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Online Trends

Published April 18th 2023

How Consumer Shopping Behavior Has Changed in 2023

Top shopping trends, how consumer behavior has changed, and what it means for brands.

We looked into the online conversations around shopping to identify how consumer shopping behavior has changed. 

How are consumers adapting to the rising cost of living? How have their priorities changed? In this blog, we take a closer look at the latest shopping trends. 

Trend 1: Sustainability becomes harder to prioritize – yet it remains important 

Sustainability has become an increasingly important concern for consumers in recent years. In a survey conducted by IBM in 2022, 51% of respondents said that sustainability is even more important than it was 12 months ago. Despite world events, consumers still care deeply about adopting a more sustainable lifestyle.

This importance is also reflected in online conversations. The number of people talking about sustainability online increased by 12% last year.

Money was one of the most frequently mentioned topics in sustainability conversations, with consumers discussing the difficulty of living a sustainable lifestyle on a limited budget, especially when it comes to buying food.

And the cost of living crisis is worsening this struggle. According to a survey by GWI in 2022, consumers have less bandwidth to care about the environment. Faced with financial challenges, many consumers can’t make sustainability a top priority. This doesn’t mean that consumers don’t care about environmental issues and sustainable products

Not only have online conversations around sustainability increased over the years, but the sentiment has also shifted. While positive and negative mentions were at similar levels from 2015 to 2019, the gap between positive and negative mentions widened in recent years, with negative mentions outpacing positive mentions.

Consumers share the frustration of not being able to make as much of a personal impact due to financial challenges. As the effects of the climate crisis become more apparent, consumers may not be able to buy sustainable products in the same way as they used to. 

But they haven’t forgotten about sustainability. 

Brands shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that consumers aren’t still paying attention to what companies are doing, and sustainable efforts can determine whether a consumer becomes a loyal customer. In a survey by Gapgemini, 77% of organizations said that their sustainability efforts increased customer loyalty, and 63% reported an uptick in revenue since implementing those sustainability approaches.

Trend 2: Consumers buy more secondhand 

One way to spend less money but still afford nice things is to buy secondhand. Buying secondhand is nothing new, but it seems that consumers will turn to secondhand products more often in 2023.

Online conversations increased by 21% last year compared to 2021. And more brands are entering the resale market. The luxury market alone is expected to sell 43 billion dollar worth of goods in 2022, double the amount sold five years earlier, in 2017.

After books, apparel is one of the most talked about items in secondhand conversations. In fact, online conversations have increased by 23% in the last year.

Consumers who love fashion won’t abandon their passion even with higher expenses and look instead for alternatives to buying new items. By purchasing secondhand products, consumers can still get their favorite brands and fashionable items while doing something good for the environment. Buying secondhand products helps consumers prioritize sustainability even with a limited budget.

And consumers like to share online when they’ve made a good deal and stayed within their budget. Thrift shopping will be a popular alternative in 2023, especially in the fashion industry. 

The fashion industry has experienced a lot of negativity over the years. In fact, the fashion industry is one of the most negatively talked about sectors in online conversations about sustainability. Reselling apparel can be an opportunity for fashion brands to build trust with climate-conscious consumers.

Trend 3: Off-brand is booming 

Even before the current financial turmoil, price was (always has been and always will be) a key factor in most people's purchasing decisions. But many consumers have become more price-sensitive due to inflation and the rising cost of living. How are consumers meeting this challenge and making the most of their limited budgets?

The rise of off-brand products 

Buying less to save money is one thing, but what about essentials? You have to eat, you need toothpaste, and your cat can’t go without kitty litter. One strategy is to buy a cheaper option.

Switching to off-brand products will continue to be a strategy for consumers in 2023. The number of individuals discussing off-brand products online increased by 11% in the last twelve months compared to the previous period.

But there is a shift happening in these online conversations. While negative conversations outnumber positive ones, the gap between positive and negative mentions has recently widened. In the last 6 months, positive mentions have decreased by 9%, while negative mentions have increased by 6%. 

What is causing this frustration?

For one thing, switching to off-brand products isn't necessarily a choice customers want to make, it's a choice they have to make. Rising prices have forced more and more customers to buy cheaper options to meet financial challenges. So it's not surprising that, regardless of the quality of the products, these customers are not positive about having to change their buying habits.

