Photo: Supermarkets are promoting local products due to demand from consumers who are increasingly concerned by the origin of the products that they consume. Credit: Shutterstock

By Noelia Hombrebueno 
In 1985, one of the most famous films in history, Back to the Future, sent a timeless message to the world: the future is not yet written and everything we do will directly impact it’s outcome. More than 30 years later, we are seeing how this hypothesis is relevant to consumption and how individual purchasing decisions can shape the evolution of society and companies. Sustainability, security, and social responsibility are increasingly core values that have become a real trend. 

Although this phenomenon is not new, the Covid-19 pandemic has been a turning point and the new normal has given the role of consumers greater importance, as stated in the report RESTART: 10 Post COVID-19 Trends, produced by Opinno. Lockdown has changed things, and so have consumer habits as they vary according to each current situation. But what are the new consumer preferences and how have companies adapted to this unprecedented scenario? 

Online shopping and good value for money 

The vast majority of Spanish citizens recognize that the situation at home has worsened due to coronavirus. According to the second addition of the report, Consumption and purchasing inside and outside of the home during and after COVID-19, carried out by Aecoc Shopperview and 40dB, “66.2% of Spaniards will maximize their budget, focusing on prices and promotions in the months after returning to normality and 68.4% will control their expenses more”. 

The new consumer profile is more selective when making purchases and has stopped buying non-essential or luxury products. This is corroborated by the KPMG study, Consumers and the new normal: an initial survey, which explores the factors that customers consider a priority when purchasing: “For 70% of the Spanish population, the quality-price ratio is the main motive for purchasing, followed by personal safety for 47% and trust in the brand for 46%”. 

All of these elements increasingly influence a customer who has overcome their digital shyness and has changed their consumption habits since the beginning of the pandemic. These habits could include: the simple act of browsing, socializing through social networks or even shopping online. Before Covid-19, 37% of Spaniards used messaging platforms; today 53% do. Similarly, the number of online consumers who buy regularly is increasing, having risen from 30% to 46% in recent months, according to data extracted from the KPMG study. 

It means more than thinking green 

Post-pandemic consumers will mostly direct all of their attention to products with which they feel emotional affinity, that are local and sustainable. This is in accordance with the opinion of CEO and founder of Opinno, Pedro Moneo, who adds that this crisis has also accelerated trends such as sustainability: “Even though we are pessimistic, society always tends to be better and we are going to move towards a more responsible and sustainable environment”. 

Moneo insists that the concept of sustainability has changed and explains that it is currently understood as “something that is done today and can last in the future.” In the same way, there are movements such as the slow fashion philosophy, which British fashion designer Vivienne Westwood comments on with the advice: “Buy less, choose well and make it last”. 

Consumers’ interest in sustainability is not accidental, although there are several trends that influence their behaviour, according to Moneo: “The first trend is digitization, which has made value chains transparent and has revealed, for the first time, information that was previously hidden. Secondly, consumers feel intimidated by the power that many brands have and the impact that they have on the environment”. 

In fact, consumers are increasingly aware of climate change and its consequences, and they demand sustainable products and services from companies. A study by the Organization of Consumers and Users (OCU) reveals that the majority of those surveyed are willing to eat in a more sustainable way: “More than 42% of consumers state that they have stopped eating or have reduced red meat consumption for environmental reasons”. 

The reality is that the population has become aware of conscious consumption. “79% of consumers are changing their purchasing preferences based on social responsibility, inclusion or the environmental impact of their purchases,” according to the study How sustainability is fundamentally changing consumer preferences, published by Capgemini. This report reveals the motivations behind citizens’ move towards responsible consumption: “80% want to save the planet for future generations, 77% have concerns about fair treatment at work and 76% about issues such as poverty and hunger”. 

The research shows that consumers follow sustainability-driven practices in their daily lives. For example, there is an emphasis on simple gestures such as going to the nearest supermarket to shop as being sustainable. The same goes for reducing household waste or using energy-saving appliances every day. Capgemini’s study reveals that “68% of consumers use their own bags when shopping, 42% check if the products they want to bring home include natural ingredients and another 42% try to make sure that the packaging of the product they have chosen is recycled”. 

The commitment to sustainability 

In this way, the Capgemini study shows that for 80% of executives, sustainability generates an increase in customer loyalty and for 69% it increases the value of the brand. Moneo reaffirms this himself and adds that companies and governments have a very important role in educating citizens: “Now we have a social perspective.” If so, green should be their mantra for consumer and financial benefits, as the Capgemini report indicates. 

As Marty McFly and Dr Emmett Brown have taught us, anticipating the future is quite an odyssey and now the challenge of sustainability will mark the next few years. The key for companies will be to understand this new type of consumer, anticipate their demands and to get to know the character of the next generation. Moneo defines this time as an “alpha moment”: “We have a very urgent, very difficult situation, with little time to resolve it and a need to succeed.” Sustainability and responsible consumption cannot wait.