7 minute read 27 Jul 2022
How should businesses approach new consumer habits in an environment of increasing uncertainty?

How should businesses approach new consumer habits in an environment of increasing uncertainty?

By Thanos Mavros

EY Greece Partner, Consulting Services - EY Greece and EY Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe & Central Asia (CESA) Head of Supply Chain & Operations

Helping clients achieve operational excellence.

7 minute read 27 Jul 2022
Related topics Future consumer index

Show resources

  • ΕΥ Future Consumer Index Ελλάδα 2022 (pdf)

Greek consumers are acquiring new buying habits, in an increasingly uncertain environment

This year's second edition of EY’s survey, Future Consumer Index Greece 2022 (in Greek), clearly confirms that many of the major trends triggered by the pandemic, and recorded in the 2021 survey, are still in force. It also highlights how these trends are further influenced by more recent developments, including, mainly, the uncertainty brought about by the war in Ukraine, disruptions in global supply chains, and the spike in energy prices and the cost of living.

Disposable income and consumption under pressure

The survey clearly captures the impact of these dramatic developments on consumers’ purchasing power and psychology.

70% of respondents, up from 60% last year, say they are spending less on non-essentials, while more than half (51%, up from 43% last year) say they now purchase only essential goods and services.

One in three respondents (34%) state that their household income has decreased, while


up from 60% last year, say they are spending less on non-essentials.

For the vast majority of product categories, the percentage of consumers reporting that they have reduced their spending has increased compared to a year ago. The same applies with regard to consumers’ estimates of their spending over the next four months. For the medium-term future, the picture is somewhat more optimistic, as consumers are evenly split between those expecting their financial situation to improve or to deteriorate (both 29%). The overall picture that unfolds from these findings is that, having recently emerged from a ten-year period of austerity, Greek consumers appear to be experiencing the economic impact of the current crisis more acutely than consumers in the rest of the world.

Greek society is adopting a cautious “wait and see” approach and exercises self-restraint, reducing consumption, at least temporarily, until the current uncertainty comes to an end and some clarity is restored. 

In this environment, price emerges, once again, as the most important purchasing criterion, for current purchases


as well as for the next three years (78%).

However, and in spite of financial difficulties, certain groups of consumers appear willing to pay more for selected product categories and, interestingly, more so than consumers worldwide. Younger generations are willing to pay more for products or services that offer comfort, practicality and convenience, the 30-49 age group for good customer service and experience, while older consumers follow more emotional criteria, showing a willingness to pay more when buying from retail stores in their area, or for locally produced goods.

In anticipation of the next discount event

In this environment, major discount events, such as Black Friday, special sales, or targeted price discounts on factory seconds, appear to gain more importance in the minds of consumers, as significant percentages place their hopes for increased consumption in such events, or may even view them as an alibi.

Two in three (67%), and even more among younger age groups, intend to make purchases the next time a big discount or sales event takes place, while eight in ten (83%) among them are postponing some purchases they want to make until then.

Discount / sales events 

However, only 15% say they will spend more during sales compared to last year, as opposed to 53% who will spend the same and 32% who will spend less.

Brands in retreat

One of the most pronounced consequences of the pandemic, and the events that followed, is the weakening of consumers’ attachment to brands. 47% of consumers report that brands are now a less important criterion for their purchasing decisions, while 56% of respondents, up from 41% a year ago, say that they have changed the brands they buy, either to reduce their expenses, or because they now buy private label products, or to support the local economy or their neighborhood stores. Furthermore, only 17% of Greek consumers say they are willing to pay more for brands they trust.

More than half of the respondents


up from 41% a year ago, say that they have changed the brands they buy, either to reduce their expenses, or because they now buy private label products, or to support the local economy, or their neighborhood stores.

At the same time, expectations from brands are changing drastically. Consumers today, expect not only an affordable price, good quality and service, but also strong moral values in line with social imperatives, demonstrated through a company’s strong environmental and social impact. 72% of respondents believe that brands should behave in an ethical manner and in accordance with society's expectations, while 69% consider that the behavior of a company is as important as the products and services it offers.

However, consumers do not seem happy with businesses’ response to these expectations, as only 19%, compared to 38% worldwide, say they are satisfied with the existing actions and initiatives undertaken by brands. Moreover, many consumers appear prepared to “punish” brands that do not meet their expectations, by reducing or even terminating their purchases, or by sharing their grievances with friends or on social media. 

This clear position creates new responsibilities and challenges for businesses and brands, and leads to the need for actions and initiatives that will align their values ​​and footprint with society's expectations, as well as a more effective communication of such initiatives.

Health remains a concern, but much less so than a year ago

Health issues continue to worry Greek consumers, but concerns have somewhat subsided, as they have been overshadowed by economic problems. Health concerns are now in third place, behind the cost of living and financial concerns, with mental health seen as equally worrying as physical health. The prospect of falling ill with COVID-19, also emerges as an indirect concern, because of the consequences on one’s ability to enjoy life to the fullest and on job security.

