New Study Measures Shifts in Consumer Behaviors, Driven by Rapidly Changing Attitudes as to What’s Essential

The pandemic has radically altered the products, channels and services consumers deem essential. In our first research report of 2021, Rightpoint and Something Digital delve into the new normal for 2021 and beyond. 

 According to a new study by Rightpoint and Something Digital (now part of Rightpoint)The New Essentials, the pandemic has substantially altered the products, channels and services consumers deem essential, and those new perceptions will likely last beyond 2021. Brands that respond to the shift in consumer sensibilities will be poised to earn their loyalty.  

The report surveyed 1,002 consumers in the US and Canada between November 20 – 28,  2020 to explore mindset, category engagement and digital savviness as life during the pandemic has evolved. In addition, we interviewed 10 digital executives to understand how  their organizations have capitalized on the shifting landscape.  

Key findings include: 

Accelerated life change correlates with redefinition of what is essential. 

Two out of three consumers report making significant lifestyle changes as a direct result of the pandemic, giving rise to a new class of trendsetting “life changers.” Highly adaptable, young (60% are under age 40) and economically comfortable (66% are gainfully employed), this trendsetter group is evidence of larger demographic and attitudinal shifts in the near future. These shifts will radically transform how consumers live, make decisions, and purchase. 

Individual perspectives redefine what is essential.  

Although every person experienced the same pandemic, there is no collective internal response to it. Every person has created his or her own risk-benefit analysis to everyday activities like shopping, working, and socializing. Which has resulted in a fragmented perspective of needs vs. wants, and indeed, what is essential and what’s not.  

 For example, consumers who see the pandemic as a collective challenge have a more generous view of what’s essential, assigning categories typically associated with personal growth or self-actualization — travel, furniture and home, fitness — at significantly higher values than those who don’t. 

 “Marketers know they need to move away from targeting consumers based on broad characteristics like geography and demographic. These findings add more urgency to that shift. In the post-pandemic world, consumers are strongly motivated by their internal risk-benefit analysis, and brands that can tap into that analysis will build long-term loyalty,” says Phillip Jackson, Chief Commerce Officer at Rightpoint. 

Consumers who will soon dominate spending have evolving expectations around convenience, community and social good and safety. 

Gen Y and Gen Z bring a set of strongly held expectations to the commercial world, and they demand brands to meet them:

  • Convenience. Features like onsite search and product inventory/availability continue to prompt conversion, but younger shoppers also want flexible fulfillment and ways to reach customer service. They also want seamless cross-channel journeys — e.g. browsing via connected TV and buying via a mobile device.


  • Community. For younger adults, digital connections enable community. For instance, 68% said they prefer discovering new brands on social media, and 55% said they’ve increased their use of video conferencing. Younger adult shoppers have a strong sense of community, with 64% of them feeling guilt for finding joy while others are struggling; 82% of Gen Z won’t ignore a brand’s ethics for the sake of a good deal. Brands will need to walk the talk to succeed with this generation.


  • Social Good and SafetyGen Z and Millennial shoppers are entering 2021 more cautious about their physical health, emotional well-being and finances. Transparency will be key; consumers will want to know what brands are doing to protect the physical, emotional and economic wellbeing of their customers, employees and suppliers. 


“The pandemic has heighted the consumer’s awareness of the world around them, including its joys, challenges and opportunities. Younger adults in particular are making decisions based on a new set of essentials that speak to their hearts, minds, wallets and preferences. Brands that can adapt to the new essentials will enjoy greater success, while those that fail to resonate will struggle to survive,” said someone at Rightpoint. 


Download the complete report here. 

Eda Gumusay

Eda was bit by the travel bug long ago so when she’s not at SD she’s probably out exploring a new place. When she’s not adventuring, Eda is a huge foodie and loves trying new things!