Press release
29 May 2024  | London, GB

EY Future Consumer Index: Consumer optimism on the rise but connecting with the independent consumer heralds a new challenge for retailers and brands

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  • 47% of consumers are optimistic about the future, 61% feel in control of their lives
  • Rise of the influencer: 61% bought a product based on an influencer’s recommendation or promotion
  • Data security concerns: 61% of consumers are concerned with ID theft when sharing data, up from 55% 12 months ago

Nearly half (47%) of respondents continue to be optimistic about the future according to the latest EY Future Consumer Index (FCI) – which surveyed more than 23,000 consumers across 30 countries – despite concerns about rising living costs (55%), climate change (44%) and geopolitical tensions (30%). Consumers are in fact becoming more adept at managing disruption – with 61% of respondents saying they feel in control of their lives – showing the extent to which global uncertainty, for many, has become normalized.

But while optimism grows, the rise of the independent consumer – individuals who actively seek out information, make decisions and take actions autonomously, rather than relying solely on traditional sources of influence – heralds a new challenge for consumer products (CP) companies and retailers. 

As consumers increasingly assert their independence, the report indicates that the traditional methods of targeting, communicating and persuading them to buy are becoming obsolete. Today’s consumers actively seek out new, digital channels where they can engage, provide their own advice to others, purchase and find unbiased product reviews.  

Nearly three-fifths (57%) of respondents look to engage and/or contribute to online communities for advice when making a purchasing decision and, significantly, 61% say they bought a product based on an influencer’s recommendation or promotion. Conversely, only 21% clicked and followed an ad on social media. Consumers in Asia (44%) are more likely to engage and participate in these online communities for shopping advice – compared to 32% in the Americas and only 20% across Europe – as are younger generations, with Gen Z (40%) and millennials (39%) more likely to engage than Gen X (30%) and baby boomers (17%).

To effectively connect with these self-reliant customers, the report states that CP companies and retailers must adopt more persuasive tactics by investing in and utilizing channels and experiences that resonate with the values and preferences of individual consumers, rather than relying on broad, one-size-fits-all approaches.  

 Kristina Rogers, EY Global Consumer Leader, says:

“To meet and connect with today’s independent consumers, retailers need to understand them in a new way and earn a place in their circle of influence. These consumers are becoming more selective about whom and what they listen to, and they feel empowered to demand fair value for their time and money. Artificial intelligence and other technologies can help retailers and consumer products companies meet some of these needs, but the human touch through authentic, trustworthy connections and engagement is more important than ever.”

Trusting peers over brands

Consumers follow content creators on social platforms primarily for the quality and authenticity of the content, favoring micro-influencers and niche experts over celebrity endorsements, according to the FCI research. 

Forty-nine percent of those respondents following an influencer do so because they create content that they find valuable, and 44% because they create content that they find enjoyable. Celebrity endorsements are becoming less popular, with only a quarter (25%) following an influencer because they are famous – exceptionally rising to 32% in Asia.

Rogers says: "To truly embrace consumer centricity, consumer products companies must forge authentic relationships with the influencer community, selecting individuals aligned with brand values and audience aspirations. Establishing an influencer network that maximizes return on investment demands a delicate balance between trust and oversight. While brands can't dictate influencer messaging, careful selection is paramount to safeguard brand reputation, as is meticulous performance monitoring.”

All things in moderation 

The study finds that many consumers will be happy to see the back of third-party cookies, with those surveyed saying websites tracking user movement (30%), tailored ads based on browsing/purchase history (22%) and curated new experiences based on past content engagement (20%) all worsen the online shopping experience. The report highlights that in this landscape, brands with nascent or non-existent direct-to-consumer channels will find it harder to make their marketing efforts effective as they do not have enough first-party data. Larger retailers are more likely to be more successful, as their websites attract more traffic, enabling them to capture enough rich data to deliver quality, personalized experiences as well as offer this data to brands. 

In fact, many retailers see an opportunity here according to the report. They are investing in their own retail media networks and partnerships to collect more consumer data and build profitable, long-term partnerships with brands.  

Rogers says: “Data is king for consumer products companies and brands, but they all must be transparent about how they use data and make it as easy as possible for people who do not wish to share their data to opt out. If it is too complex, consumers will leave the site rather than work out how to change their data-sharing preferences.”

Loyalty must be tailored to consumer preferences

Loyalty programs are still prevalent, helping retailers to connect with customers and collect their data, but consumer loyalty has evolved to be based more on transactional and immediate connections, and less emotional connections. The report finds that customers are driven by tangible benefits such as discounts and exclusive deals, and their loyalty is often as lasting as the benefits they receive. For example, 46% of respondents redeemed a coupon/voucher they received from a retailer, whereas only 31% downloaded a retailer/brand app, less than a quarter (23%) joined a retailer rewards club and only 22% signed up for a retailers’ mailing list in the last six months. Respondents preferred loyalty features are free shipping (67%) followed by receiving lower prices in store on selected products (49%).  

Despite a willingness to part with their data, consumer concerns over data security have increased over 12 months because of a higher awareness of data breaches, leaks and cyber attacks. More than three fifths (61%) are concerned with ID theft/fraud (up from 55%), 59% are concerned about data security/breaches (up from 53%) and 54% are concerned about the company they share their data with being hacked (up from 48%).

Rogers says: “By combining the detailed purchasing data from retailers with the wider behavioral insights from consumer products companies, businesses can optimize targeting and segmentation. However, they need to capture these opportunities while at the same time building trust with consumers. They can do this by letting consumers see that they are investing in cybersecurity and taking data concerns seriously.”

The latest edition of the EY Future Consumer Index is available at:


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About the EY Future Consumer Index 

 The EY Future Consumer Index tracks changing consumer sentiment and behaviors across time horizons and global markets, identifying the new consumer segments that are emerging. The 14th edition of the EY Future Consumer Index surveyed 23,016 consumers across the US, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Ireland, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, China, India, Indonesia, Thailand, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Vietnam, Nigeria and Netherlands between 21 March to 16 April 2024.  

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