Feeling the pressure: Understanding consumers during inflationary times

Sometimes if feels like we are moving from unprecedented crisis to unprecedented crisis.

Ipsos | Inflation | Consumers | Spending power

In 2022, we shifted from a once-in-a century global pandemic to a cost-of-living crisis, as war returned to Europe and the devastating effects of climate change became ever more apparent.

During the pandemic, we got used to new words like lockdown and social distancing. Now we’re adjusting to the polycrisis, a series of concurrent crises with the potential to cause harm greater than they would offer in isolation.

During this period of rapid change, we have been trying to stay close to how people are feeling. Our new 36-country study focuses on people’s perceptions of their own situation as well as looking ahead to where they think things are going.

Looking across the globe it’s hard to get one overall narrative, with different contexts bringing a different local dimension to the global problem of rising inflation. For this reason, we asked our experts on the ground in India, France, Turkey, Argentina, Brazil and Malaysia, to write about how the current crisis is unique in their market.

Against the backdrop of so much change, we looked at what behavioural science can tell us about consumer psychology during the polycrisis. Coming on the back of the pandemic we have ben looking to ground ourselves in the broader context. Our Ipsos Disruption Barometer provides a panorama of the broader dynamics of our current situations.

This report aims to help brands and decision-makers understand how people are trying to navigate these global crises and how this differs across the world.

Key learnings

Inflation: top global concern, but outlook varies by country

  • Inflation has risen from being a second order concern to the central issue in a matter of months, but people’s outlook differs a lot across countries, with Europe particularly pessimistic about their standard of living falling in the next year, compared to Asia and Latin America.

Prices expected to continue to rise in 2023

  • People don’t believe rising prices are going to end any time, with more than seven in ten expecting to pay more for their utilities and shopping in 2023, and only 12% expecting an at/above inflation pay rise next year. The number of people who think unemployment will play a bigger role in 2023 is growing.

We are living in unprecedented times of the polycrisis

  • While we are living through a cost-ofliving crisis, this isn’t the only crisis we’re dealing with. The polycrisis – interacting crises that result in harms greater than in isolation – has meant people are in a constant state of change and can no longer rely on the beliefs of our more certain past.

Side hustles and second jobs helping some maintain spending

  • Consumers are not all responding in the same way, with new behaviours varying across and within markets. While many are cutting back, some are looking to side hustles and second jobs to maintain purchasing power.

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