Australian consumers are dismayed and pensive. Their hopes of accelerating out of the pandemic have been frustrated by the slowing economy and they are anxious about what lies ahead. The decline in consumer confidence has been acute and the recovery will be far slower than the fall.
Large tranches of consumers are edging towards much more frugal – and in some cases austere – behaviour as the mindset of constraint takes hold. The key emerging shifts reflecting the new discerning consumer include:
- Decreasing their repertoire to focus more on the essentials over discretionary goods and services
- Downshifting to products that are cheaper and considered better value in the current environment, with private labels and more generic offers in consideration
- Diverting to new options as product unavailability, coupled with increased prices, sees rote purchasing give way to greater brand promiscuity
- Deferring or delaying repayments in subscription-based areas as the pressure increases
Consumer-facing organisations must adapt quickly to embrace this change. Critical to success will be:
- Stress testing the product portfolio
- Evolving pricing strategies while not eroding long-term value
- Ensuring brand presence and brand equity are elevated in the minds of wavering consumers to reaffirm loyalty and protect market share
- Maintaining alignment with the pandemic’s ‘new normal’ consumer values, particularly in the area of sustainability as a harder-line consumer attitude gathers pace
- Modelling to manage risk in subscription and contract categories with the incidence of slower payments, default and cancellation likely to rise
- Planning for the rebound when confidence returns, driven by even greater pent-up demand accrued over the last few years.
A collapse in consumer confidence
Feeling in control is a universal aspiration, but the quest for certainty and stability has proven more elusive than ever in recent years. For Australians, 2022 promised more clarity about what lies ahead as impact of the pandemic on day to day life tapered and freedoms were rediscovered. However, this has been counterbalanced by escalating anxiety about the economy and intensified pressure on household finances.
Concern about the direction of the economy has seen consumer confidence collapse. All of the major consumer confidence indices have shown an acute decline in recent months and are likely to oscillate at that level for months to come. Confidence is at close to a three-decade low, matching a time when the country was last in recession. It’s confronting data, with many Australian households deeply concerned about the cost of living as they are hit by accelerating inflation and interest rate rises while wage growth stagnates.