Last year brought many unexpected challenges for both retailers and consumers alike. Shopping patterns drastically changed, most likely for the long run, as well as the products that customers were looking for and needed. Amid all of these changes and uncertainty, it is vital for indie retailers to understand the changes in consumer behavior due to COVID-19.
5WPR conducted their second annual Consumer Culture Report for 2021, which discusses the newfound shopping behaviors of shoppers. In their 2020 report, they put Millennials in the spotlight. For their 2021 edition, 5WPR took a closer look at Gen Z, those aged 16 to 21, in their survey. According to the report, there are around 70 million Gen Z consumers in the U.S. with a combined spending power of $150 billion. One thing is certain for this year — consumer behavior and the marketing industry that aims to shape it will continue to undergo seismic shifts.
Change is the Only Constant
The 2021 Consumer Culture Report found that a quarter of all respondents strongly agree that they missed in-store shopping during lockdown. This rises to 62 percent who somewhat agree that they missed in-store shopping during lockdown, with a constant level of response across all age groups. Moreover, almost two-thirds of all groups strongly or somewhat agree that they have adjusted their shopping habits to support local businesses during the pandemic.
On top of that, consumers are now spending more than half an hour longer per day shopping online than they did before the outbreak of COVID-19. Millennials have, on average, added 46 minutes per day to their online shopping schedule, with 12 percent adding between three and four hours. This compares to an additional 43 minutes for Gen Z and 17 minutes for the oldest age bracket, 55 and up. The shift to ecommerce was accelerated by the pandemic, and is likely here to stay for the long run since most shoppers are now finding it more convenient to purchase online.
Consumer Conundrum: Spend it or Save it
When they do decide to spend the cash, Gen Z prioritizes electronics and technology (52%), followed by health and wellness (37%), and beauty, cosmetics, and personal care (36%). They are still taking pride in their appearance, even in an era of lockdown lifestyles and working from home. Gen Z has proven to be less interested in fitness, home goods and furniture, and travel and experiences, preferring to save money in these categories. This could very well mean that younger consumers see these items as an expensive outlay or investment, and a new sales model or brand approach may be required in order to attract them.
The Age of Shoppable Social
It is not news that social media has been a huge influence in consumer buying power. Facebook and Instagram have made it super easy to shop right on their platform, and well over half (58%) of Gen Z have made purchases on social media, along with 55 percent of Millennials. Even 32 percent of those aged 55 and above had bought something they saw on social media. These numbers have grown from 5WPR’s 2020 report, which saw 36 percent of respondents claiming they liked buying products promoted on these platforms.
An Impulse Culture
Nearly half of Gen Z consumers have an impulsive streak, with 47 percent agreeing overall that they often make purchases on the spur of the moment. This drops through the age groups to 28 percent of 55 and older respondents. While Gen Z professes to being the most impulsive, they also love a good bargain. Four-fifths of them strongly or somewhat agree that they watch for sales of an item they desire before buying it. Overall, 76 percent of consumers would do the same.
Beware a Brand Boycott
Especially among Millennials and Gen Z, consumers prefer to purchase from brands who share their same values. Overall, 51 percent of respondents in the 5WPR survey agree – dropping from 71 percent in 2020 – and just 15 percent disagree. Gen Z shows the most passion, with a fifth strongly agreeing. This sentiment decreases with age to 12 percent of those aged 55 and over. Despite the indifference in the responses, consumers become activists when it comes to brands that upset them.
Although there has been a decrease in the amount of people overall who have previously abandoned a brand due to its particular stance on an issue, 43 percent of respondents aged 55 and over are unforgiving. Forty-eight percent of them have boycotted a business compared to 45 percent of Gen Z and 39 percent of Millennials. This is vital for retailers who choose to make a stance on a certain topic, as staying neutral might be the better way.