How retailers can respond to evolving consumer behaviour this winter

My tips, by Upasana Gupta, GM Advertising UK at eBay

As winter draws in, there are understandably growing concerns among consumers on what the future holds. Soaring energy bills, rising inflation and stagnant wages have created a relentless cost-of-living crisis, and many consumers are embracing frugality as a result.

The latest research from eBay Ads found that the increasing cost of living means a resounding 58% of consumers will be watching their spending carefully this winter.

As energy bills continue to soar, 37% of consumers also revealed that they are planning to make purchases to help them prepare for longer periods without heating, and a further one in five are planning to buy items to make their homes more energy efficient.

With shopping habits rapidly changing as the winter period draws in, what are the key trends we are seeing, and how can retailers adapt their strategy accordingly?  

1. Wrapping up this winter

As energy bills have soared, thinking about preparing for the cold weather has been on consumers’ minds much earlier than before.

Whilst we’re now in the colder months of the year, energy efficient purchases have been front of mind for consumers as early as the summer, with searches for items such as ‘heated blanket’ and ‘loft insulation’ rising 132% and 37% in July 2022 compared with July the year before.

As we continue into the winter period and beyond, energy efficient purchasing trends will only continue to increase. Retailers must endeavour to offer products that bring warmth – both physically and economically.

2. There’s no place like home for consumers

And beyond purchases around keeping warm, Brits are also looking to hunker down at home this winter – with 36% reporting they are planning to socialise at home more as a way to save money, and half planning to dine at home more for the same reason.

Searches for homeware items such as ‘dinner set’ and ‘wine glass’ typically ramp up on in the winter months, and with the renewed focus on staying in this year, it’s integral for retailers to consider Brits’ focus on home supplies and comfort in the coming weeks and months.

3. Saving money with second hand

Retailers should also be aware of growing consumer focus on searching for second hand products – in order to save money, and to be more environmentally friendly in their shopping habits.

Our research found that 30% of consumers are having to make more considered purchases in order to get better value for money, and a fifth are buying more second-hand items in order to cut spending. 

Retailers must stay close to shopper preferences in order to engage their consumers and their current mindsets. Those that are in the business of refurbishment and reselling must ensure to highlight both the economic and environmental benefits of their products, to tap into a growing market of thrifty shoppers.

Put yourself in your customers’ shoes

Beyond being aware of the key trends, understanding your consumers’ mindset and shifting your tone accordingly is undoubtedly key at this time, and retail brands will benefit from showing empathy around the current difficulties everyone is facing.

We know that the cost-of-living crisis has impacted many people, so remembering the human faces behind the sales targets is key to relating to your customer, and therefore maximising your success.

A potential customer will be more drawn to your brand if you are able to demonstrate an understanding of them and, ultimately, show that you care. Tapping into your customers’ rapidly changing frame of mind with real time data is critical in building a connection, both strengthening your relationship and building brand preference.

It’s undeniable that the coming months are set to be difficult for customers and businesses alike.

Consumers will be treading carefully – finding alternative ways to keep warm this winter, spending more time at home, and being conscious of their spending. Being aware of key trends, using fresh data insights, and showing empathy to struggling shoppers is key for retailers this season.

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