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We’ve had a lot of time to think, and we’re thinking a lot about time

Consumers have changed. Has retail changed along with them?

Consumers around the world are reprioritizing how they spend their time. And retailers need to respond. But what can retailers do to better serve a customer who is putting greater value on their time? What does it mean for their business?

To succeed, retailers likely will have to be agile enough to adapt to customers’ evolving preferences. The shifts in consumer behavior can bring strategic opportunities to adjust product portfolio mixes and routes to market, tweak operating models, and take a fresh look at profit contributions.

We’ve had a lot of time to think, and we’re thinking a lot about time

Our Global State of the Consumer Tracker survey of 21,000 respondents in 21 countries, shows the change in consumer intentions, with a clear focus on time—from where they spend it and who they spend it with, to what they spend it on. Together with the World Retail Congress, and for their 2022 edition, we have developed a paper on these consumer shifts.

The corona catalyst

Lost opportunities and daunting health concerns during the corona pandemic made many of us realize just how precious our time is—and how careful we should be about how we choose to spend it. New strategies should acknowledge time as their stakeholders’ most valuable commodity. Rethinking customer engagement or boosting employee engagement might capture this sentiment.

A focus on time leads to lifestyle changes

Our survey shows that the overwhelming majority of global consumers feel they’ve become more focused on personal change in the past year. We see an increased focus on wellbeing and the work-life balance, potentially a precursor to more lasting and bigger lifestyle changes, which also impact consumer behavior. We all spend a large part of our week working. Even a slight shift caused by people working fewer hours or working more from home, represents a significant reordering of where and how people shop, and the products they need.

Even more digitization

Despite people seeking more and more in-person interaction, our work and private life have an undeniable digital component, bolstering the argument for retailers to prioritize frictionless experiences. Omnichannel and unified commerce investments can be worthy causes to meet consumers where they are. Increased digitization will likely require retailers to innovate around customer engagement in ways never imagined.

Sustainability will play an increasingly large role

Some shifts around bigger topics like sustainability are already maturing globally. In terms of consumption, three in five consumers report that they’ve changed at least one aspect of their behavior to help address climate change and almost the same number have purchased a sustainable good or service within the past month. Clearly, consumers want to do their part, but their prioritization on time signifies they want retailers to make it easier for them. To do this, retailers should eliminate the perception that sustainable purchases necessitate trade-offs with functionality, price, or convenience.

Retailers must also focus on purpose

As consumers align their time to purpose, many leading brands also do so, or should do so. Retailers face the ongoing imperative to address the root causes of our climate change crises, the groundswell of activity to advance social justice, and the accelerated expectations from government and investors around environmental, social, and governance issues. Retailers must (re)define their purpose and help ensure that their activities and internal processes are consistent with their stated positions and values.

 

Consumers and employees alike are signaling that they want to spend their time—and money—with brands that foster a better quality of life, and many retailers are responding accordingly. Those who are not yet focusing on this need to step up their game.

It's time to get started

Please explore the full paper for more detailed analysis of these shifting consumer priorities. We look forward to hearing from you if you would like more information or if you would like to discuss the implications for your company.

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