May 30, 2023
By Phil Lempert, SupermarketGuru, Consumer Trend Tracker, Food Trends Editor, NBC’s Today and Author

The global pandemic and inflation have created a challenge for all retailers and brands. There is no doubt that our shoppers have changed their buying habits: shopping more online, spending less time in stores, searching for lower prices with more value, choosing store brands and reevaluating what they buy and when. Asendia’s ‘How to Sell Direct In The Age Of The Conflicted Shopper’ survey of 8,000 global shoppers including over 1,000 U.S. shoppers was released mid-May; reports that price now tops consumers key considerations for 52% in their buying decisions, followed by value for the money for 44%.

Despite the cost-of-living pressures, they found that over three quarters of American shoppers consider themselves to be sustainably minded in their consumption habits. Millennials, no surprise, report even a greater consideration at 85%. Asendia’s insights find that these are Conflicted Consumers, as 70% of them plan to cut back on spending in 2023 due to the economic uncertainty and are reevaluating just how and what they buy to minimize their environmental impact. It’s a paradox for brands and retailers who are trying to balance the needs (and desires) of their shoppers with their business practices.

Younger shoppers, in particular, are concerned about the future of our planet; they are making more eco-conscious decisions based on cutting waste (of food and packaging), the impact of transportation, emissions from farms and factories and where and how products are being produced. For retailers and brands to become their brands of choice easy-to-find and complete disclosures on packaging and online is a must. Of all the global responses, 67% said they would purchase more with the brands they perceive to be authentic and 48% said that being authentic would make them less sensitive to inflationary price increases.

While these Conflicted Consumers are focused on doing better for the environment, the survey also found that the demand for same-day delivery is up 69% and next-day delivery 73%. It is a mixed signal for retailers. Asendia’s research does point out that almost a third of these shoppers would place their orders with companies that fulfill their orders with electric vehicles, an insight that has not been ignored by Domino’s Pizza which late last year announced its purchase of a fleet of 800 Chevy Bolt electric vehicles and set a goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Domino’s hope is to not only attract new eco-conscious customers with this commitment, but also, according to CEO Russell Weiner, to attract new delivery drivers. When it came to the deliveries themselves almost half of the respondents said that preparing orders with reusable packaging topped their shopper demands, followed by carbon-neutral deliveries.

The takeaway is that shoppers want more eco-friendly deliveries as long as they are within the same- or next-day time frame. When Jeff Bezos held out the carrot for ordering a book, and receiving it at home within a few days, we jumped at the opportunity. Now it seems that shoppers are relentless in the quest for almost immediate delivery. During the pandemic, people were much more understanding and even on Instacart were willing to wait a day or more for their groceries – but as the pandemic waned, it seems that our understanding of the true impact of those speedy deliveries did as well.

As I review these survey findings what comes to mind is that there is a sea change in retail – especially with the RealReal and Poshmark, which buys and sells used clothing, pocketbooks, shoes, and whatever else, has over 57% of their shoppers in the coveted 18–34-year-old age range. Guilt.com and Rue La La have more previously owned products than ever before. eBay’s revenue is up 1% in the first quarter of 2023 as compared to the first quarter a year ago with a better-than-expected report with revenue of $2.5 billion for the quarter.

It appears that this younger shopper is moving into the second hand buying phenom. This Asendia survey also found that 38% plan to consume less – but consume more sustainably by purchasing second hand items in 2023. It is an interesting dynamic of what’s going on in the behavior of this Conflicted Consumer, and we must pay attention and understand how to meet their needs in order to keep them as customers before we lose them.