Fiftyfive5’s Australia Pulse survey finds Aussies face financial hardship as some behaviours born from the pandemic are here to stay and become entrenched as the economic crunch increases.
The latest edition of FiftyFive5’s Australia Pulse report lifts the lid on the Australian consumer and the shift in behaviours from 2021 to 2022. It explores the sentiments and drivers for behavioural patterns initially shaped during Covid19 and how they quickly define our new way of living.
To say we are coming out of a period of significant disruption is an understatement. Experts are aligned that we are headed into a decade of change as we wrestle with the ongoing impacts of the pandemic, inflation, a shift away from globalisation, supply chain issues and facing the economic and behavioural challenges of addressing climate change. The immediate issue for most is the new financial reality of cost-of-living pressures, increasing mortgage repayments, rising rents from housing supply shortages and the ever-increasing cost of groceries. In October alone, 1 in 5 Australians experienced a degree of financial hardship (i.e. couldn’t pay bills on time, went without meals etc.) Consequentially, Australians in relation to what they buy (and don’t buy), how they buy and where they buy continues to change. In these new findings, we review Australia’s social narrative – revisiting FiftyFive5’s 8 structural cultural changes identified in 2020 and then again in 2021 to identify those that have become embedded into everyday behaviour and those that have evolved and transformed.
The most recent shift in these behaviours has seen macro trends such as local entrench into Local Micro provenance. The move to local was an overt response to lockdowns and supply chain disruptions. In 2022, local micro-provenance is represented by the continued behaviours of consumers supporting local brands, communities, and businesses. Consumers want to make informed decisions, demanding increased transparency around provenance, process, ingredients, and community ties to the products they buy. In July this year, 3 in 10 consumers bought locally produced goods whilst 1 in 2 shopped in local /small stores, and 1 in 20 investigated the ethics and behaviour of brands they purchased from.
Mental Health Deficit
Greater focus has been placed on the Mental Health Deficit, as Australians’ mental health becomes collateral amidst unprecedented weather events and the hangover from years under COVID restrictions to our everyday life, causing emotional strain. A trend elevated by increasing household financial strain. Simultaneously, the COVID healthcare crisis leaves resources for mental health short and exhausted. 1 in 6 people saw a therapist/psychologist or used an app for meditation or relaxation (16%) from Feb to July this year. Similarly, 1 in 4 saw a health professional or used online/telemedical services.
Whilst we have firmly cemented our lives online, this evolution of e-commerce enters the Metaverse and resultant Metaverse Mania. Complex and unregulated, the Metaverse will change the way we communicate, work, learn, shop, socialise and play in the future. Few Australians have a solid understanding of what it is and its benefits. Despite this, our online retail habits are well and truly entrenched, with 1 in 5 consumers having used a food delivery service/meal subscription service and 1 in 3 pings online using click-and-collect / home delivery.
FONO (Fear of Normal)
We yearn for our carefree, pre-pandemic lives before we sanitised our hands religiously, practised social distancing and wore masks everywhere, but it’s increasingly apparent that many of us may likely never live this way again. Australians have exhibited the FONO (Fear of Normal) trend; whilst mask fatigue kicks in, 3 in 10 continue to work from home, over 1 in 2 people no longer greet with a hug or handshake, and almost 3 in 4 use contactless forms of payment. We accept this is our new normal; there is no going back now.
The home becomes our haven, our cocoon that we ask so much from; Cocoon Pressure is born as the home takes on more roles than, in many cases, it was designed for. Sometimes, we see the home transform into a sanctuary, restaurant, gym, classroom, or office day spa. In July, 1 in 2 socialised with friends and family at a private residence, while 1 in 3 had plans to start a home improvement project. Pleasure Renaissance Much like other parts around the world, Australians are pushing against the doom and gloom, prioritising themselves, their families, and their communities. There is a backlash to the negative in the form of a Pleasure Renaissance – Australians are prioritising and seeking self-care and spiritual wellness at a greater rate than before, with 1 in 10 people purchasing pampering products for themselves. The ultimate form of escape, travel, is back on the agenda 1 in 2 are planning international holidays, and 2 in 3 an interstate travel.
Alongside the UN’s decision to declare ‘code red’ for the environment and humanity, the state of natural disasters is increasingly felt at a personal and community level. Expressed as the Regeneration trend, we seek new ways to regenerate the environment and ecosystems, activated by turbulent weather such as the recent unprecedented flooding, and conscious consumerism at home continues to grow. Consumers are also much more aware of greenwashing and seek greater business transparency. In July alone, 1 in 20 consumers investigated the ethics and behaviours of brands they buy from, while 1 in 10 looked for or bought sustainably sourced products.
As economic pressure mounts on household budgets, the real crunch is coming to the hip pocket. With 1 in 10 consumers planning to take out additional credit to cover their financial challenges, it is now more important than ever to recognise and understand what value means to the consumer. Financial stresses and the rising cost of living are forcing all of us to examine non–essential purchases, to shop down in a category or out of it altogether. Moving to online shopping behaviours allow consumers to compare prices. Value is being explored through bulk buys, reward and loyalty programs and bundling for value. Beyond price, the idea of value is beginning to be explored; what it means in the way we choose to live and the trade-offs between the two.
“Having a deep understanding of the Australian shifting context is invaluable. Moving ahead, we know that consumer relationships will continue to change rapidly, and Australia Pulse gives our team a dynamic understanding of that landscape to help businesses map the road ahead confidently.” Georgina Lagos, Brand and Communications Lead, Fiftyfive5.
“The Australia Pulse data has revealed trends and behaviours indicating that Aussies are looking for brands and businesses that deliver products and services that help connect and nurture individuals, communities and the environment. Brands must demonstrate value in all its forms, financial and sociocultural, as we head into a difficult 2023.” Michelle Newton, Director Cultural Forecasting, Fiftyfive5