Press release
31 May 2024 

EY Future Consumer Index: US consumers seek loyalty discounts and human interaction as shopping behaviors shift

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US consumers seek loyalty discounts and human interaction as shopping behaviors shift

  • 77% of US consumers think their lives are the same or better now than 3–4 months ago
  • 49% of US consumers will download a brand’s app to receive loyalty promotions or exclusive deals
  • 56% of US consumers found it extremely important to interact with humans during product returns and refunds

The 14th edition of the EY Future Consumer Index (FCI), a global study surveying 23,000 consumers across 30 countries, including 1,500 in the US, indicated that US consumers are optimistic about the future, with 77% of consumers noting that they think their lives are the same or better now than three to four months ago. That said, even amid easing inflation, the act of saving has become an ingrained consumer behavior across demographics, with shoppers turning to loyalty programs, private labels and discounts to cut costs on items they want and need.

Loyalty programs are more critical now than ever. For the past few years, consumers have been balancing a tightrope between brand loyalty and savings. In many cases, consumers have foregone brand affiliation and loyalty in favor of savings. In the US, 49% of consumers noted they’d be willing to download a brand’s app just to receive loyalty promotions or exclusive deals and 70% would join a company’s loyalty program for free shipping perks. What’s more, 45% used a discount code/voucher while online shopping in the last six months.

“Sales have gone from specific moments in time, like Black Friday and back to school, to consistent opportunities for deals — and strong loyalty programs elevate that culture of consistent savings even further,” says Kathy Gramling, EY Americas Consumer Industry Leader. “At the same time, loyalty programs provide brands and retailers with invaluable consumer data to better inform products, programs and personalized experiences. Winning brands are those that use the data found in loyalty programs to not only attract new customers, but also retain and reward existing ones.”

There’s still value in going to the store. Contrary to pandemic behavior, where the shift to online was immediate and widespread, today we’re seeing a notable pivot away from online-first shopping behavior. When asked about the main drivers to in-store shopping, 59% of consumers said they make the trip in-store for the purpose of seeing, touching and trying items before making a purchase, while 57% noted a desire to bypass shipping.

What’s more, consumers have begun to increasingly value human interaction during their post-purchase journey. More than half (56%) of US consumers noted interacting with humans to be extremely important during product returns and refunds, and an additional 55% found it extremely important when looking to discuss questions or concerns about a product they already bought.

Security is a concern that brands need to take seriously. There is no question that consumers are continuing to shop online, but brands need to create a sense of security for consumers, especially with feelings of distrust rising to the top of consumer agendas. In the US, 63% of consumers state an extreme concern around online ID fraud and theft, and 60% note extreme fear when it comes to data breaches.

“We are seeing an ongoing juxtaposition between the data consumers are now willing to share online and their concern around data privacy and security," says Isaac Krakovsky, EY Americas Retail Leader. “This divide becomes even more evident when there are incentives and deals in play. For brands, this means security and communication around security is a must-have in driving long-term trust.”

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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 a current disruption and which point to more fundamental shifts. The 14th edition of the EY Future Consumer Index surveyed 23,000 respondents across the UK, France, Germany, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, China, KSA, Brazil, Japan, Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa, Chile, Argentina, Thailand, Nigeria, Vietnam and South Korea.