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According to the Deloitte Global Millennial Survey 2020 found that younger generations including both Millennials and Gen Z have had values, including sustainability, reinforced during the pandemic. While half of the Millennial and Gen Z respondents said they believe it is too late to repair the damage caused by climate change during the company’s initial survey taken late 2019 and early 2020, a pulse survey conducted later in 2020 found a more hopeful response due to the pandemic’s environmental impact.

Still, these younger generations have been hit hard by the pandemic. A pulse survey found that almost 30 percent of Gen Z and a quarter of younger Millennials have lost jobs or have been put on temporary, unpaid leave due to COVID-19. This demographic has also experienced a change in work including working fewer hours or longer hours without a raise in pay. Only a third of Millennials and 38 percent of Gen Z respondents said their employment or income status had been unaffected by the pandemic.

Overall, the report found a pessimistic view from respondents as it pertained to personal financial prospects. More than half of respondents expected their finances to stagnate or worsen over the next year before the pandemic, an increase from previous surveys. Further, almost half of Gen Z and 44 percent of Millennials told Deloitte they felt stressed all or most of the time during the initial survey, but the pulse survey saw anxiety levels fall eight points for both generations. According to the authors of the report, this decline in stress levels suggests resiliency and indicates a positive side effect of the pandemic.

Notably, the report also found that the pandemic has also caused a stronger sense of individual responsibility from both generations with almost three-fourths of the respondents saying “the pandemic has made them more sympathetic toward others’ needs and that they intend to take actions to have a positive impact on their communities.” Both generations also said they will be making efforts to more actively support businesses, especially smaller, local businesses, after the pandemic. At the same time, these consumers will stay away from companies who have made statements or practiced values different from their own.

Job loyalty has also seen increases during this time as businesses address employee needs including diversity and inclusion as well as sustainability and re-skilling. “The world that follows the COVID-19 pandemic surely will be different and likely more aligned with the ideals that Millennials and Gen Z have expressed in this and previous Millennial surveys,” authors of the report said. “They’ve seen how quickly the earth can heal, how rapidly business can adapt, and how resourceful and cooperative people can be.”

Both the primary and pulse surveys confirmed that Millennials will alter business relationships based on factors outside of experience or product satisfaction, as shown in Deloitte’s survey in 2019. Thirty-eight percent of Millennials told the company they have “initiated or deepened relationships with businesses whose products and services have a positive impact on the environment.” Though at the same time a third of respondents said they have stopped or lessened relationships with businesses if they perceived the company was doing any harm to the environment.

Meanwhile, new research conducted by Capgemini Research Institute shows that 79 percent of consumers now make purchase decisions based on sustainability issues. While sustainability issues have been garnering increased consumer attention of the last several years, the company’s research suggests that the coronavirus pandemic has put an even larger spotlight on the topic.

The report, called “How sustainability is fundamentally changing consumer preferences,” aimed to reveal the impact sustainability has had on consumer behavior and how organizations’ understanding is meeting expectations.

In light of the coronavirus pandemic, Capgemini’s findings showed an increased awareness and commitment level from consumers. Notably, 52 percent of respondents said they share an emotional connection with products or brands that they perceive to be sustainable and 72 percent of 25-35-year-olds said buying sustainable products makes them feel happy. Consumer commitments go further with 68 percent of respondents saying they regularly bring reusable bags when shopping.

Still, the company found that many consumers are not aware of the environmental impact of many common products. When consumers were surveyed on the amount of water it takes to produce a chocolate bar or pair of jeans, 78 percent, and 61 percent, respectively, said they were unaware. But 68 percent of respondents said they would be willing to make a change after being made aware.

At the same time, Capgemini found that, while sustainable practices have the potential to benefit brands significantly, many are not investing in sustainability initiatives. Notably, 77 percent of companies said they had experienced sustainability approaches increase customer loyalty and 63 percent have seen revenue increases. While 90 percent said sustainability initiatives are important for the industry, respondents told Capgemini less than 2 percent of revenue is put toward sustainability.

For More WWD Business News: 

Survey Shows Pandemic-Driven Changes in Consumer Behavior

Studies Find COVID-19 Has Solidified Gen Z’s Core Values

Fleeting Shopping Behaviors and a Digital-First Holiday Season

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