Rise of the socially conscious consumer: Millennials pay more for sustainable products

Aug 3, 2021 | Ad tech, E-commerce and E-retailing, Online advertising, Social

Rise of the socially conscious consumer: Millennials pay more for sustainable products
Over half (52%) of people in the US say it is important that the brands they purchase from have values aligning with their own, with 72% of millennial parents more likely to be loyal to a brand or store that shares its efforts to have ethical business practices, according to new research.

The data, from marketing solutions company Vericast provides  a snapshot into how American consumers are feeling and behaving as COVID-19 restrictions ease.

The 2021 Consumer Intel Report, which is based on responses from over 1,000 U.S. adults, indicates that while consumers’ habits, perceptions and expectations have changed, there is an opportunity to capitalize on their desire to return to “normal,” but with cautious optimism.

As marketers look to align with this new paradigm, they must understand and cater to consumers’ current sentiment.

For example, the survey findings point to the rise of a more conscious consumer — with 52% of respondents saying it is important that the brands they purchase from have values aligning with their own. In addition, 72% of millennial parents are more likely to be loyal to a brand or store that shares its efforts to be environmentally responsible or has sustainable or ethical business practices. Sustainability is worth a financial commitment for some — 63% of millennials are willing to pay more for sustainable products.

The in-store experience is going to become more critical than ever as consumers are eager to return and engage more closely with the brands they buy from. Shopping indoors performed better than most other indoor activities in terms of comfort level among respondents (49% said they are comfortable). The survey also found that 74% of consumers prefer to buy products that they need to smell, touch or feel in-store. Retailers can capitalize on this behavior with more seamless experiences and well-timed discounts.

In 2020, while online shopping increased significantly across food, household goods and health and beauty care products, it has nearly gone back to 2019 levels across these categories. For example, our survey found that 18% of consumers said they do all their food shopping online compared to 29% indicating this in 2020. At the same time, the shift to online shopping — largely driven by the pandemic — did generate first-time online shoppers, creating new opportunities for brands.

“There is a clear willingness among consumers to return to pre-pandemic activities, albeit tempered with some caution,” said Sarah O’Grady, Vice President of Brand Marketing at Vericast. “The challenge for brands now is to respect the caution while galvanizing action. With our survey results in mind, there are four definitive ways for marketers to generate authentic customer engagement: use messaging that conveys forward momentum, promote health and safety measures, demonstrate a social conscience and take advantage of in-store retail with promotions and experiences.”

Additional key takeaways from the report include:

  • Saving is still king
    • 72% of consumers said they increased their saving behaviors during COVID and 82% of those people told us they anticipate those behaviors to continue over the next year.
    • The majority (82%) of respondents said the most important thing when shopping for grocery products is to save the most money by going to a store with the lowest price.
    • Over half (52%) of consumers said a sale will drive an impulse purchase.
    • Affluent shoppers get excited by coupons, too: 79% said they use coupons when planning their shopping and the same percentage said it’s exciting to discover a discount on a product they were already planning to buy. Most use both paper and digital coupons/discounts and 64% say coupons/discounts speed up their decision to purchase. 
  • Familiarity, trust and authenticity matter
    • Following a period of uncertainty, consumers are now seeking out stability and familiarity. In fact, 67% said they prefer a brand or store that provides a consistent experience.
    • 56% said they typically purchase from brands they’re familiar with because of their brand communications.
  • Housing boom creates opportunity
    • 75% of millennial parents, 73% of parents and 69% of millennials have purchased home comfort items within the last six months with more than half (52%) of all consumers intending to make a purchase in the next six months.
    • 63% of millennial parents, 59% of parents and 55% of millennials said they’re spending more time and/or money improving their home. 
  • Restaurants must adapt
    • There is a degree of caution about returning to restaurants with 61% of parents, 60% of millennial parents and 55% of millennials comfortable dining outside.
    • 63% of consumers say they are more comfortable ordering carryout or delivery than dining inside at a restaurant.

To view the full 2021 Consumer Intel Report, download “The cautious return to a new world.”

About the Study

The study was fielded by Valassis Feb. 18, 2021 through March 4, 2021 in conjunction with a global, third-party market research firm with proficiency in internet surveys. The sample is nationally representative and was derived from an online consumer opinion panel, and all participants were at least 18 years of age and living in the contiguous United States. The survey was closed once 1,004 completed responses had been reached.


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