As the UK coronavirus lockdown eases, a new conscientious, community-loving and less materialistic consumer is emerging, with brands being urged to wake up to the fact that this shift in consumer values is likely to have a long-term impact on purchasing decisions.
That is one of the key findings of a new study by Wunderman Thompson into the “new normal”, which shows the pandemic has accelerated a number of “macro trends”.
In what could be a nasty shock for some brands, especially those once coveted designer labels, a third of respondents say they value material possessions less now compared to how they felt before lockdown. For designer brands this soars to 45%, with the highest loathing among GenZ, under 25-year-olds.
In fact, luxury goods are the item people say they are most likely to stop buying altogether (19%) or trade down on in future (9%). Luxury through lockdown has been redefined to be more than just possessions; it’s about creating the time and space to enjoy special moments and extraordinary experiences, the study insists.
Meanwhile, being at home for weeks on end also seems to have led to fewer concerns with how people look. Cosmetics and clothing are areas where consumers claim they will be trading down, while 20% now place less value on personal appearance.
The previous trend towards an ever more image conscious world, may have actually slowed for the time being. Brands in the business of helping people look good, may want to re-examine products and services to meet evolving values, such as connecting with others and the desire to have a positive impact in the world, the report states.
It is clear the crisis has also had a major impact on consumers’ sense of togetherness, with a significant rise in community mindedness. Some 56% more people value “togetherness”, 44% more value “respect” and 43% more value “community” compared to before the lockdown.
These shifts are largely consistent across all political persuasions, too, suggesting there is greater overlap of values now compared to the Brexit years. Immigration is now lower down the list of priority issues, as is leaving the EU at the end of the year.
When asked about a role for brands, respondents placed the emphasis squarely on tackling their own internal issues first, including treating employees fairly (52%), improving sanitation and hygiene (47%), and ensuring safety of products and services (41%). There is also a role for companies to play in working with the Government and other companies to rebuild the economy (44%), as well as supporting local businesses and jobs (43%).
Aspects such as “having a point of view on how to make the world a better place” (21%) and “making me laugh or cheering me up” (17%) no longer wash with consumers, indicating that now more than ever, people want to see concrete actions and meaningful communications.
Perhaps unsurprisingly people have a renewed appreciation of others. Some 65% say they now value other people more, with 60% saying time with others is more important to them.
While 56% of people are more grateful for technology that connects them to others, it’s clear there is no substitute for real life human to human connection. Few people say they will miss interacting with friends and family via Zoom (12%).
The inadvertent benefits of lockdown have increased our sense of connection with the natural world. A more peaceful, less polluted local environment is something 54% of people say they would miss if lockdown ended tomorrow. Meanwhile, 46% would miss less traffic on the road, and 43% the cleaner air. Importantly, 38% say they are keen to use the opportunity to rethink and rebuild a better society as a result of the crisis.
As one of the few things people have been able to control these past months, and a means to both treat and nourish, good food has risen in significance. Nearly two-fifths (39%) of people say they now value good food more, with 17% saying they expect to spend more on groceries and 13% thinking about trading up.
The report states that the UK is likely to witness similar spending patterns to past recessions, with people refocusing on small but discretionary purchases as a way to self-treat.
Wunderman Thompson UK chef executive Pip Hulbert commented: “We’ve found that people’s values have shifted over the past three months. Lockdown has highlighted that we’re all quite good at getting by on less than we thought, and the things that matter to us most are closer to home than we realised.
“As a result, it’s increasingly important that brands consistently deliver meaningful experiences reflecting the values they share with their consumers, and that they do this through every aspect of their business.”
Back to the future: media consumption turned on head
Coronavirus-themed ads strike a chord with consumers
Crisis-hit consumers more willing to try out new brands
‘Seismic’ shift to push online grocery market up 33%
Online stampede is a mixed shopping bag for brands
Boom or bust: Online winners and losers of Covid-19
Covid-19 Britain: Bakers, creators, musos and DIYers