2020: A Year of Consumer Change. What does this Mean for Brands in 2021?

Published Nov 19, 2020

Janice Caston, SVP, Global Marketing

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As we close the year and enter a period of more uncertainty specifically in North America, marketers must understand how to utilize key learnings from 2020 as they consider 2021 plans.

COVID-19, economic concerns, and social issues have rapidly impacted the attitudes and behaviors of the 2020 consumer.  To better understand these impacts as they happen Toluna, Harris Interactive and KuRunData have been running a global Consumer Barometer study every two to three weeks since March to offer a clear view of consumer changes as they’ve unfolded.

Consumers have placed value on brand trust, diversity, and inclusion.    

In 2021, we can expect to see many brands invest in not only improving their image but parent company brands also.  Consumers have felt that many brands were slow to react to COVID-19 and brand trust is valued more than ever.  More than half of people we surveyed report that they are more likely to buy from brands that show consumer support and value inclusion and diversity.

However, it’s not enough to simply show support.  Consumers need to specifically understand efforts and believe in those efforts before buying in.

Throughout 2020, people have been making brand trade-offs ‘staples’ and evaluating the brands they have been forced to try in many cases related to supply shortages or shopping constraints.  Upwards of 60% report having to try a new brand in 2020 that they wouldn’t have otherwise tried.

As brand switching has increased in 2020, and 59% of consumers report that they are more open to trying a new brand than they were before COVID-19, making investments in brand and communicating messages of consumer support are critical in 2021.

Consumers are more focused on saving than ever.

As expected, consumers feel stressed about job security and worries about finances are directly correlated to job concerns.  To that end, close to 40% of people globally have changed the way they spend (and save) money.

Consumers are also concerned about holiday spending and will be more selective in what they spend money on (i.e. fewer gifts for co-workers and friends).  In addition, concerns around COVID – 19 have fewer people gathering, decreasing the need for gift purchases.  Of those that do plan to purchase gifts, close to 50% of people will shop based on price.  We’ll see less ‘gifting’ as gift cards are the second highest type of gift people plan to purchase this year.

We expect this changed, more conservative view of consumer finance to continue into 2021.  Not only do people plan to save more, they will also take a renewed focus on budgeting.

Prioritizing self-care, health, and wellness

We’ve seen consumers prioritize self-care in ways that range from spending more on vitamins to purchasing low-cost, feel-good products like sleep aids, and skincare.  These ‘bright spots’ are often trade-off purchases for higher cost luxury purchases consumers once made. ‘At home’ treatments and products marketed as ‘easy’ and ‘for home use’ have trended positively.  This is true of haircare, facials, and nail care.

Impulse purchasing is down (as many don’t visit stores/browse as they had) so lower volume products have suffered immensely.  People are spending money on themselves where it counts – and this will continue through 2021.

We’ll see a new consumer in 2021

We’re seeing a new consumer emerge in 2021 — one that is more wired and technology-focused than ever before. They’re savvy shoppers who value personal connection, family, and self-care. This makes it more important than ever to gather real-time insights — over time — as the market continues to evolve.

To a healthy and prosperous new year!

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