What’s in Store for Retail in 2022?

2021 was an eventful year for Australian retail. In addition to living through a global health crisis, the economic concerns — and major political, social, and environmental issues raised over the past two years — have drastically changed consumer behaviour.

Sej Patel, Country Manager Australia New Zealand

Originally published by Retail World

2021 was an eventful year for Australian retail. In addition to living through a global health crisis, the economic concerns — and major political, social, and environmental issues raised over the past two years — have drastically changed consumer behaviour.

Store closures saw some Australians shopping online for the first time, while scarcity in supermarkets forced shoppers to try new brands. Life-long habits were broken during a time when deep-seated beliefs were being challenged.

As a result of the dramatic events over the past two years, consumers’ priorities have changed, leaving Australians to re-evaluate the things that matter most to them; health, family, their finances, and the environment. For retailers, the need to understand these constantly changing and evolving consumer attitudes and behaviours have never been greater.

Throughout the past year, our Global Consumer Barometer research, which taps into our community panel of 35-plus million members to provide accurate and timely information on consumers’ perceptions, has consistently tracked changing consumer sentiment. It demonstrates that consumer sentiment is changing as quickly as the pandemic — and retail businesses must pay attention. They must work to predict how consumers will shop, and not only what they will buy, but why they’re buying it. Only when retailers better understand what influencers their purchasing decisions, will they truly understand how these factors will affect the way people shop in the future.

Permanent change in how consumers buy and spend

Consumers made many changes to their purchase behaviour in 2021 and will continue to buy and spend in 2022. When asked at the end of last year whether they had adopted new behaviours as a result of scarcity, 28% of surveyed Australians said they had tried a new product during the pandemic, with an additional 23% buying from a new brand.

This is particularly true in the food and drink space, where consumers are becoming more adventurous with their choices; 17% of surveyed Australians said they are trying more food and drink products/brands than they were before the pandemic. Twenty-three per cent of consumers said they will stick with these new brands or products that they’ve tried during the pandemic, and 31% are open to trying new ones in the future.

This year, we can expect this lack of brand fidelity to continue–with consumers switching brands more than ever.

Increasingly conscious consumers

An unexpected result of the past 18-24 months is the shift toward conscious consumerism. Our research shows that Australians have become more socially conscious because of the pandemic, caring more now about things like environmental issues and human rights than they did before. Nineteen per cent of surveyed Australians said they now put more thought into the brands they buy, while 57% said it’s important to invest time and care into the decisions they make as a consumer.

For brands and retailers, these shifting sentiments cannot go unnoticed. The growing sense of social responsibility, combined with a strong desire to do ‘the right thing,’ will continue to have an impact on the way consumers shop in 2022 and beyond. And because of this, retailers must stay on top of the ever-changing consumer sentiments and adjust their strategies to suit.

The importance of brand values

Brand loyalty has always played a big role in purchasing decisions, but it’s no longer something brands can take for granted. Coming out of the pandemic, consumers are now more inclined to support brands whose values align with their own. In fact, 51% of surveyed Australian consumers think about whether a brand supports the issues that are important to them when buying products or services, and 51% said they would switch social issues important to them.

Taking specific product categories into consideration, 43% of respondents said they’d like to see more food and drink companies supporting ethical issues, closely followed by energy suppliers (43%) and household cleaning brands (38%). Other areas consumers would like to see brands actively supporting ethical issues include banks (33%), technology and electronic brands (36%), personal hygiene (34%), and beauty (32%).

Looking at values, specifically, 63% of surveyed consumers said it was important to them that brands had strong environmental values, while the majority also said it was important that brands had strong values related to poverty (57%), equality and diversity (58%), and human rights (62%).

Looking forward

With almost half the number of shoppers ready to switch brands at the drop of a hat, and values now driving purchasing behaviour more than ever, brands, and retailers must adjust the order to remain competitive in 2022.

We may be at the tail end of this global health crisis (or we may not!), but it’s likely that these shifts in consumer sentiment will remain long after the pandemic is over. In 2022 and beyond, retailers and brands must continue to leverage accurate, on-demand consumer insights to truly understand and connect with their consumers and intelligently inform their strategic decision-making and planning.

About Toluna

Toluna delivers real-time consumer insights at the speed of the on-demand economy. With a commitment to leading by technology innovation. Toluna revolutionises market research and empowers clients with the agility to instantly conduct quantitative and qualitative research. By combing global scale and local expertise with innovative digital solutions and award-winning research design, Toluna helps clients explore tomorrow, now.