How can brands and businesses make sense of what is coming in 2023? What are some of the key consumer trends that will take centre stage this year?

From living through the post-pandemic world to inflation and economic uncertainty, today’s consumers are navigating a rapidly changing world that makes their attitudes and behaviours less predictable.

It’s hard to gauge how consumers think, feel, and behave when there are so many external factors influencing them.

How can brands and businesses make sense of what is coming in 2023? What are some of the key consumer trends that will take centre stage this year?

GWI recently launched its annual Connecting the Dots report, which reveals the top need-to-know trends for 2023. Providing a subjective view on how consumers feel, what the deeper impact is, and what changing consumer behaviours we are seeing as a result, below are some of the key findings from the report.

Aditi Kohli, Senior Vice President, APAC, GWI

Changing online behaviours and attitudes

While more people spent more time online during COVID-19, the daily average is now almost on par with pre-pandemic figures. With life getting back to ‘normal’, people  have less free time and fewer are using the internet day-to-day compared to during lockdown.

Some activities, like online gaming, have thrived post-COVID, but it’s the kind of bread-and-butter activity people associate with ‘going online’ that has plateaued.

For example, the number of people globally including here in APAC who use the internet to find information has fallen by 14% since Q3 2018. Elsewhere, there are fewer consumers saying they go online to share opinions (down 11%), keep up with news (down 15%), and engage in general browsing (down 14%). These online habits are all still popular, but they’re gradually becoming less important to internet users as a whole.

There are other factors at play here too, however. The number of consumers who say social media causes them anxiety has grown 11% since Q2 2020. Likewise, there’s an issue of trust to be aware of. Between 2017 and 2021, GWI data also indicated a stark decline in the number who trusted major news publishers. 

The ramifications of this trend are incredibly broad, which is why brands need to be mindful and get creative to create a trusted and captivating online experience.

GWI Core Q3 2018 & Q2 2022 263,881 internet users aged

Expect consumers to find products in different ways than before

Coming back to how consumers’ relationships with the internet are changing, commerce is just one of the many sectors where this trend is in full swing. 

According to recent data shared by Google, nearly half of young people look to TikTok or Instagram instead of Google Maps or Search for answers. Similarly, social media, not search engines, is fast becoming the preferred platform for younger consumers to start their purchase journey on –  48% of Gen Z research products on social media, compared to 44% through search engines.

While finding information is still the top reason for people to go online, it doesn’t call the shots like it used to. In fact, since 2020, there has been an 8% drop in consumers saying that they research products online first before making a purchase. Less emphasis is now being placed on researching on products, while more people are going online for other purposes – like finding new ideas and inspiration. 

With the number of people who are doing their shopping-related research on social media continuing to climb, and with platforms testing new features to meet this growing need, brands need to keep track of what’s culturally relevant to their audience if they want to cut through the noise.  

A cost-of-living crisis doesn’t mean consumers won’t treat themselves

Globally, economic confidence is starting to waver and it’s likely to fluctuate further. But many consumers still feel secure about their current financial situations and aren’t zipping up their wallets just yet.

Previous recessions have shown that products and services can quickly shift from essentials to treats in consumers’ minds. Several categories that are set to make it onto this list in 2023 include clothing, skincare, and travel.

Beauty and clothing’s resilience is down to a mixture of factors such as more socialising, affordability, and the ‘feel-good’ factor. Even when money is tight, people generally make space for small indulgences that put them in a good mood. 

Our research shows that quality is the top purchase driver overall, with 53% saying it’s important when deciding what to buy, so brands should hone their messaging around the durability of their items as consumers look to make their money count. 

While the road ahead looks bumpy, it’s important for brands to remember that there’s still so much pent-up demand, and many consumers will be carving out space for affordable, high-quality must-have treats. 

A lot has happened in the past year that is now changing the consumer mindset. As brands navigate through a period of uncertainty exacerbated by rising inflation and crises, it’s important to have a subjective view on what is happening, how consumers feel about these issues, and beyond that, how these issues impact people’s worldviews as well as priorities. By connecting the dots between what people say, think, and do, brands can make sense of what’s happening and zone in on what really matters.