Press release

22 Mar 2021 Dublin, IE

EY Future Consumer Index: COVID-19 continues to shift buying habits

Dublin, Monday 22 March 2021: The sixth EY Future Consumer Index, a survey of 14,500 consumers across 20 countries fielded in January-February 2021, finds that people’s concerns and what they value have evolved significantly, with consumers more worried than four months ago about their health, their families and their futures. One year into the pandemic, the Index finds that consumers will still prioritise affordability (32%) and health (25%), over the planet (17%), society (14%) and experience (12%) in the future.

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Related topics Future consumer index
  • Over a third of people say COVID-19 accelerated changes they had always wanted to make
  • People are more worried about their health, families and futures while affordability and health remain priorities

Dublin, Monday 22 March 2021: The sixth EY Future Consumer Index, a survey of 14,500 consumers across 20 countries fielded in January-February 2021, finds that people’s concerns and what they value have evolved significantly, with consumers more worried than four months ago about their health, their families and their futures. One year into the pandemic, the Index finds that consumers will still prioritise affordability (32%) and health (25%), over the planet (17%), society (14%) and experience (12%) in the future.

Convenience is key to building consumer loyalty and advocacy

The Index finds that because of the pandemic, people are increasingly concerned about the health of their family, access to necessities, personal finances and basic freedoms. The level of concern differs around the world. Respondents in India and Brazil have consistently been the most concerned overall (more than 90% of consumers) throughout the pandemic, while people across other countries are now more worried about their family’s health than they were four months ago (up 4% in the US and 5% in Japan). Respondents in China and Germany said they are increasingly worried about their finances (4% increase) and freedom to enjoy life (more than 10% increase), since October 2020.

This mindset, coupled with a fundamental shift in how people plan to live their lives, work, and spend money as they emerge from the pandemic is driving a significant change in consumer behaviour.

Commenting on the findings, Yvonne Kiely, Head of EY-Seren, EY Ireland said: “One year into the pandemic we can see sustainable shifts in consumer behaviour, with a real focus on end-to-end experiences as part of the value exchange, rather than just the end product or service in and of itself. Poor experiences are less likely to be tolerated and consumers have repeatedly cited ease of effort as key to manifesting loyalty and advocacy. The COVID-19 pandemic has arguably accelerated consumer behaviour changes that were already underway: moving out of cities, shopping online more and prioritising health, affordability and sustainability. Companies now need to understand where consumers are going next and be bolder in accelerating their transformation, by redesigning their business around how people live, not what they buy.”

Yvonne added: “The opportunity for organisations to deeply understand their organisational purpose, align that to their product and services, pricing, route to market, features and benefits, and channels of access, and to be ruthless in communicating that proposition to their focus customers – will be what differentiates them from the rest.”

Most consumers will prioritise affordability or their health

Beyond the pandemic, affordability (32%) and health (25%) will remain priorities for consumers when shopping. This is aligned with responses from June 2020, when 30% of respondents said they will focus on affordability and 26% on health, over sustainability, societal impact and experience.

  • Affordability. More than half (58%) of respondents plan to be more aware and cautious of their spending in the longer term and 63% say price will be the most important purchase criteria for them three years from now.
  • Health. Fifty-seven percent of respondents want to make healthier choices in their product purchases in the longer term; 43% say health or “what’s good for me” will be the most important purchase criteria for them three years from now. Sixty-two percent are willing to share personal data for healthier product recommendations. 
  • Sustainability. Forty-nine percent will prioritise the environment and climate change in how they live and the products they buy; for 26%, sustainability will be their most important purchase criteria three years from now.
  • Social impact. Fifty-six percent will be more likely to buy from companies that ensure what they do has a positive impact on society; 38% will buy more from organisations that benefit society, even if their products/services are more expensive and 69% believe brands must positively change the world. 
  • Experience. Thirty-seven percent will be less inclined to get involved in experiences outside the home (e.g., going to a bar, a movie theatre) on account of health and safety concerns; 76% have changed the way they stay entertained.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed consumer behaviour and has not just driven “consumption at home” through e-commerce. Consumers are now building their whole lifestyles around their homes as centres of gravity where they work, play and stay healthy. More than half of respondents (56%) plan to stay fit at home beyond the pandemic, while a third (33%) plan to upgrade appliances and furniture and 30% hope to work more from their home in the future.

Yvonne Kiely said: “We now have an absolute solidification of how consumers are choosing to invest in their experiences, entertainment and comfort. Early in the pandemic, we saw minor investments in home and gardens for example, with home décor improvements rising. Now we see how completely consumption has transitioned into consumers building their whole lifestyles around their homes. The “controllable” organisations that are primed to benefit from this change are the ones that are focused on eCommerce discoverability through search and content management, that have a good handle on logistics and stock management, and importantly, that are obsessed with fulfilment and last mile delivery as a point of pride and differentiation.”

How the COVID-19 vaccine is influencing consumer behaviour

Consumers continue to make deep and permanent changes to their lives, and while some of these shifts have been forced on them, many are the result of choices to live differently. According to the EY Future Consumer Index, some 48% of consumers globally believe post-vaccine life will be better than before the pandemic, and 36% say COVID-19 accelerated changes they had always wanted to make, reflected in their attitudes around online shopping, product affordability, personal health, and sustainability.

Most (91%) global respondents do intend to take the vaccine, but 25% said they have “reservations” and 9% don’t intend to take it at all. The latter goes up to 15% in the US and 19% in France but down to 3% in China, 5% in Brazil and 6% in the UK. Top reasons influencing global sentiment include being worried about potential side-effects (29%) and not trusting its safety (19%).

Despite concerns, a majority of respondents (56%) would be more likely to shop with retailers that require employees to take the vaccine, while 48% of respondents think that those who refuse to take the vaccine are acting selfishly.

The latest edition of the EY Future Consumer Index is available at ey.com/futureconsumerindex6.

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For media queries please contact Pia Phelan, Senior Communications Manager, EY Ireland on 087 932 7702 / pia.phelan@ie.ey.com

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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 Index provides regular longitudinal indicators and a unique perspective on which changes are temporary reactions to the COVID-19 crisis, those which point to more fundamental shifts, and what the consumer post COVID-19 might be like. The sixth edition of the EY Future Consumer Index surveyed 14,483 consumers across the US, the UK, Canada, Brazil, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway, India, UAE, Saudi Arabia, China, Indonesia, Japan, Australia and New Zealand during the week of 25 January through 4 February 2021.