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CACI charts ‘new consumer reality’ with latest data report

A new report by CACI charts the ‘new consumer reality’, and how it will impact destinations, landlords, brands and operators through the rest of 2020 and beyond.

Findings in the report indicate fundamental changes to consumer attitudes and expectations, based on in-depth survey findings, mobility tracking and spend estimates. As predicted by CACI in May, the data shows consumers now placing greater value upon community and sustainability, as well as having a shifted perception of safety and enjoyment. These views have hardened even as lockdown has eased, suggesting they are here to stay, and companies need to take strategic action to reflect their new consumer reality.

The report has identified four specific trends in consumer behaviour:

Consumer re-engagement:

CACI’s July report shows UK consumer mobility still remaining well below pre-lockdown levels, currently at an average of 62%, having recovered from a low of 32%.

The mobility is unevenly distributed, with local towns and high streets reaching an engaged 70% of pre-lockdown footfall, mainly reflecting the affluent groups in rural areas with access to local, independent shops. Meanwhile city centres are still sitting at 30% due to a lack of workers, tourists and shoppers, with the visitation predominantly key workers across service sectors.

Consumer sentiment and attitudes to brands and places:

Sentiment towards brands has undergone a full transformation during lockdown. Initially, safety had overtaken ‘value for money’ as the most important factor. This remains the case, but CACI’s new study shows ‘value for money’ has now dropped further to eighth place, behind sustainability, green credentials, conveniences, supply chain, localism and welfare of staff. This may reflect consumers giving more thought to purchases due to affected income during lockdown.

CACI’s re-engagement score measures how that sentiment changes between postcodes and comes from the mixture of affluence, age, health and geography. Understanding how your customers intend to re-engage is crucial to driving strategy.

Implications for consumer spend today and in the future:

CACI’s July data shows positive signs of recovery. Compared to May, there has been a 12% increase in people returning to the office, and a corresponding 8% reduction in those working from home, with affluent groups more likely to continue to do so long-term. There has also been an improvement in levels of disposable income, with 21% reporting a decline, compared to 24% reporting this during the midst of lockdown.

Looking to the medium term, our spend forecasts anticipate a long-term shift to online spend with an increase comparison goods from 30% in 2019 to 40% in 2022 with a spike to 42% in 2020, reflecting the impact of lockdown.

Impact on behaviour:

While lockdown and restrictions have eased, the lasting impact and resulting shifts in consumer behaviours must be noted as we look to the future. A general aversion to public transport is seeing a rise in bicycle and car usage and sales, which is expected to increase further with the arrival of winter.

When it comes to fashion, 25% of consumers intend to shop online, and only 7% plan to spend money in-store. A key challenge will be reimagining the store experience to reengage consumers, particularly the more wary older affluent shopper.

Speaking about the research, Alex McCulloch, Director of CACI, said: “It used to be that affluence bought you freedom of mobility, but it now buys you freedom of immobility; the most affluent live in rural areas, and can more easily afford independent, local shops, have houses with gardens, can work from home – they can afford to isolate. By contrast, the least affluent live in urban areas, are key workers across the service sector and as a result are more mobile and make up a greater proportion of city centre footfall than before.

“The new data also shows consumers are carefully balancing risk and reward, which is particularly affecting the retail and leisure industry, with most indoor and crowded spaces considered high-risk and therefore unenjoyable. It is a challenging time for all sectors, but as our report shows, understanding the consumer is the key to reengaging post-lockdown.”

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