Cost-of-living prompts rise of “conflicted consumerism”, Asendia finds

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A price versus principles paradox is creating a new cohort of ‘conflicted shoppers’, who are simultaneously demanding value for money as well as products and services from retailers that tap into their sustainable values, e-commerce delivery company Ascendia has revealed.

Research of over 8,000 global shoppers in Asendia’s How To Sell Direct In The Age Of The Conflicted Shopper report showed that price now tops consumers’ key considerations in their buying decisions for 55% of those surveyed, closely followed by value for money (54%). Price was most important for shoppers in Canada (68%), followed by the UK (56%), while German and Spanish consumers were most influenced by value for money (62% and 61% respectively). Yet, despite cost-of-living pressures, almost three-quarters (73%) of global shoppers considered themselves to be sustainably minded in their consumption habits.

While 69% of global shoppers said they planned to cut back on spending in 2023 due to economic uncertainty, rising to 77% in France, consumers are also re-evaluating how and what they buy to minimize their environmental impact. Half (50%) plan to consume less but more sustainably by purchasing pre-loved or second-hand items in 2023, rising to 62% in Germany and 61% in France, while a third (32%) intend to buy less by extending the life of the products they own by using retailers’ repair or upcycling and circular retail initiatives.

Renaud Marlière, global chief of business development of Asendia, commented, “There’s little doubt that cost-of-living pressures are forcing consumers to weigh up what values, such as sustainability and greener consumption, they can afford to maintain. But while household budgets remain squeezed, shoppers aren’t prepared to put price entirely before principles in their consumption habits. This is creating what we’ve coined the ‘conflicted shopper’ – consumers who seek value for money, acting with price-sensitivity and spending caution on one hand, but who want to consume in line with their values on the other, opting for eco-conscious decisions across their buying journey, from product choice to fulfillment methods. Despite this seeming paradox, it means retailers now need to cater for both polar ends of the conflicted shoppers’ value spectrum if they are going to win custom, loyalty and lifetime value.”

While 73% of global shoppers consider themselves to be sustainably minded, rising to 76% in the USA and Spain, the same consumers who are mindfully shopping ‘green’ – with 47% buying organically, 41% buying eco-friendly products and 27% choosing low-carbon goods – are also displaying sustainability ‘vices’ within their consumption habits.

Almost a quarter (23%) were still choosing next-day deliveries or fast fulfillment options, while a further 20% of Millennials and 23% of Gen Z who identified as sustainably-minded shoppers admitted to still buying fast fashion, despite being renowned for its damaging impact on the planet. Almost two-fifths (17%) of ‘green’ Gen Z consumers were also choosing to buy denim, widely considered to be an environmentally poor fashion choice.

This value paradox is being exhibited not just in what consumers buy, but also in how they want their orders to be delivered. Global shoppers’ top consideration around international fulfillment was knowing where their order is being shipped from to better understand the cost and distance (carbon impact) of the product reaching them (33%).

When it came to improving deliveries, preparing orders with reusable-only packaging topped global shopper demands across international and domestic fulfillment (40% and 39% respectively), followed by offering 100% carbon-neutral deliveries (30% for international and 31% for domestic orders). While 45% of the global shoppers polled would pay more for faster fulfillment, 26% would pay more for 100% carbon-neutral deliveries, while 19% would pay more for greener fulfillment options, even if the item took longer to arrive.

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