Conscious Consumers: A Year of Change and the U.S. Consumer

Published Jul 08, 2021

Ron Ruffinott, VP, Head of Research Solutions at Toluna Corporate

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Today, we’re delivering an up-close look at how American consumers are feeling and behaving at this stage, and what brands can expect to see from them. This intel is based on Wave 16 of the Global Barometer Study, which surveyed 1,000 people in the U.S. Here’s what we uncovered.

Americans are ready to spend — and save — more.

Employment shortages and the re-opening of the economy make two-thirds of Americans feel more secure in their employment. While nearly half of respondents say they’re still concerned about their financial security, the large majority feel confident about spending money in the coming months, at 77%.

So how will they spend, and where will they save? In the wake of pandemic life;

  • 36% say they plan to save more
  • 33% look to get better about budgeting
  • 27% will keep more money in easily accessible accounts
  • 24% say they’ll pay down personal debt

Sound investments are a top priority, too. One-third of respondents feel it’s important to invest with well-known providers, and one-fourth are looking to invest in socially responsible ESG companies.

Americans are also looking to return to shopping for select items in-store, particularly everyday items including groceries (34%); drinks (29%); household cleaning products (26%); personal care, toiletries, and hygiene products (25%). Twenty-three percent will return to shopping for clothing in stores, while 22% cite cosmetics and 19% technology as their anticipated in-store purchases.

Food habits are still in flux.

From grocery shopping to cooking, meal prep, and beyond, U.S. consumers’ food habits remain changed months after the pandemic hit. Consumers still report more experimentation in the kitchen at home, as well as ordering food from their favorite restaurants to be picked up (46%) or delivered (42%). Thirty-eight percent of Americans remain open to trying new brands, and these trends appear to be sticking around.

But when it comes to buying groceries and household items going forward, nearly half of respondents say they’re looking forward to in-store grocery shopping (45%), and 40% prefer big supermarket shopping. Thirty-seven percent say they prefer to buy in-store items at local shops.

When it comes to other pandemic-related food trends, here’s an overview of U.S. consumers’ current habits:

  • 41% are eager to get back to enjoying local restaurants, and 32% missed the social aspect of dining out
  • 40% say they’ll continue to cook and eat more at home, with 36% reporting cooking new meals at home; 29% having food from their favorite restaurants delivered at home, and 21% doing more outdoor cooking
  • 39% are trying to eat healthier meals, 32% are looking to keep their cupboards better stocked at all times, and 26% are more interested in the ingredients of food products

Beauty and wellness remain top of mind.

The pandemic changed lots of things about personal care and put a spotlight on health and wellness, which doesn’t seem to be disappearing anytime soon. Twenty-one percent of Americans say they’ve bought more products to continue at-home beauty and hair treatments, and 28% will continue their in-home routines. Still, another 28% report being eager to return to salons, spas, and the like.

In terms of wellness, 60% of Americans report a continued interest in products and solutions that help improve well-being, and 61% say they’re keeping medications well-stocked. Another 29% are interested in natural remedies.

Some new shopping behaviors and expectations are here to stay.

Of the many lifestyle shifts, the pandemic brought on, research shows that several are sticking around. One is online financial management, with almost half of Americans reporting more online money management in the past year, with no plans to go back to traditional options.

This digital-first trend has made its way into healthcare, too, and 50% of respondents use digital methods to communicate with healthcare professionals.

Beyond relacing in-person with online options in several key areas, consumers continue to expect more from the brands they support. Americans are looking for businesses that show strong customer support and sustainability values, with 42% listing environmentalism as the most important brand value; 34% listing humanitarian efforts, and 31% a sense of community and community support.

That sense of community translates into consumers’ lives as well, and 31% of Americans report being more interested in buying locally produced products.

As they continue to evolve, count on us to keep you posted on the latest trends and developments informing U.S. consumers’ shopping and spending habits.

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