Skip to main content

Customer Experience

Global consumer trends: how the pandemic changed the world and what we’ve learned for the future

The global pandemic changed the way we interact with each other – and with brands. Driven by emotional and transactional needs, consumers across the world have demonstrated their values – and indicated their plans for the future. Read on for top-level insights from our 2021 Global Consumer Trends Report.

The XM Institute surveyed nearly 18,000 people across the globe to understand not only what changed last year, but what we can expect for the future. Will consumers’ new methods of communicating, shopping, and carrying out daily tasks continue, or will offline have its renaissance?

Download the 2021 global consumer trends report now

The world then

Across 17 industries and 18 countries, we discovered what priorities consumers have for life post-pandemic. But to understand what to expect for the future, first,ƒ we need to look back to 2020, and see how consumers’ habits changed.

The world went online to fulfill emotional and transactional needs

With global restrictions on movement unexpectedly changing our ability to carry out our normal activities, some consumers turned to the internet in ways they’d not tried before.

More than 75% of consumers we surveyed tried new online activities last year. Ordering groceries (21%) and buying products (21%) were at the top of new tasks completed online.

However, perhaps more importantly, connecting with family and friends (24%) was the highest driver for global consumers to turn to online options. It’s clear that brands were able to meet both transactional and emotional needs with digital solutions across the globe.

Digital entertainment proved its worth

One of the (likely unsurprising) heroes of 2020 was streaming services. Our research found that streaming services were highly satisfactory for consumers last year, often the most satisfactory of all the sectors we asked about. Of the 18 countries polled, consumers from only two (Japan and the Philippines) don’t think they’ll continue to consume as much media this way. It’s clear that our time spent at home has affected how we entertain ourselves – and we might find ourselves hooked for the future.

Emerging markets, in particular, shifted to digital

Though the world generally turned to online solutions to meet their needs, in particular, emerging markets saw considerable new digital uptake. Ninety-seven percent of consumers in India said that they adopted an online activity for the first time (out of those we listed). In contrast, only 44% of Japan’s already technologically literate consumers said the same. Watch how this trend unfolds in the future. Until roads, transport links, and communications networks improve, many of the region’s consumers will be too expensive to reach. Indonesia’s 6,000 inhabited islands is a different proposition entirely to e-commerce in China. [The Economist]

The world of the future

We posed questions to consumers about their future behavior to find out if the accelerated shift to digital is here to stay, or simply a reaction to global events.

To investigate our results further, we examined the drivers of change: how does a sense of connection interplay with service satisfaction? How will businesses need to tailor their offering to reach consumers with preferences that change with location, age, past experience, and sense of community?

One-size-fits-all does not work for the future consumer

Consumers are discerning about their plans for future online and offline activity. It’s no longer acceptable to trust that your products or services can be handled only via one medium – consumers consider each activity as distinct. For example, according to our research, more consumers plan to use personal online banking in the future – but 44% would still like to open a bank account in person. Brands will need to consider each of their products and services as individual components, as well as holistically, to bring consumers to their door and stop them from leaving.

Satisfaction is vital for progress

How consumers feel about the experiences they have with brands has a direct impact on their trust and their advocacy. Not only will they try new products and services if they’re happy with their past experience (64%), they’ll also recommend companies with “very good” customer service to others (94%). Our findings showed a clear correlation between customers’ dedication to brands and their satisfactory experiences – a trend we expect to continue. Companies will need to provide great customer service that can be replicated with each interaction – because as we found, it only takes one bad experience for trust and advocacy to drop significantly.

Digital adoption will continue – but community is a strong driver for returning offline

Even with the boom in virtual exercise classes and the rise of communication services, consumers are still driven by personal connections. Even with great service and high levels of satisfaction, the past months of isolation mean that consumers are keen to see friends and family face-to-face and exercise with the support of an in-person community. Consumers in countries such as Spain and Canada are keen to return to offline gatherings – but for Asian nations, online gym activities still have some appeal. For businesses to find success in these sectors, they’ll need to tailor their offering per country – and find ways to foster an emotional connection with consumers.

Enduring trends for future business

There’s no doubt that the pandemic has accelerated digital adoption and consumption worldwide. Our research helped to uncover the interactions consumers will return to in-person, and the activities that are simply more convenient when carried out online.

Driven both by emotional and transactional needs, diverse consumers across the globe will continue to tailor their loyalty to brands by the quality of services they receive. Businesses’ value will depend on providing highly satisfactory services that will encourage consumers to trust them and advocate for their networks.

2021 Global Consumer Trends: prepare for the future

No matter the medium – online, in-person, or on the phone – we found that human experience underpinned all the business successes of the last year. Satisfaction, trust, and advocacy depended on great customer experiences, and this is highly likely to continue as the pandemic wanes.

Read the report to understand how to prepare for the new world we find ourselves in during 2021 and beyond, and get a clear picture of consumer intent for the years to come.

In partnership with XM Institute.

Get insights into the future with the 2021 Global Consumer Trends Report

Qualtrics // Experience Management

Qualtrics is the technology platform that organizations use to collect, manage, and act on experience data, also called X-data™. The Qualtrics XM Platform™ is a system of action, used by teams, departments, and entire organizations to manage the four core experiences of business—customer, product, employee, and brand—on one platform.

Over 12,000 enterprises worldwide, including more than 75 percent of the Fortune 100 and 99 of the top 100 U.S. business schools, rely on Qualtrics to consistently build products that people love, create more loyal customers, develop a phenomenal employee culture, and build iconic brands.

Related Articles