Less is more. Need trumps desire. This change in consumer behavior will require brands and retailers to rethink how they connect with consumers. Scale has changed. Consumers once wanted a really big home. Now they need a more efficient one.
Consumption now links in people's minds to waste and environmental destruction, as well as economic stability and patriotic duty, per the New Consumer and the Sharing Economy study from Havas Worldwide and Market Probe International. When asked the question of whether it will destroy jobs if people consume less, about 52% of the respondents agree and 18% disagree. When asked whether buying products is a patriotic act because it helps the economy, 58% agree and 12% disagree. Some 55% also believe that a healthy economy requires a high level of spending.
Airlines with soft chairs and more leg room in planes, or clothing that costs a little more, but lasts a little longer will likely win the sale. "Brands will need to sell consumers on an experience and why they need something because we're no longer going to buy unnecessary stuff," said Marian Salzman, CEO of Havas PR. "Consumers want to become more efficient with less."
The study highlights the ways that consumers now think about making purchases and what they need or want to own. Completed in early in 2014, the study analyzes responses from more than 10,000 people ages 16 and older in 29 markets to better understand consumers' thoughts about buying patterns in relation to economic growth and their own personal happiness. The results comprise consumer thoughts, along with those who consume and influence purchase decisions of others.
What does it mean to consume smarter and how will it affect brands? Consuming better for many means being more discerning and less wasteful -- making choices that are closely aligned with one's personal values. It means consuming only what one needs and getting the full value from each purchase by extending its lifespan, per the report.
The majority of media spend will go toward direct-response campaigns that can produce intimate conversations, Salzman explains.
"Consumers will date for a bit and then go into monogamous relationships with brands and retailers as they buy less," Salzman said. "It may become a campaign of seduction through social media or native advertising. The last 10 feet, whether online or in the stores, will matter more than ever."
Brands will need to generate the same type of returns in this new environment. Salzman said the industry bought into a world where Wall Street keeps telling companies to grow and deliver earnings before interest, taxes and amortization (EBITA). "Consumers will still buy," she said. "They'll just be more careful of what they buy."