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Published January 18th 2021

New Research Reveals Changing Consumer Priorities in 2021

Who do consumers trust, and how is consumer behavior already changing in 2021?

After a turbulent year, consumers have adjusted their behaviors and their feelings towards businesses. But what’s changed and how can we measure it?

To find out, we took a look at the latest Edelman Trust Barometer data and used Brandwatch Consumer Research to investigate English-language mentions of 2021 New Year’s resolutions on social media. Both show significant shifts from previous findings.

Seismic shift in trust

According to this year’s Edelman Trust Barometer the pandemic has instigated a wave of mistrust in the government, business, and the media.

Trust declined across all institutions according to the online survey, which was conducted across more than 33,000 people in 28 markets worldwide between October 19 and November 18 2020.

Only 59% of respondents reported that they trust businesses to do the right thing. Meanwhile, 57% and 56% of people said they trusted the government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), respectively.

Only half of those questioned said that they trusted the media to do the right thing. And just 53% of people said they trust traditional media as a source this year, compared to 65% in 2019.

When respondents were specifically asked which institutions had performed well or very well during the pandemic, Edelman found:

  • 47% of respondents said the media
  • 46% said businesses
  • 43% said the government
  • 41% said NGOs

After averaging the numbers, Edelman found that general trust in all of these institutions increased six points in May 2020, when the pandemic was in full swing, but then dropped by five points by January 2021, reflecting fatigue caused by the turbulent year and continued restrictions.

If trust is low, how can business win it back? Understanding their consumers’ worlds and changing priorities is a good place to start.

Consumers look for improvement within

So how can businesses start to get an idea of changing consumer behavior and priorities? One way is to look at what they’re talking about.

To find out how we can expect consumer behavior to change in 2021, we examined how people were discussing their New Year’s resolutions using Brandwatch Consumer Research. The mentions we looked at were posted in English between Dec 29 and Jan 2 across the years 2018 to 2021.

We made a list of 12 popular resolutions to study. These include things such as saving more money, drinking less, and exercising (all of which were huge topics of conversation in 2020). We then created categories around them in the Consumer Research platform to see which were the most popular over the last few years.

It’s undeniable that things are very different this year.

From 2018 to 2020, the same resolutions tended to come out on top each year. Cutting down on drinking led the pack consistently, while giving up meat and career advancement took the second or third spots.

Meanwhile, resolutions around learning and reading never even made the top ten, usually accounting for just 2-3% of the resolutions we included.

But then came 2021.

Seeing family and friends more was never a neglected area for resolutions, but this year it grabbed the top spot, making up 20% of the resolutions in our data. Of course, this was influenced by the pandemic because Covid-19 measures cut us off from our loved ones.

We also found that learning and reading have jumped from outside of the top 10 to the second and third sports. Resolutions around learning something and reading more accounted for 17% and 13% respectively of the conversation we tracked around resolutions.

We can’t definitively say that this was influenced by Covid-19, but with the prospect of being stuck indoors, or having to find a new job, these two resolutions make sense in this context.

On the flip side of the coin, we saw resolutions to give up meat nearly disappear. They only made up 1% of the conversation we tracked, compared to 14% last year. The other big “losers” were saving money (down nine percentage points), and cutting out alcohol (down eight percentage points), although it still took fourth place overall.

All change

What all this tells us is that not only do people feel very differently about the organizations they interact with, but they’re also bucking behavioral trends that have been going on for years.

The events of 2020 changed us, and the effects will continue to be felt throughout 2021.

Let us know what you think in the comment section below or on Twitter @BW_React. If you would like more information about this data, email [email protected].

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