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Deloitte State of the Global Consumer Tracker

Consumer – What does the consumer in the new normal look like?

Our world is always changing, but last year was unprecedented. We moved through a collective human experience that is shaping and shifting consumer priorities, purchase behaviours, preferences, and spending decisions. As the world is re-opening, and so are economies, we aim to understand the new normal consumer.

To begin to understand the shifts in mindset, Deloitte is conducting longitudinal bi-weekly surveys of consumers across 20+ countries worldwide. This article is updated as of Wave 23 (in which 1,000 Belgian consumers were surveyed from 23 to 27 September 2021). To explore the latest insights from global and Belgian consumers on their retail needs and habits, please visit this interactive dashboard.

Deloitte State of the Consumer Tracker

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23 countries

23 countries

Survey Fielding: September 2021

Meet the new normal consumer

The contagion period, self-isolation, and economic uncertainty have changed consumers for years to come. When trying to gain an understanding of the potential drivers behind shifts in the consumer mindset, we are exploring four dimensions: shifting priorities in daily life experiences, safety concerns about COVID-19, inflation anxiety and allocation spending intent, and sustainability attitudes.

Shifting priorities in daily life experiences

At global level, compared to 12 months ago, consumers have become more:

  • Introspective and focused on personal change, wellbeing, and purpose
  • Home-centric yet they seek in-person interactions
  • Socially distrustful with 75% of consumers less inclined to trust people they don’t know

Safety concerns about COVID-19

After plateauing during the global Delta surge, safety perceptions have begun to improve again with one notable exception: returning to work, which has slowed. Consumers were asked how safe they perceived the following eight activities: going to the shop, flying, staying in a hotel, going to a restaurant/bar, attending in-person events, engaging with one-on-one service providers, returning to the workplace, and sending children to school. Globally, 62.5% of consumers rated five out of eight as safe. 

However, when we look at Belgium, consumers are less concerned about safety related to COVID-19 compared to the global average, with 75% perceiving six activities as safe out of eight, which is the same as in the Netherlands, Germany, Brazil, and the US.

Nevertheless, 55+ year-old Belgians are more concerned about safety than their younger compatriots especially regarding taking a flight. In fact, only 38% of them agreed or strongly agreed to feeling safe flying, versus 58% of 18-34 year-olds.

We observe the same trend for “attending in-person events” and “returning to my workplace”, with 35% and 40%, respectively, of 55+ year-olds perceiving those activities as safe in contrast to 59% and 69%, respectively, of 18-34 year-old Belgians.

Inflation anxiety and allocation spending intent

Globally, 66% of consumers are worried about inflation. Overall, consumers perceived between a 40% and 54% price increase in food, clothing & apparel, restaurants, and alcohol & tobacco, when compared to the previous month.

Belgian consumers (75%) are more worried about price increases for everyday purchases than consumers at global level (66%). Two categories of Belgian consumers are most concerned about prices rising: women and 55+ year-olds. For women, we observe inflation anxiety especially for the categories apparel & fashion and alcohol & tobacco, whilst 70% of 55+ year-olds are worried about food inflation. This is a large percentage when compared to younger generations (41% of 18-34 year-olds versus 61% of 35-54 year-olds).

When it comes to spending allocation in the next four weeks, at global level, approximately two-thirds of consumers plan to spend on non-discretionary items with housing, food, and healthcare topping the list. The remaining one-third intends to spend on discretionary services such as restaurants (77%) and recreation & entertainment (66%). 

When deep-diving into group-age, consumers between 18-34 show the highest willingness to allocate their spending budget on restaurants & takeaway food (85%) and recreation & entertainment services (80%) compared to older generations: 81% of 35-54  and 67% of 55+ year-olds will spend on restaurants, while 70% of 35-54 and 52% of 55+ year-olds will spend on recreation & entertainment services.

In Belgium, the national average (33%) is aligned with the global average (35%) when it comes to spending intent on discretionary items. However, only 5% of 55+ Belgians have indicated that they will spend over €76 on recreation & entertainment compared to 36% of 18-34 and 28% of 35-54 year-olds.

As to restaurants & takeaway food, 35-54 year-old Belgians are the largest group (37%) declaring to spend over €76, while 33% of 18-34 and 20% of 55+ year-olds will allocate the same budget (€76) in this category.

Sustainability attitudes

In the last six months, 50% of global consumers have experienced a violent climate event (e.g., extreme heat, severe storms, droughts, and flooding) with extreme heat topping the list and emerging economies tending to feel climate change impact more acutely than northern European countries. In addition:

  • 80% believe that humans are responsible for climate change
  • 72% believe that climate change is an emergency
  • 57% are anxious about climate change
  • Only 40% believe that the world will take sufficient steps to avoid the worst impact of climate change

As a result, consumers are shifting their priorities, preferences, and purchase behaviours. This translates into 55% of consumers purchasing a sustainable product or service in the food & beverages and household categories. Furthermore, 32% paid a premium (when compared to a non-sustainable alternative) for their purchase.
When tackling sustainability from the Belgian consumer perspective, women (62%) and 18-34 year-olds (68%) are the consumer groups most worried about climate change: 67% of the former group and 74% of the latter have significantly shifted their purchasing patterns to address climate change.

For example, 41% of Belgian women reduced or avoid meat consumption more frequently than their male compatriots (23%).

Belgians who are 55+ lag behind in sustainability-driven purchase behaviour. In fact, only 35% indicate to have purchased a sustainable product or service in the last four weeks. In addition, when buying “sustainable” they are not ready to pay a premium. Only 28% paid more, less than half the number of 18-34 year-olds (59%) and one fourth less than 35-54 year-olds (37%). Yet 25% of 55+ year-olds always buy local products, almost double than 18-34 (13%) and 35-54 year-olds (13%).

Finally, around 40% of Belgians research and inform themselves of how sustainable a product is before buying it, and one in two consumers also plans to purchase more from a company and brand after the first sustainable purchase.

Key conclusions

The consumer in the new normal is focused on enjoying the present, wellbeing, and purpose, while rebuilding personal connections.

More confident about safety perceptions related to the risk of contagion, the new normal consumer prioritises spending on housing, food, and healthcare. Her/his interest lays in buying “experiences” over goods when purchasing discretionary items, but at the same time she/he is worried about inflation and price rises for everyday purchase. 

Increasingly driven by sustainability values, the consumer in the new normal is anxious about climate change and is shifting her/his purchasing patterns towards conscious consumption to address climate change issues.



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