personal finances and basic freedoms. 

The level of this concern does vary globally however. Respondents in India and Brazil have consistently been the most concerned overall (more than 90% of consumers) throughout the pandemic, while people in other countries are now more worried about their family's health than they were four months ago (up 4% in the US and 5% in Japan). Respondents in China and Germany said they’re increasingly worried about their finances (4% increase) and freedom to enjoy life (up more than 10%) since October 2020.

But it's interesting that nearly half of consumers still believe that post-Covid life will be better than before the pandemic. In fact, the pandemic may have accelerated changes that were already happening that contribute either to a better quality of life or an easier way of living, such as moving out of cities, shopping online more and prioritising health, affordability and sustainability. 

What this means for brands and retailers is that they “need to understand where consumers are going next and be bolder in accelerating their transformation, by redesigning their business around how people live, not what they buy”, EY said.


One bright spot is that 91% of global respondents do intend to take the vaccine, although some countries have more people with reservations than others, such as 15% in the US and 19% in France. Overall though, positive feelings towards the vaccine mean consumers expect the businesses they patronise to ensure that their staff have taken it. Some 56% would be more likely to shop with retailers that require employees to take the vaccine, while 48% of respondents think that those who refuse to take the vaccine are selfish.

As mentioned earlier, beyond the pandemic, affordability (32%) and health (25%) will remain the top priorities for consumers when shopping. That's a shift towards affordability from last June when the figures were 30% and 26% respectively. And in the UK and France, the numbers focusing on affordability are an even higher 33% and 35% respectively. 

And while affordability may not be the number one priority for everyone, 58% said they’d be more aware and cautious of their spending in the longer term and 63% say price will be the most important purchase criteria for them three years from now.

And 57% want to make healthier choices in their product purchases in the longer term.

What's good for the planet is lower on the priority list for many, but even if they don’r rate is as the number one issue, 49% will still prioritise the environment and climate change in how they live and the products they buy. And for 26%, sustainability will be their most important purchase criteria three years from now.

As many as 56% say they will also be more likely to buy from companies that ensure what they do has a positive impact on society, while 38% will buy more from organisations that benefit society, even if their products/services are more expensive, and 69% believe brands must positively change the world.

But these consumers are becoming much more inward-looking in other ways. The word ‘experience’ has been the guiding principle for many brand and retail developments in recent years, yet as many as 37% of those questioned will be less inclined to get involved in experiences outside the home on account of health and safety concerns. Some 76% have changed the way they stay entertained.

This suggests that online shopping won't see the growth slowdown some have been predicting. EY said the pandemic has changed consumer behaviour and has not just driven “consumption at home” through e-commerce. Consumers are now building their whole lifestyles around their homes as centres of gravity where they work, play and stay healthy. As many as 56% plan to stay fit at home beyond the pandemic, while 33% plan to upgrade appliances and furniture and 30% hope to work more from their home in the future.

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