Retail in 2023: 3 key consumer behaviours you need to know about

December 21, 2022

The cost of living crisis has changed consumption habits around the globe, presenting new retail challenges so quickly following those beset by lockdowns and the shuttering of in-person shopping. The outlook for holiday shopping was bleak, but so far consumer willingness to participate in the retail market has proven more positive than expected: consumers spent a record $9.12 billion online shopping during Black Friday this year, with online sales up 2.3% year-over-year (source: Adobe) and although Alibaba’s Singles Day in China is suspected to have plateaued, the company reported that sales were “in line with last year’s”.

Some of this spending might in fact be explained as intentionally contrary to the uncertain financial outlook that we’re currently sitting in, as consumers are entering 2023 in a rebellious mood. Our Trending 2023 report explores the ways they are examining existing expectations, questioning the power of traditional authority and doubting long-held wisdom across many areas of life – from travel to shopping to identity-building. Consumers are seeking ways to reclaim control in a turbulent and uncertain world as they attempt to mould the present and prepare for the future on their own terms. Will this laissez faire attitude continue to loosen consumers’ purse strings?

Below are 3 insights into what this rebellion means for consumer behaviour in the retail industry:

1. Consumers are craving raw and unfiltered self-expression

“Goblin mode” was recently declared Oxford’s word of the year for 2022. This slang term, loosely describing behaviour that is “unapologetically self-indulgent, lazy, slovenly, or greedy, typically in a way that rejects social norms or expectations” can also be applied to general aesthetic outlooks and buying habits during this rebellious era. Restrained minimalism is not attainable for many, and it is also less desirable than it once was – tackiness, ugliness and weirdness, from décor to clothing to makeup, is accepted and even embraced if it’s a true expression of you.

Consider the success of BeReal, the social media platform that is predicated on unfiltered reality. In line with this attitude of authenticity is the consumer desire for brands to address real issues that have long been stigmatised and kept hush-hush in the public sphere. 46% of global consumers like it when advertising addresses traditionally taboo subjects, and this jumps to 52% among those who shop in-store weekly. Consumers are baring their truth and want brands to do the same.

2. There’s a desire to make the most of every moment

Increased cost of living has made BNPL services appealing, so that consumers can make purchases when they want them and deal with the consequences later. While this plays into consumers’ desire to live in the moment, brands who actually step in with warnings about such consequences can build trust and strengthen loyalty down the line by acting as a compassionate partner that’s helping to centre the customers’ ultimate wellbeing. Consider ThredUp’s confessional hotline, which uses empathy and understanding to dissuade shoppers from impulse-buying fast fashion, not just to save money but to help save the planet.

Of course, many consumers will go ahead and make purchases to help them celebrate the everyday and live in the moment. Indeed, hyper fast delivery has grown popular, whether shoppers are trying to save time or they’ve happened upon a spontaneous occasion and quickly need the right products to enjoy it to the fullest. Already 42% of global consumers have used a quick delivery service / app to get groceries or household items delivered to them in an hour or less, with an additional 28% interested in doing so in the future. Among weekly online shoppers, 82% have used such a service or are interested in doing so.

3. Retailers are offering support where governments fail to step in

In 2020, Prada, Louis Vuitton, Zara, Mango and more fashion brands committed to producing surgical and cotton face masks to help protect consumers from COVID-19 at a time when personal protective equipment was in short supply. Earlier this year, The Female Company donated 10,000 period pads to Ukrainians and offered a discounted product to consumers who wanted to purchase pads to be shipped to Ukraine, and Etsy waived fees for Ukrainian sellers so they could earn every penny on purchases shoppers were making in a show of support, as well as cancelling all balances owed, including listing fees, transaction fees and advertising fees.

Modern consumers expect brands to put their resources toward the greater good, even in ways that traditionally would have been taken care of by the government. A vast majority of consumers – 84% globally  – believe companies should be doing as much as they can to reduce their impact on the environment rather than wait to be forced to by the government. Climate change is just one area where brands can focus their attention, but it’s a very significant one where consumers are expecting brands to step up.

Looking for help in understanding consumer behaviour through the lens of this rebellious era, and what it means for your brand? Download a free preview version of our Trending 2023 report today.

Dive deeper into the data with Collision

The charts in this post were created using our trends intelligence platform Collision, where you can instantly access trended consumer data spanning 27 global markets. You can explore the data by sector, theme or business application, cutting it by more than 180 different audience breaks to find the stats that matter and uncover the opportunities to make an impact.

Interested to know how Collision can power growth for your business? Get in touch now.




Written by Margot Peppers

As Consumer Trends Editor at Foresight Factory, I write, commission and edit commercially impactful content for our intelligence platform Collision. Combining machine intelligence with human talent, Collision connects clients to relevant trends, data and innovations, helping them see beyond today so they can be ready for any tomorrow.

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