Other consumers are disappointed with the quality of the products. Pet owners are particularly negative about off-brand products for their pets. 76% of all mentions categorized by sentiment are negative. Cat products received the most mentions, with owners (and evidently their cats too) dissatisfied with the quality.

Ironically, another complaint is that off-brand products are too expensive for what they are. Consumers have become more price sensitive and are quick to notice price changes. Eggs were one product that stood out in the negative conversations about off-brand products being too expensive.

As prices rise, consumers will continue to struggle to get the most for their money in 2023. Buying cheaper alternatives doesn't mean people don't expect decent quality and good taste. When they find good off-brand products, they are happy to share their love and recommend them online.

The hype about dupes 

The hunt for cheaper alternatives has fueled a trend that is particularly prevalent on TikTok: The dupe trend. Consumers share their recommendations for dupes in their videos to help their audience find alternatives to expensive or sold-out items. 

And people are interested. The tag #dupe has been viewed 3.7 billion times. From January 1 to March 20, 2023, 15% more people talked about it online than in the previous months. According to Google Trends, global search interest for "dupe" reached a 5-year high at the end of December 2022 and hasn't slowed down yet.

A look at BuzzSumo data shows that in the past twelve months, nearly 9k articles have been published about "dupes," generating over 346k total engagements. Dupe recommendations are especially popular for cosmetics and fashion items, and consumer tech or household products. One of the articles with the highest engagements gives cheaper recommendations around the TikTok-hyped Acne Studios scarf.

Consumers may have more limited budgets to spend on non-essential items, but they still want to be fashionable and pamper themselves. They have found a solution in dupes to still dress fashionably.

Trend 4: Consumers still prioritize convenience

Shopping during the pandemic boosted alternative shopping experiences like same-day delivery and click-and-collect. These and other alternatives have grown over recent years, making the shopping experience more convenient for consumers. And this level of convenience is something consumers will (still) expect in 2023 and beyond.

We analyzed online consumer conversations around buying and shopping and broke them down into different categories that influence the shopping experience, such as price, quality, or delivery.

Price was by far the most discussed factor in purchase conversations. As consumers become more price-sensitive, it's no surprise that the price of products and services is the key factor in purchasing decisions.

Sustainability is, unsurprisingly, less talked about in purchase conversations as consumers find it harder to prioritize sustainability. Mentions of sustainability have decreased by 14% in the last twelve months compared to the previous period.

Conversations around convenience tell a different story. Of all the purchase factors analyzed, convenience is the one that has grown the most over the past twelve months, with a 12% increase in mentions compared to the previous period. Consumers are talking about a convenient shopping experience and praising products that make their lives easier.

Looking at the demographics of people talking about buying, millennials are more likely than other generations to talk about the convenience of products and shopping experiences. Across all generations, price is by far the largest part of the buying conversation. But while millennials are more likely to talk about convenience and Gen Z is more likely to talk about shipping, older generations like Gen X and baby boomers are more likely to talk about sustainability.

Final thoughts

Inflation and the cost of living greatly impact consumers' shopping habits, and this will likely continue well into 2023: People are trying to make the most of their money. Price-conscious consumers are adapting by buying secondhand, off-brand products, and cheaper alternatives to popular big-ticket items.

Brands need to keep an eye on changing consumer behavior to react quickly and stay ahead of the competition. Consumers may be making more price-driven decisions, but brands should remember that consumers still expect high levels of quality and a great shopping experience.

Consumers may find it harder to incorporate sustainability into their everyday purchasing decisions, but they still see it as an important issue that companies shouldn't stop addressing. According to research from Glow, one in four consumers switched food and grocery brands based on their sustainability efforts. In the end, ESG practices can determine whether a consumer becomes a loyal customer.

Read more about consumer trends for 2023

Dive into our 2023 Consumer Trends Report for the latest trends in consumer behavior and find out:

  • Consumer attitudes towards buy now, pay later
  • The rising concern for data privacy
  • How inclusivity impacts brand loyalty
  • The rise of the four-day workweek
  • How consumers want to improve their mental health
  • And much more

Read the report

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Consumer Trends for 2023

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