Report: Sustainability, social conscience, digital prowess all remain in the next normal

Latest Kantar survey shows the lasting impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic

It’s a year on from the first COVID-19 lockdowns in Australia and as consumers we’ve become more digitally adept, conscious of the food stocked on our pantry shelves, willing to try new brands and are more actively seeking local, sustainable products and services.

That at least are the key findings of the latest Kantar Australia consumer sentiment survey, the third in a series conducted over the past year to see how the nation’s consumers have coped with the global pandemic.

According to the latest findings, one-third of respondents feel COVID still impacts their daily life, down from 52 per cent in August 2020, and two in five said they’re not now impacted at all. One-third are also more certain COVID-19 won’t impact their household income, up from 26 per cent in August.

From a broader economy and jobs perspective, 49 per cent of respondents believe it won’t be long until we’ve recovered from the global pandemic’s impact, up from 31 per cent in August.

In addition, while 35 per cent of consumers had previously expressed a desire to be more proactively in control of their finances, the latest survey found just 19 per cent are focusing on their long-term financial security.

However, the impacts are clearly apparent. For example, two in five said they still purchase more long-shelf-life foods. We’re also more ecommerce savvy, with 41 per cent of us increasing ecommerce usage.

A trend with arguably more profound impact is social conscience. Three in five consumers in the Kantar survey are now paying more attention to product origin, and two in five want brands to offer them more sustainable and durable products. The research firm also found 37 per cent want brands to tackle plastic pollution in packaging and products, and 54 per cent still think it’s important brands have plans in place to protect supply chains.  

Kantar noted its recent sustainability study in October 2020 also found 16 per cent of respondents (unprompted) cited concerns around sustainability as a reason for not selecting specific products or services. Nearly half (48 per cent) believed buying sustainable products are a reflection of who they are and their personal values.

In a sign of just how influential this trend is, Kantar said its global estimates pitch the spending power of those most engaged in sustainable issues in the FMCG category to be worth US$382 billion.

And the desire to support community remains prevalent off the back not just of COVID, but also Australia’s bushfires. In Kantar’s latest consumer sentiment survey, one-third of respondents said they still want brands to offer products and services that help adapt to this ‘new normal’. An equal portion want brands to continue to communicate how they’re meeting pandemic needs as well as proactive advertise the ways they’re helping the community more generally.

Alongside this, Kantar found two in five respondents will continue to buy the different brands they tried in 2021, a nod to the willingness to explore new offerings brought about by the pandemic.

Read more: Consumer brand allegiance shifts as COVID-19 impacts CX expectations

Price still plays a role, nevertheless. Sixty-four per cent of those surveyed are more focused on price than pre-pandemic, and 45 per cent are still looking for brands to provide help via discounts and promotions.

For marketers, another notable number is nine in 10 Australians want brands to adapt to changing market and consumer needs, and just 14 per cent want brands to carry on as they did before COVID. They also don’t want brands to stop advertising (87 per cent).

“While we’re largely more optimistic now, it’s important to continue to have active conversations with Australian consumers” Kantar Australia chief commercial officer, Jonathan Sinton, commented.

“However, as we know that the bushfire crisis and pandemic escalated already existing consumer tensions, the current flood catastrophe will only serve to accelerate concerns. Brands need to stay across changing consumer attitudes. Those that build and market a relevant, differentiated offer underpinned by real purpose are more likely to be resilient during this and future disruptions.”

The latest consumer sentiment survey was conducted between 22 February and 1 March 2021 and follows similar surveys in August 2020 and March 2020. All had about 150 consumers apiece. The Kantar sustainability survey was conducted in October 2020 and had more than 800 respondents nationally.

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