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Sustainability takes a front seat with socially conscious consumers’ cautious return to normal

by | Aug 3, 2021 | Public Relations

While consumers’ habits, perceptions and expectations have changed, there is an opportunity to capitalize on their desire to return to “normal,” but with cautious optimism—and marketers must understand and cater to consumers’ current sentiment as they look to align with this new paradigm, new research from marketing solutions firm Vericast reveals.

The firm’s newly released proprietary data from its Valassis line provides a snapshot into how American consumers are feeling and behaving as COVID-19 restrictions ease. As marketers look to align with this new paradigm, they must understand and cater to consumers’ current sentiment.

The new study, 2021 Consumer Intel Report, points to the rise of a more conscious consumer—with 52 percent of survey respondents saying it is important that the brands they purchase from have values aligning with their own.

Sustainability takes a front seat with socially conscious consumers’ cautious return to normal

In addition, 72 percent of millennial parents are more likely to be loyal to a brand or store that shares its efforts to be environmentally responsible or has sustainable or ethical business practices. Sustainability is worth a financial commitment for some—63 percent of millennials are willing to pay more for sustainable products.

Sustainability takes a front seat with socially conscious consumers’ cautious return to normal

The in-store experience is going to become more critical than ever as consumers are eager to return and engage more closely with the brands they buy from. Shopping indoors performed better than most other indoor activities in terms of comfort level among respondents (49 percent said they are comfortable). The survey also found that 74 percent of consumers prefer to buy products that they need to smell, touch or feel in-store. Retailers can capitalize on this behavior with more seamless experiences and well-timed discounts.

Sustainability takes a front seat with socially conscious consumers’ cautious return to normal

In 2020, while online shopping increased significantly across food, household goods and health and beauty care products, it has nearly gone back to 2019 levels across these categories. For example, our survey found that 18 percent of consumers said they do all their food shopping online compared to 29 percent indicating this in 2020. At the same time, the shift to online shopping—largely driven by the pandemic—did generate first-time online shoppers, creating new opportunities for brands.

Sustainability takes a front seat with socially conscious consumers’ cautious return to normal

“There is a clear willingness among consumers to return to pre-pandemic activities, albeit tempered with some caution,” said Sarah O’Grady, vice president of brand marketing at Vericast, in a news release. “The challenge for brands now is to respect the caution while galvanizing action. With our survey results in mind, there are four definitive ways for marketers to generate authentic customer engagement: use messaging that conveys forward momentum, promote health and safety measures, demonstrate a social conscience and take advantage of in-store retail with promotions and experiences.”

Sustainability takes a front seat with socially conscious consumers’ cautious return to normal

Additional key takeaways from the report include:

Saving is still king

  • 72 percent of consumers said they increased their saving behaviors during COVID and 82 percent of those people told us they anticipate those behaviors to continue over the next year.
  • The majority (82 percent) of respondents said the most important thing when shopping for grocery products is to save the most money by going to a store with the lowest price.
  • Over half (52 percent) of consumers said a sale will drive an impulse purchase.
  • Affluent shoppers get excited by coupons, too: 79 percent said they use coupons when planning their shopping and the same percentage said it’s exciting to discover a discount on a product they were already planning to buy. Most use both paper and digital coupons/discounts and 64 percent say coupons/discounts speed up their decision to purchase.

Familiarity, trust and authenticity matter

  • Following a period of uncertainty, consumers are now seeking out stability and familiarity. In fact, 67 percent said they prefer a brand or store that provides a consistent experience.
  • 56 percent said they typically purchase from brands they’re familiar with because of their brand communications.

Sustainability takes a front seat with socially conscious consumers’ cautious return to normal

Housing boom creates opportunity

  • 75 percent of millennial parents, 73 percent of parents and 69 percent of millennials have purchased home comfort items within the last six months with more than half (52 percent) of all consumers intending to make a purchase in the next six months.
  • 63 percent of millennial parents, 59 percent of parents and 55 percent of millennials said they’re spending more time and/or money improving their home.

Restaurants must adapt

  • There is a degree of caution about returning to restaurants with 61 percent of parents, 60 percent of millennial parents and 55% of millennials comfortable dining outside.
  • 63 percent of consumers say they are more comfortable ordering carryout or delivery than dining inside at a restaurant.

Download the full report here.

The study was fielded by Valassis Feb. 18, 2021 through March 4, 2021 in conjunction with a global, third-party market research firm with proficiency in internet surveys. The sample is nationally representative and was derived from an online consumer opinion panel, and all participants were at least 18 years of age and living in the contiguous United States. The survey was closed once 1,004 completed responses had been reached.

Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 17 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richard.carufel@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter

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