Spotlight on North America: Consumer Trends in the “Year of the Brand”

Published Mar 28, 2021

Ron Ruffinott, VP, Head of Research Solutions

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Toluna has been running a Global Consumer Barometer across 14-19 markets since March 2021 to better understand consumers and their current sentiments and behaviors. During the pandemic, it was clear that consumers thought brands needed to do more. Brands need to regain consumer trust in 2021.

Just what does that mean for businesses? In the wake of a global pandemic that rocked industries and consumers alike, it means brands must answer the call to communicate their values to customers in order to make meaningful, lasting connections with them — which is something consumers increasingly expect.

They’re also expected to share what they’re doing to improve the economy and the world. More than ever before, authenticity is top of mind. Consumers are supporting brands that have responded to 2020 and are moving forward in 2021 in ways they can feel good about. It’s on brands to show consumers what they stand for, communicate their core values, and resonate with consumer expectations to stay relevant.

Brands need to align with consumer values. They’re pivoting business strategy to understand their audience over time, with consumer sentiment changing frequently.

More plans are being made — inside and outside of the home.

With a renewed sense of hope growing and restrictions easing across the country, many report they’re starting to make plans for the coming months, both inside and outside of the home. One-third of respondents expect to spend more money dining out in 2021 compared to last year. Forty-six percent plan on shopping in stores in the next few months, and 44% plan on going out to dinner.

Still, there’s some lingering uncertainty about going out and about, with 27% of respondents saying they’re still uncomfortable about attending events in 2012 and even 2022.

At-home plans include online shopping (37%); eating more healthfully (34%); thinking about spending more carefully (34%); and taking more vitamins (27%).

Key takeaways: Americans are starting to make more plans, whether it’s going out to shop in stores or enjoy dinner, or online shopping and re-thinking their health at home. There is still significant hesitancy around attending in-person events for this year and beyond.

In-store shopping is making a slow return.

Many Americans are getting more comfortable with the idea of reintroducing in-person shopping to their daily lives. One-third of respondents report being more selective about choosing their cleaning and hygiene products these days, with their in-person shopping plans — in order of interest — including:

Groceries (36%)
Drinks (32%)
Household cleaning products (27%)
Personal care, toiletries, and hygiene products (26%)
Clothing (23%)
Cosmetics (23%)
Technology (18%)

Key takeaways: Of those who are interested in in-store shopping, priorities start with groceries and drinks and end with technology. American consumers also report being choosier about the cleaning and hygiene products they’re purchasing today.

Americans’ food habits remain in flux.

When it comes to eating plans and habits in 2021, 45% of Americans say they’ll continue to cook and eat at home, and 42% plan to keep their cabinets stocked. Thirty-nine percent report being very eager to enjoy dinner at local restaurants, with 35% saying they miss the social aspect of dining out, and 30% worrying about restaurants closing if they don’t go out to eat. Consumers are still looking to show support for their favorite restaurants, with 30% saying they’ve ordered from their favorites to be delivered at home.

With so much at-home cooking going on in recent months, it’s safe to say the pandemic has not only had an impact on eating out versus staying home but overall food habits. An impressive 40% of respondents report experimenting more with cooking; 21% purchasing new cooking equipment; and 19% doing more outdoor cooking. Thirty-two percent of consumers reported maintaining a comparable level of food enjoyment as they did in pre-pandemic days.

Key takeaways: Americans miss going out to eat and worry about the future of their local favorites, but support them with delivery orders and are eager to start dining out again. The pandemic has inspired more home cooking and cookware purchases.

Delivering these consumer trends straight to brands helps them better pivot to reach their target audiences in relevant, meaningful ways. Consumer sentiments continue to evolve at an incredible rate, making it mission-critical for brands to keep up with their needs and patterns in real-time. Agile insights can build that bridge.

Toluna Start is an end-to-end consumer intelligence platform and with a single login. Conduct quantitative and qualitative research – either through self-service solutions or through custom research programs built with the help of research and service experts. Access a wide range of automated insights solutions covering survey design, integrated survey respondents, and reporting dashboards including insights and recommendations. It’s all built in-house and integrates Harris Interactive methodologies. You can self-serve or we can help. Launch your survey in just minutes and see results populate in real-time.

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