More and More People Are Switching Brands and Retailers

June 2, 2022

US consumers are trying out different brands and retailers at a greater rate than at any point since the beginning of the pandemic, according to recently-released survey results from McKinsey. And what’s more, those who have done so intend to incorporate their behavior into their routines.

Among the US adults surveyed in February, fully 46% reported having shopped a different brand recently. That compares with 43% who did so in October 2021, and is up significantly from the third (33%) who did so in September 2020.

Likewise, 37% of consumers polled in February had recently shopped a different retailer/store/website. While that was only slightly up from October 2021 (36%), it was a bigger jump from the 28% who reported having done so in September 2020.

Inflation – which is causing 8 in 10 Americans to change their spending habits – appears to be the main culprit here. The top motivation for consumers’ switching behavior is price (lower prices are also a reason why Americans stick with brands). The McKinsey research indicates that more than one-third who have switched brands chose to buy private label products, perhaps believing that their quality matches brand-name products.

The McKinsey analysts note that availability, a big factor for switching in 2020 and 2021, continues to be an important element, though less so than during the pandemic’s peak. (Separately, this continues to be cited in other research as a top reason for trying new brands.)

E-Commerce Growth Continues; Brick-and-Mortar Recovers

Interestingly, the reopening of stores hasn’t had too much of an impact on e-commerce, as year-over-year spending in online channels jumped by 27% in March. Still, that’s not quite the level of spending increases (40-60% in 2020) witnessed after the onset of the pandemic.

Brick-and-mortar, for its part, is recovering, with an 8% year-over-year gain during March, a favorable figure compared to early 2021’s rise of 5%. The pandemic doesn’t seem to have had too much of a lasting impact on perceptions of in-store shopping, which consumers generally say they continue to prefer over shopping online.

Nonetheless, McKinsey notes that “omnichannel shopping is becoming the norm.” Three-quarters of respondents said that they shopped both online and in-store during the previous 3-6 months, compared to 20% who shopped in-store only and 5% online only.

About the Data: The results are based on a survey conducted February 25-March 1 among 2,160 US adults. Spending growth figures are from Affinity Solutions data on credit card spending and Stackline Amazon spending data.

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