Conscious consumption – Are consumers buying less?
With the social turbulence in the past few years – Covid-19 has brought about a massive change in our lives, and energy crisis and inflation in Europe brought by the war in Ukraine triggered consumers to rethink their buying choices. And one of the unexpected changes is that people are becoming more conscious about their well-being and the environment with limited resources.
Consuming less for the environment
The pandemic hasn’t necessarily slowed down the launch of new products. Even if launch events have been cancelled, they have found a new place and even new audiences online. We have seen car brands, wellness and skincare brands, sports apparel, and technology brands all re-inventing the ‘traditional’ product launch and thinking of innovative ways to bring their products to market.
Conscious consumers have nevertheless started to take a more critical view of the endless stream of new products coming to market, questioning how their consumption behaviour might be damaging to the environment in the long run. Many people are resisting the push to consume more, realizing that the rate at which resources are being used, and waste is mounting up, is simply storing up problems for later. And that ‘later’ is not a far-off abstract idea, but increasingly a pressing reality today.
Second-hand products are also becoming more viable solutions to reduce waste and at the same time remain affordable. Second-hand is no longer limited to thrift and vintage shops, but luxury and designer retailers, like Selfridges, are embracing pre-loved fashion.
Frugality as a defensive response to a crisis
Many consumers have also been cutting down on their spending, as they worry about job losses and recession. Consumers are becoming more aware of where they spend their money and are thus shifting to less expensive products. Consumers in Asia (mainly in China, India, and Korea) are not buying, before conducting extensive online research.
At the same time, Millennials are seduced by the concept of minimalism. They feel more content owning fewer products and prioritizing durability. The minimalism concept reduces the effort of owning things and frees up time from making unnecessary decisions and maintaining the property. For instance, the “Blue Movement” in the Netherlands has the concept of leasing high-quality household appliances temporarily for individual use for an affordable rental fee.
Does this mean that consumers are buying less?
As consumers become more conscious of their consumption, we are seeing changes not only in their buying behaviours, but also in their buying process. This does not mean that they are buying less – as we can see from various growing sectors like cycling and plant-based foods.
Consumers are now more attracted to brands that exist to help certain causes – like environmental sustainability or supporting women’s empowerment – as unique selling propositions.
Consumers are becoming more conscious that they have the voting power whether they agree with the business practice or not. They will be more likely to support brands that bring greater impact to society.
In addition, we see that purchase journeys now are becoming more chaotic – evolving from buying in physical stores to internet shopping, to even now omni-channels. Some consumers go through more steps before making their final decision and some only need a little information before they decide to buy.
Change is one thing that is certain in our world today. Brands need to have a deep understanding of how consumer behaviors have changed over the past year – to adapt to the current uncertain situations.