The rise of conflicted consumerism: Cost-of-living shoppers weigh up price versus principles

A price versus principles paradox is creating a new cohort of ‘conflicted’ UK shoppers, who are simultaneously demanding value for money as well as products and services from retailers that tap into their sustainable values, the latest research from Asendia, the leader in international e-commerce and mail delivery solutions, reveals.

Original research of over 8,000 global shoppers in Asendia’s ‘How To Sell Direct In The Age Of The Conflicted Shopper’ Report, including research of over 1,000 UK shoppers, showed that price now tops consumers’ key considerations for 56% in their buying decisions, closely followed by value for money (55%).  Yet, despite cost-of-living pressures, almost two thirds (65%) of British shoppers considered themselves to be sustainably-minded in their consumption habits, rising to 77% of Gen Z.

Reduced consumption is both price and environmentally motivated

While 75% of UK shoppers said they planned to cut back on spending in 2023 due to economic uncertainty, consumers are also re-evaluating how and what they buy to minimise their environmental impact.

Over half (54%) plan to consume less but more sustainably by purchasing pre-loved or second-hand items in 2023, rising to 59% of UK Millennials, while a further quarter (23%) intend to buy less by extending the life of the products they own by using retailers’ repair or upcycling and circular retail initiatives.  Renaud Marlière, Global Chief of Business Development of Asendia, commented:

“There’s little doubt that cost-of-living pressures are forcing consumers to weigh up what values, such as sustainability and greener consumption, they can afford to maintain.  But while household budgets remain squeezed, shoppers aren’t prepared to put price entirely before principals in their consumption habits.

This is creating what we’ve coined the conflicted shopper; consumers who seek value for money – acting with price-sensitivity and spending-caution – on one hand, but want to consume in line with their values on the other, opting for eco-conscious decisions across their buying journey, from product choice to fulfilment methods.  Despite this seeming paradox, it means retailers now need to cater for both polar ends of the conflicted shoppers’ value spectrum if they are going to win custom, loyalty and lifetime value.”

The value paradox

While 65% of UK shoppers consider themselves to be sustainably-minded, the same consumers who are consciously shopping ‘green’ – with 38% buying eco-friendly products, 35% buying organically and 28% choosing low-carbon goods – are also displaying sustainability ‘vices’ within their consumption habits.

A quarter (25%) were still choosing next day deliveries or fast fulfilment options, while almost a fifth (17%) of Gen Z who identified as sustainably-minded shoppers admitted to still buying fast fashion, despite being renowned for its damaging impact on the planet.  15% of ‘green’ Millennials were also choosing to buy denim, widely considered to be an environmentally poor fashion choice.

Delivering on sustainability demands

And this value paradox is being exhibited not just in what consumers buy, but also in how they want their orders to be delivered.  UK shoppers’ top consideration around international fulfilment was knowing where their order is being shipped from to better understand the cost and distance (carbon impact) of the product reaching them (35%).

When it came to improving deliveries, preparing orders with reusable-only packaging topped UK shopper demands across international and domestic fulfilment (43% and 42% respectively), followed by offering 100% carbon-neutral deliveries (30% for international) and options for Electric Vehicle (EV) fulfilment (32%) for domestic orders.  While 48% would pay more for faster fulfilment, 23% would pay more for 100% carbon neutral deliveries, while 18% would pay more for greener fulfilment options, even if the item took longer to arrive.

For further information on how brands can address demands around value and build international consumer relationships that better meet the needs of today’s conflicted shoppers, download the full report: ‘How To Sell Direct In The Age Of The Conflicted Shopper’.

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