Seismic shift in consumer spending habits with 60% prioritising purchase of essential items, Selligent study shows


Selligent, the intelligent omni-channel cloud technology company, today published its third annual Selligent Global Connected Consumer Index, a global study of 5,000 consumers focused on brand interactions and expectations. This year’s study finds seismic shifts in consumer behaviour and changing expectations from brands amid the ongoing effects of the global pandemic. Seventy-five percent of global consumers reported less work (reduced hours, reduced pay, laid off, etc.) due to COVID-19 and, as a result, a majority (60%) have modified purchases to focus on essential items, like food and safety products. When it comes to interactions with brands, 76% expect real-time email or mobile updates, while 81% value flexibility in returns or cancellations.

While it is clear that consumer spending habits are rapidly changing, data also shows opportunities for brands to cater to the ‘new normal’ of consumerism. Staying at home is a long-term expectation for most, with 58% of people prepared for a future of remote work, and 56% expecting to make new purchases to reflect the shift. They are buying more frequently as well, with 36% shopping online weekly, up from 28% before COVID-19.

Consumer expectations and patience levels have also changed:

  • Thirty-eight percent of pollsters agree brands have made a considerable effort to improve their overall customer experiences in the last year.
  • Consumers are more understanding of the pandemic’s impact on customer service response times: 93% expect a response from a brand within 24 hours – down 3% from 2019.
  • While the majority of consumers (64%) still agree that privacy is more important than online experience, that figure dropped from 10 points compared to the 2019 study.

Opportunities for brands to meet evolving consumer needs

Brands are presented with opportunities to engage with customers in new ways to instill continued confidence through relevant offerings and ensuring flexibility to cater to today’s unique situations.

  • Relevant, omnichannel communications remains a critical component of marketing, with 75% of consumers reporting they prefer to receive messages via email (59%) or mobile (33%). Two out of five respondents reported that they unsubscribed from at least three email lists in the last six months, with 55% citing “too many emails” as the reason. Tangible benefits and perks have become a must-have for brand interactions, with 54% reporting that sales and deals are the most valuable communications to receive – linked to consumers being more cost-conscious and value-focused. Reliance on phone customer support as a first point of contact has also dropped ten points to 33% this year, underscoring the importance of customer service availability across channels, including email, website chat, social, and SMS/text.
  • Real-time, customer-first service should remain the priority for brand marketers, as consumers clearly state what factors urge them to buy. Seventy percent want the ability to know product availability before purchasing online or in store, 76% desire clearly communicated safety protocols, and 64% want mobile and contactless pickup or check-in options.
  • Loyalty and advocacy are shifting, with a growing preference for free products and buyer perks over specific brands. Only 8% of consumers note that “brand name” matters when it comes to their buying loyalty, while 51% believe that free products and buyer perks (secret sales, free shipping, promo codes) are the best ways for brands to show they care.

“Understanding how drastically consumers have changed since the start of the pandemic will position marketers to better anticipate and serve the individual needs of their customers moving forward,” said Karthik Kripapuri, CEO at Selligent. “It’s clear that listening to customers more closely, frequently looking for opportunities to deliver customer-first experiences, and developing programs that reward buyers for their loyalty and advocacy will support an organisation’s ability to, not only survive today’s challenging environment, but thrive in it.”