Consumer spending during a downturn: Business leaders share survival strategies

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Consumer spending during a downturn: Business leaders share survival strategies

September 26, 2022 | 4 min read

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Just when it seemed like we were getting back to business-as-usual, the world is being upended again. But this time, inflation has driven a shift in consumer spending and saving habits, and the threat of an economic downturn has retailers feeling shaky. Business leaders are watching a volatile marketplace where quiet layoffs and rollbacks are rocking financial markets and leaving a sense of unease for all. 

The bottom line is: no one is untouched by a down economy. But, consumers are surprisingly pragmatic about their priorities and how they can survive. And the most confident companies have something in common—a clear set of priorities and a willingness to adapt. 

In two July Momentive studies* ** using SurveyMonkey Enterprise, we took a pulse of what was on the minds of consumers and business leaders as they navigated the potential of an economic crisis. Here’s what we learned.

Feeling the pinch 

Almost three-quarters of consumers agree that inflation will have the biggest impact on personal spending, ranking it above an economic downturn, environmental event, or a global war. While the majority of consumers are confident they can adapt their spending to survive, a significant percentage are concerned about their ability to maintain their lifestyle.

Consumer confident in a time of crisis

Consumer cost cutting is already taking shape

After two years of adapting to pandemic shopping, where availability and convenience trumped price, consumers are again shopping with their wallets. Major purchases are being put on hold and bargain shopping is becoming the new normal.  For example, 54% of consumers are likely to switch to a lower cost generic product from a name brand. 

Top purchases consumers would stop

Paying a premium for delivery services and name brand products is being displaced by a more cost-conscious consumer. For example, 40% of consumers say they will stop using food delivery services in an economic downturn. And, almost a quarter of consumers say they will stop using rideshare all together in the event of an economic downturn.

Consumer rideshare purchase intent during TOC

Tapping into demographic purchase drivers 

There is some good news for businesses and brands: consumer priorities vary widely depending on the target audience. That’s why understanding demographic differences is crucial to brand survival.

Generally speaking, women appear to be more cost conscious than men in many areas, such as eating out at restaurants, pausing on major purchases and saving. 

Demographic purchase drivers in TOC

Women are also more likely to bulk up their emergency fund than men, with 52% saying they will prioritize savings vs. 46% of men.

Parents also have different priorities than people without children. Over a third of parents will slow down their use of food delivery services, compared to 25% of people without children. However, parents are more inclined to make major purchases, with 43% saying they will continue these purchases, compared to 37% of non-parents. This could be due to a necessity for these items to maintain their larger households.

Parents slow use of food delivery during TOC

Generational differences are significant, with GenZ continuing to forge their own path. They are more inclined to bargain shop, less inclined to save, and more willing to give up conveniences such as restaurants than other age groups. 

How do businesses plan to adapt?

For their part, business leaders have concerns about their companies’ ability to weather an economic downturn. Over a quarter, or 28%, of business leaders predict their companies will respond with a lack of action, overreaction, or chaos to an economic downturn.

Business leader confidence in TOC

Planning and feedback are keys to survival

Companies with a plan were also companies that were the most confident in their ability to survive a downturn. The main priority? Giving teams what they need to meet their goals. That includes clear priorities, access to current feedback, and the tools and solutions that provide teams the autonomy to make decisions and take action.

What teams need to succeed in a TOC

Leaders invest in what’s working

The majority of business leaders agree that an economic downturn may not be the best time to extend themselves with unproven initiatives. Instead, the top priorities focus on optimizing existing initiatives rather than launching new, untested strategies. 

Business leaders priorities during TOC

The importance of research is clear

Pivoting, quick decision making, and big-picture thinking all rely on accurate insights. When we asked leaders about the importance of research during a crisis, the response was overwhelming.

Eighty-five percent of leaders believe that eliminating research during a crisis is risky. Only 15% believe there’s no risk to reducing research. 

More research needed during TOC

What’s your game plan? 

Learn more about how your company can get the insights it needs during a time of crisis with insights solutions from Momentive. From Brand Tracking to Usage & Attitudes, Concept Testing and Consumer Segmentation studies, our AI-Powered insights solutions can help you collect the data you need to move forward with confidence.

If you're ready to get started, talk to an insights expert, now.

*July 2022 Momentive study conducted using SurveyMonkey weighted for a national sample of 1,411 adult consumers. 

**July 26, 2022 Momentive study conducted of 410 business leaders in the U.S. Data collected overnight. Respondents for this survey were selected from the more than 2 million people who take surveys on the using SurveyMonkey platform each day.

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