The COVID-19 pandemic has created space for women to reprioritize their energy and resources, including re-evaluating what matters most when it comes to retail, according to a new exclusive national study from Meredith Corporation and The Harris Poll.
“Women are using their time during the pandemic to re-evaluate all aspects of their lives, from everyday routines to deeper evolution around their life goals and health,” said Britta Cleveland, Meredith’s Senior Vice President for Research Solutions, in a news release. “This means change ahead for retail, as women look to turn their new priorities into action.”
Among the many other notable findings, the study reveals three key shopping trends accelerated by the pandemic:
- Creating demand now starts with digital
- In-store retail needs a glow-up as digital shopping grows
- Women are intentionally directing spending to brands that support their values and community
The study, Shopping Confessions, is the third annual collaboration between Meredith and The Harris Poll. Previous collaborations between the two produced “Gen Z Women,” a 2020 study revealing this demographic’s unique perspectives on life, career, relationships, racial injustice, and social media, and “Burnout Flashpoint,” a 2019 study delving into the stress epidemic affecting the American woman.
A closer look at this year’s study:
Digital is the future to cultivating desire
Modern window shopping and checkout is being fueled by digital wish lists, social media, influencers, and editors/experts.
Digital discovery continues to be optimized as retailers work to bring the serendipity of new finds online. Nearly 6 in 10 Gen Z women (59 percent) find out about new products from social media advertising. More than half (52 percent) say email outreach has driven purchases, but a slightly higher percentage (56 percent) admit they are “drowning in junk email from stores / brands that I have purchased from.”
When it comes to influence, priorities are shifting from size and status toward authenticity and expertise. Survey data show that micro influencers (fewer than 100,000 followers) have the greatest trust when it comes to product recommendations. Similarly, editors and subject matter experts are more trusted than celebrities.
Women are resetting their in-store retail expectations
Her in-person shopping expectations are rising as she’s increasingly comfortable shopping across digital platforms.
Women are excited to get back to in-store shopping, citing the tactile experience and instant gratification as the most anticipated elements. Women 40 and under are particularly seeking the social experience that comes with shopping in-store. Yet women imagine this experience looking different than it did pre-pandemic, with heightened expectations and new needs. Nearly half (47 percent) of women 40 and under admit, “everything looks outdated to me now as we exit the pandemic, so I’m looking forward to seeking new experiences.”
Women 40 and under are more likely to be wooed by upgrades such as in-store food and beverage offerings and comfortable lounge spaces, while women over 40 are more concerned with COVID safety precautions.
Women are more intentional about buying brands that align with their values
Research suggests that one lasting impact to post-COVID retail expectations is heightened intentionality around purchase choices, including brands that have a positive impact on society.
Survey data shows that women are voting with their wallets to prioritize employee treatment, “give back” programs, and small business support. The pandemic has driven this small business-first mentality as 70% of women attest, “I witnessed a lot of local businesses struggle or go out of business, so I’m trying to shop locally more often.”
Sustainability is also an increasing driver for brand preference, as 59 percent of women across generations agreed that “shopping online is often wasteful with its packaging,” and 56 percent of women agreed with the statement, “I’m staying away from fast fashion because it’s unsustainable.”
This survey was conducted online within the U.S. by The Harris Poll on behalf of Meredith from July 30 to August 11, 2021, among 2,623 women. The study also comprised qualitative diaries and interviews with 21 women who varied in race, age, and sexual orientation. Survey audience included Black (n=326), Latina (n=381), AAPI (n=213), 1st/2nd Generation American (n=1,218), and LGBTQIA (n=386) women. The generational breakdown was as follows: Gen Z (n=771), Millennials (n=810), Gen X (n=517), and Boomers (n=525). Women 40 and under refers to Gen Z and Millennials combined (n=1,581), and women above 40 refers to Gen X and Boomers combined (n=1,042).