The Biggest Consumer Behavior Trends of 2022 (So Far)

A family walking happily through an airport with their luggage

The latest consumer behavior trends, according to new market research analyzing consumer foot traffic, transactions, and survey responses.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the past few years, it’s that consumer behavior is constantly changing. It was true at the onset of the pandemic, and it’s all the more true today. 

Case in point: Throughout much of 2020 and 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic was a top driver of consumer behavior — but that’s shifted in a major way in 2022. This year we’re seeing that now one of the top forces shaping our day-to-day lives is the current economic climate. 

The data presented here is from my recent Medallia Market Research webinar on The Biggest Consumer Trends of 2022 (So Far). The findings I shared are based on an analysis of Sense360 by Medallia’s behavioral intelligence and benchmarking technology. Sense360 by Medallia combines billions of consumer data points — including foot traffic, transactions, and survey responses — across millions of individuals to provide brands with real-time, 360-degree insights into consumer behavior, shedding light on both what’s happening and why.

Top 17 Consumer Behavior Trends and Attitudes

COVID-19 is having less of an impact on consumer behavior in 2022

What best describes your current perception about coronavirus (Covid-19)? Q2 2020 hovered around 35% concern level and Q2 2022 was around 20%

1. Only 1 in 5 consumers are highly concerned about COVID-19 — down over 20 percentage points compared to Q4 2020.

Q2 2022 vs Q2 2021: Biggest drop in activities people are doing “more than they used to”: home improvement / gardening down 3ppt, watching TV down 2ppt, cleaning home or workspace down 2 ppt, and watching streaming services down 1ppt

2. Consumers are engaging in at-home activities less often than they did in 2021, possibly due to both cutting back on expenses in general and spending more time away from home.

Travel and Hospitality category spendl. Shows direct hotels ranking higher than airlines, car rentals, travel aggregators, and ride sharing as of Q2 2022.

3. Though not all the way back to pre-pandemic levels, travel and hospitality are trending upwards, in spite of rising costs.

Average weekly miles travels by population, year over year change. Shows a slight dip from 2021 to 2022.

4. People are moving around more than they did in 2021, even with higher gas prices this year, though this trend is decelerating.

Some consumer behavior trends adopted during the pandemic appear to be here to stay

Full time workers, split by working from home vs going into work. In Q1 2020, 40% were working from home. In Q2 2022, 32% were working from home.

5. After dipping from a high in 2020, the portion of full-time employees working remotely appears to be holding strong at just above 30%.

Select retailer sales trend by order channel. Between Best Buy, Macy’s, and Target, spending has started to even out since 2020.

6. Digital channel growth is still outpacing in-person for retail. However, this consumer behavior trend is not even across the board. For instance, Target is sustaining digital sales volumes first seen in 2020 and 2021, whereas Walmart is not to the same extent.

Planned use of browsing / ordering channels for back-to-school shopping. Not many claimed they would use online-only retailers.

7. Omnichannel shopping journeys are on trend for the 2022 back-to-school season, with consumers planning to use a mix of online and in-person channels for browsing, purchasing, and bringing items home.

Population spend on third-party delivery platforms vs 2019. This chart shows some stalling in growth, cited by a reluctancy to tip the drivers.

8. People haven’t given up their third-party delivery habit for ordering groceries and restaurant meals.

The top ways the economy is now shaping consumer behavior trends in 2022Biggest factors affecting household purchase decisions. “Changes to the prices of products I shop for” is up 29% since August 2021

9. Rising prices due to inflation are a top factor influencing household decisions.

Status of household finances. Those who could cover all their bills is only 23% as of July 2022.

10. Half of households are barely or not able to make ends meet. Only 1 in 4 households say they are covering all of their required bills/household needs, while also staying at or above goal amounts.

Wage changes. Only 8% reported a wage increase over inflation from 2021 to 2022.

11. Most workers’ wages are not keeping up with inflation. Only 20% say their income has kept up, and roughly half of full-time workers say they’ve received a decrease or stagnant income vs. last year.

How consumers say they are adapting to the challenges of inflation. The highest response is 42% are switching to buying fewer or cheaper products.

12. The top ways consumers are fighting inflation are by cutting back spending and buying cheaper options.

Year over year spend by retail category. Auto parts are up by 9% while other popular categories are slightly down.

13. Although average order values are up (driven by inflation), sales are sluggish as transactions decline in most retail categories.

Reasons why prospective car buyers or leasers didn’t get intended outcome. 42% report the car was too expensive, followed by 22% reporting too long of a wait.

14. Only about 1 in 4 people who have been in the auto market over the past 6 months say their search has resulted in them getting the car they ultimately wanted. Price has been the biggest barrier for the remaining 3 in 4 shoppers.

Biggest changes in restaurant vs grocery choice drivers. Notably there is a positive 7ppt change in “more affordable than food from a restaurant.”

15. The No. 1 reason customers say they’re opting for groceries over restaurant meals is due to affordability reasons. This is up by 7 points this year, compared to in 2021.

Average rating for group of QSR leaders among prior 6 months visitors. This is related to Burger King, Chick-fil-A, McDonald’s, Sonic, Starbucks, Subway, Taco Bell, and Wendy’s. It seems that the perception that they have quick service and good portion sizes has mostly head steady since 2019.

16. Consumers are noticing a drop in service and affordability among quick service restaurants…

NPS for average LSR restaurant. NPS scores have risen from 38 to 41 from 2021 to 2022.

…but NPS® ratings are holding strong.

Perceived effect of another 5% price increase re: curbing shopping behavior. Most people would not like inflation to continue.

17. If prices continue to go up, all but 3% of consumers say they’ll feel the pinch to some degree. Most (63%) say that on a scale of 0 to 6, another 5% price increase would affect their future purchase decisions moderately (3 out of 6) to greatly (6 out of 6).

Watch the Webinar: The Biggest Consumer Trends of 2022 (So Far)

Inflation is impacting consumer behavior in every industry, and understanding exactly how behaviors have shifted unlocks the opportunity for your brand to adapt. You can’t guess how consumers are feeling and then expect to meet their needs, after all. Understand the consumer behavior trends laid out in our research to plan and act effectively to attract and retain happy customers.

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