'Conflicted shopper' weighs price, sustainability, delivery speed: study

Value and values are colliding in the buying decisions of consumers, Asendia finds.

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Photo by S. Tsuchiya on Unsplash

Is the values-oriented consumer being replaced by the value-oriented consumer?

That’s what a new study by ecommerce delivery firm Asendia set out to determine.

With inflation continuing to be elevated, there are clear signs that shoppers are more mindful of what they pay for an item. In the survey of 8,000 global shoppers, Asendia found that price was now the top factor in buying decisions for 52% of consumers, followed by value for money, which was a factor for 44% of shoppers.

This inflationary behavior reflects a period when consumers are seeing prices rise. Yet it also follows a moment when sustainability rose as a factor for many consumers, and is remaining there. Over three-quarters of American shoppers considered themselves to be sustainability-minded, and 85% of millennials identify as such.

Yet with price rising to the top of the list, it seems that the more immediate price pressure is slightly outweighing wider-scale global impacts – at least for now.

These factors are not just weighing on consumers’ minds. Retailers are seeing how it impacts their own bottom lines. The survey found that 58% of retailers indicated that shoppers were buying less frequently over the last year, and added that basket sizes are down.

While price is top-of-mind right now, it's not an either-or between cost and planet. The truth is that both dynamics co-exist in the mind of the shopper. And it is likely that both factors are changing consumption patterns. The survey found that 70% of shoppers are planning to cut back due to “economic uncertainty,” yet they are at the same time rethinking buying habits to minimize their environmental impact.

There is even more pronounced dissonance when it comes to the preferences of sustainability-minded shoppers. The survey found that plenty of consumers are eying sustainable products. Findings indicate that 47% of consumers are buying organically, and 24% are opting for vegan goods.

Yet they also want items delivered fast, which is a practice that stands to increase carbon footprints. Yet despite the concerns about price, there are signs of willingness to pay more in this area. The survey found that 48% would pay more for faster fulfillment. Yet 23% would pay more for greener fulfillment options, even if an item took longer to arrive at their door.

Meanwhile, 26% of Gen Z shoppers who said they are sustainability-minded still shop fast fashion, which is known to have big environmental downsides.

Asendia Global Chief of Business Development Renaud Marlière said the survey results indicate that “shoppers aren’t prepared to put price entirely before principles 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 fulfillment methods,” said Marlière, in a statement. “Retailers now need to cater to both ends of the conflicted shoppers’ value spectrum if they are going to win customers, loyalty and lifetime value.”

In the end, delivering on both value and values still matters.

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