Consumers as drivers of social and economic change
How consumer attitudes and behaviors are changing as a result of climate change, and economic and geopolitical uncertainty in Slovenia.
The aim of this research was to provide an overview of the impacts, changing consumer behaviours and attitudes have on shaping the years ahead. The research on Slovenian consumers consists of the analysis of the most important changes in consumer behaviour and expectations for the future and comparing such attitudes and behaviours of different generations of consumers (Gen Z, Y, X, baby boomers).
The main findings of primary research, limitations, recommendations, and managerial implications were presented at the Poslovna konferenca Portorož (PKP 2022).
- Online survey
The survey was aimed at residents of Slovenia, aged 15-67, who have internet access. The survey received 303 responses in total, out of which 267 were fully completed and 36 were partially completed. The final sample comprised most of the respondents belonging to Generation Y (38 %), followed by Generation X (29 %), Generation Z (21 %), and baby boomers (12 %). Of all the respondents, 39 % were male, and 61 % were female.
The questionnaire was built using adapted questions and scales from various reports of consulting firms or research institutes (Consumer Study: Consumers Want It All, 2022; Trends in Workflow Automation, 2022; Opportunity knocks for Europe’s digital consumer, 2022; The Great Uncertainty: US consumer confidence and behavior during inflationary times, 2022).
The basic descriptive analysis was performed for all questions, followed by comparisons of the four generations. The series of chi-square tests, one-way ANOVA and Kruskal-Wallis tests, and Friedman ANOVA were used and reported statistically significant differences (p < 0.05), where they existed.
Results of analysis
According to analysis, the most used sources of information are websites of the manufacturer or service provider, reviews and opinions of other buyers, and recommendations from friends and family. The least used channel is the online marketplace. Statistically significant differences among generations exist concerning the usage of social media as a source of information (Gen Z and Y used them more than Gen X and baby boomers) and reviews and opinions of other buyers (millennials use them more than baby boomers).
Physical store is still the main channel for buying groceries (83 %), cosmetics (58 %), apparel and footwear (41 %), and home goods (39 %). 30 % of respondents chose digital channels as the second most important one for apparel and footwear and the hybrid channel (30 %) is in second place for home goods. Statistically, significant differences exist among generations of cosmetics. Gen X and baby boomers predominantly buy in a physical store compared to millennials, who are shifting their purchases to online and hybrid, while for groceries, millennials, and Gen X use hybrid channels more than baby boomers and Gen Z. Gen Z tends to buy groceries predominantly in a physical store.
Most of the respondents indicated that they already use in-store self-checkout (92 %), order online, pick up at the store (78 %), restaurant delivery (75 %), mobile contactless payment (62 %), order groceries and have them delivered (35 %). They plan to continue using them. Statistically significant differences between generations exist, where Gen Z uses the in-store checkout more than baby boomers. Furthermore, millennials order groceries online more than Gen Z, but Gen Z uses restaurant delivery much more than Gen X.
Among the most used technologies and services, respondents specified subscriptions, video appointments, and virtual experiences. Statistically, significant differences exist among generations, where Gen Z stands out in using subscriptions to online services, and millennials use subscriptions for weekly or monthly products.
To determine the preferred payment method, we asked respondents to choose three payment methods. The results showed that the most popular payment method is a debit card (63 %), followed by a credit card (57 %), cash (51 %), mobile contactless payment (32 %), cryptocurrency (2 %) and, other (2 %). Statistically significant differences between generations exist only for the usage of credit cards, where Gen X and baby boomers use them much more than Gen Z.
To elaborate on the matter of switching brands, respondents were asked if they had changed the brand or supplier that was extensively used in the past year and the reason for switching. Over the last year, 38 % of respondents changed their brand or a provider that they used regularly. Better deals were mentioned as the main driver of switching brands in the past year, while no one chose delivery as a factor for switching.
Regarding expectations for personalization, it can be concluded that respondents are more likely to agree than stay neutral that an experience a company provides, is as important as its products or services (Mean = 3.8). It’s important to mention that companies are expected to understand consumers’ unique needs and expectations (Mean = 3.4) and provide personalized offers in industries where it is possible (Mean = 3.3).
Consumers also stated that most companies treat them as a number (Mean = 3.5). Interestingly, the respondents disagreed that they feel an emotional connection to the often-purchased brands (Mean = 2.7). However, there is a statistically significant difference between generations regarding expectations of consumers to have their unique needs and expectations met by companies, where baby boomers care about it more than Gen Z and millennials. On the other hand, baby boomers expect more offers to be tailored to their needs, where possible, compared to all other generations.
Regarding attitudes and behaviors towards sustainability, respondents agree that they will pay more for products that provide greater health and wellness benefit (Mean = 4.2), will buy sustainable products (Mean = 4.0), change purchasing habits to reduce environmental impact (Mean = 3.8), pay more for sustainable brands (Mean = 3.6), and buy used or second-hand items (Mean = 3.1). Statistical difference between generations was not found.
In terms of the current uncertain economic conditions, such as inflation and price increases, 20 % of the respondents were very concerned, and 52 % were concerned. On the other hand, 2 % of respondents were very unconcerned, 9 % not concerned, and 17 % of respondents indifferent. A statistically significant difference between generations was not found.
However, 87 % of respondents shopped at discount retailers, 71 % purchased a commercial brand, 69 % used a coupon to purchase a product, 53 % bought large-size packaging for a lower price, 28 % delayed purchase, 27 % visited several stores to find a discount, 22 % bought a small size and quantity, and three % used the buy now pay later option. A statistically significant difference between generations was not observed.
Regarding buying different (1=decreased a lot, 5=increased a lot) product categories in quantity, respondents decreased their buying of home goods (Mean = 2.7) and going to restaurants (Mean = 2.7). For other categories consumption remained the same (Mean = 3.0). The statistically significant difference between generations was not observed.
- Taking into consideration that manufacturers’/providers’ website is the main source of information for consumers, while digital touchpoints are the main channel of communication, companies are advised to invest in technologies. Developing websites and increasing the number of digital touchpoints will provide users with additional channels of communication. Improving digital experience is directly connected to successful experiences and services.
- The businesses should strive towards sustainability and expand their offer/portfolio since consumers gravitate towards sustainable businesses and are willing to buy sustainable products and pay more for them.
- Consumers are driven by better deals/prices, while functionality, value for money, and convenience are their focus. Therefore, bundling is a way to go for most
- Companies should offer a plethora of payment methods, easy product search, user-friendly experience, and tailored offers, to minimize the limitations of preferences and consequentially increase the satisfaction of the consumers.