A product being healthy is now a much more important purchasing criterion (61%), while Greek consumers are more willing to pay more for products that promote health and well-being (35%), compared to consumers in the rest of the world. At the same time, however, they appear more ready than respondents in the global survey to visit physical stores again, indicating that Greek society has become more accustomed to the pandemic.

Online shopping is here to stay

Greek consumers quickly became familiarized with e-commerce in a short period, out of necessity. In this year's survey, more than half of respondents (57%) take a positive view about online shopping, a view that extends to all age groups and social classes. When asked about their preferred channel of purchase or deal hunting during the next major sales event, a mere 7% replied "mostly or only in physical stores". However, a strong minority is still wary of online shopping, more so for food and supermarket items, and to a lesser extent for durable goods.

Meanwhile, the market seems to be overcoming many of the initial problems that troubled consumers with regard to online shopping. More specifically, slow delivery times and personal data security, which last year worried 49% and 37% of consumers respectively, are now a concern for only one in five. However, the high cost of delivery (42%) and the difficulty in exchanging products (29%) continue to act as deterrents.

Seeking experiences during the crisis

Large numbers of consumers, particularly among those aged 30-49, say they would be willing to pay a premium for products tailored to their individual needs and tastes, and products that provide comfort, practicality and convenience. It is also telling that, despite financial constraints, one in four (26%) intend to spend more on holidays and leisure travel, the highest percentage among all individual product and service categories. In the long term, one in two say they will spend more on experiences, and one in four say they will shop more online and only visit stores that offer great experiences.

Increased concerns about sustainability do not necessarily translate into actions

38% of consumers consider sustainability an important factor when making purchasing decisions today, while in the long term, through their choices, two in three (64%) intimate that they are concerned about the environmental impact of their purchases. 

Areas of focus in the long term

High percentages of Greek consumers demand socially and environmentally responsible behavior from brands and businesses. They also state that they are trying to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle themselves, to an extent comparable with the global sample, although several of their answers do not seem to be confirmed by available statistics. However, they are concerned about a number of factors that prevent them from buying sustainable products, including, mainly, high prices (74%), but also the reliability of claims made and the information provided by companies. As a result, almost one in two say that they will reduce (37%) or stop purchasing (9%) sustainable products in the next year.

Consumer segments

Based on their priorities, consumers define themselves and are classified into five distinct segments.

Affordability First, which includes consumers concerned about their finances and making prudent financial management, emerges, for the second consecutive year, as the largest segment (33%). Experience First (20%) has climbed from fourth place last year to second place, consisting of those who seek experiences to live life to the fullest, and want to experiment with new ideas and approaches. 19% position themselves in the Planet First segment, being mainly concerned about the environment, replacing, in third place, the Health First group (18%) of those primarily concerned about personal and family health. Finally, the group that views society as a key concern (Society First), is, for yet another year, the smallest group, with 10%.

EY’s proposals

Faced with this perfect storm of drastic changes and challenges, retail and consumer goods businesses will need to carefully analyze these new trends and emerging consumer expectations, in order to address the immediate pressing problems, while, at the same time, charting a long-term strategy for growth and transformation. EY believes that companies and organizations should be focusing their efforts on the following:

  1. Create or participate in value chain ecosystems, with the aim of creating synergies
  2. Build control towers and ensuring 100% visibility throughout the value chain
  3. Increase the company's ability to respond to adverse conditions and changing situations and return the business to normal operating conditions
  4. Create new products and increase services with a “product logic”
  5. Launch holistic business transformation programs at the level of operating model restructuring, end-to-end restructuring of processes and adoption of new technologies
  6. Create or join new sales channels and develop digital experiences in an omni-channel environment
  7. Transform the company’s talent from ordinary employees to "entrepreneurs"
  8. Plan and, above all, implement meaningful actions, rather than mere pronouncements or green washing, with regard to sustainability. In addition, what is required is also the effective communication of sustainability-related actions, as well as educating and involving consumers more effectively

The findings of this year's survey leave no doubt that consumer perceptions, purchasing habits and expectations are still changing, creating new challenges for businesses that operate, directly or indirectly, in the retail sector. In this complex and fluid environment, with a further drop in consumption appearing as highly likely, companies and organizations should continue to focus on the future and accelerate their operational transformation, investing in their digital transformation and sustainability, but always putting people at the center of these changes.

  • Methodology

    The second edition of the EY Future Consumer Index Greece surveyed 500 consumers across Greece, between April 28 and May 5, 2022, one year after the initial survey in 2021.

Show resources

  • Download the EY Future Consumer Index Greece 2022, in Greek


EY’s Future Consumer Index Greece 2022 survey highlights consumers' financial uncertainty, their continuing disengagement from brands and switch to private label products, their search for richer experiences and growing concerns about the environmental impact of their spending patterns, clearly indicating that the transformation of the retail sector will continue in the near future.

About this article

By Thanos Mavros

EY Greece Partner, Consulting Services - EY Greece and EY Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe & Central Asia (CESA) Head of Supply Chain & Operations

Helping clients achieve operational excellence.

Related topics Future consumer index