Bound to Be Better: First Quarter Consumer Sentiment 2022

February 22, 2022

2022 is a new year. After 2 years of uncertainty and a rapidly shifting landscape, consumers are ready for something different, as we all are. Much of what they’re looking for are products and services that not only meet needs, but help them feel better and safer, particularly when it comes to travel. Consumers, it seems, are seeking out kindness, hope, and, along with that, new products, brands, and services. Now, more than ever, consumers are willing to try new brands and new products as they try to adapt to this new world and, thankfully, many businesses are innovating to meet the demands. 

Strategic product development and innovation are essential to business growth and, in the current landscape, success. In order to get a strong sense of what consumers want and need, businesses can get a solid start by understanding consumer sentiment and tracking it, as we do, throughout the year, so they can remain agile. 

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Our Consumer Sentiment Study

The goal of 360 Market Reach’s (now Leger) U.S. consumer sentiment study is to focus on understanding consumer attitudes and behavior and to assess how consumers feel while navigating everyday life. With that understanding, we can provide valuable insights to our clients helping them strategize everything from messaging to innovation and product development.

One of the things that sets our team apart is our researchers, their expertise, and the lens through which they see accumulated research over the years. Over the last few years, as we have ridden out the rollercoaster of COVID-19, those insights are more valuable than ever.

Leading into our first quarter consumer sentiment study, one of our Senior Researchers, Ervin Murga, noted that “Towards the end of 2020, it was clear that the pandemic was not going away. 2021 brought a different stage, and people were hopeful. There was increased optimism with greater access to COVID-19 testing and vaccines on the horizon. During the first half of 2021, optimism grew as restrictions started being lifted and vaccination rates were rising, but the new variant hit the U.S. by the summer of 2021 and things changed a bit. Things changed again in the winter of 2021 when another variant swept the nation.”

Here we are in 2022, having conducted our first of four consumer sentiment studies for the year, and finding that, much like the start of 2021, consumers are mostly optimistic heading into the new year. As with previous years, and as we move through 2022, we’ll continue to check the pulse and gauge consumer sentiment in a few key areas including life overall, health and wellness, travel and tourism, and financial futures.

Our Consumer Sentiment Study Overview

Our quarterly study is conducted among 1,000 U.S. consumers, 18 and older. The online 10-minute survey gauges consumer sentiment in the categories we’ve discussed. From that data, we can begin to identify patterns as well as trending stories which we share with you.

Our first study of 2022 revealed some interesting threads which we’ll continue to follow throughout the year. Thus far, Murga observed, “As we enter into a new year, overall optimism for the end of 2022 is high; most likely linked to the high levels of optimism on health and wealth. However, consumers are less optimistic about traveling safely. As the new variants spread across the country, consumers are concerned about their health and ability to travel. They recognize it as a time of uncertainty, and feel their health and ability to travel is at risk.”

As we’ll discuss below, one of the primary responses to the volatility and sometimes rapidly changing situation is that consumers seem to be eager to take control where they can, placing responsibility for their health and wellness, financial futures, and more in their own hands. Further, a majority of them seem to understand that adaptability is key to weathering the future, and businesses will likely find that true as well.

young woman exercises andpunches with dumbell AdobeStock_259041090Key Findings on Overall Sentiment, Health and Wellness, Travel and Tourism

One of the questions we ask participants, regarding the three primary categories of life overall, health and wellness, and travel asks them to select how they best feel overall from a provided array of answers. From those questions, we can begin to gauge overall sentiment in that category.

Life Overall

In response to how they feel about life overall, 65% of consumers answered optimistically. If we break down those responses, we start to see that the optimism for a number of those individuals comes from adapting and feeling some control over their future. In fact, when given an array of possible answers, 29% of consumers chose “We need to keep changing, learning to adapt, and finding new, better ways to live.”

Of the consumers who were not optimistic, the largest number expressed concerns regarding uncertainty. 26% of consumers, given an option, selected a response stating “The uncertainty feels like it’s never going to end.”

Health and Wellness

As with life overall, 85% of consumers answered optimistically when asked about their health and wellness over the next year. Only 15% feel their health is worse off or a lower priority than it has been in the past.

Again, among the optimistic consumers, many of them are looking for ways to take control over their health. In fact, a full 42% answered that they “like to practice healthy habits in order to have peace with themselves and others.” Further, in response to that same question, an additional 25% believe it’s “important to stay up to date on the latest health and wellness trends so I can find new ways to live a healthy lifestyle.”

To see more details, download our key findings.

woman "vacations" at home lying on blanket with food and beach on tv 339963805Travel and Tourism

In this category, consumers seem a bit more split than elsewhere. Most seem concerned about traveling safely, though 62% of consumers answered optimistically, when given an array of answers, regarding how they feel about travel. In this category, we again see consumers accepting their roles in keeping themselves safe. In fact, 30% selected “We have to learn to adapt to the new travel protocols and safety requirements in order to keep society safe.”

In contrast, 23% stated they were “unsure when they would feel confident making travel plans.” Still, 17% of consumers noted that traveling is what “keeps them connected with family and friends” and enables them to meet new people around the world. A further 10% believe the travel industry is recovering and they are beginning to feel safe traveling again.

To see more details, download our key findings.

Coins stacks suggest financial planning 295048993Sentiment Watch: Stories to Follow

In addition to our questions regarding sentiment for overall life outlook, health and wellness, and travel and tourism, our team will be following 3 stories that appear to be impacting consumer sentiment and are, therefore, of interest to our research team, our clients, and more.

As Murga observed, the last few years have been largely shaped by the pandemic. As such, it’s also important that we look at how new variants, like Omicron, are shaping sentiment. When it comes to this latest variant:

  • 48% don’t believe it’s responsible to travel right now
  • 48% are uneasy about travel as they view it as a risk to their health
  • 37% believe that, in terms of travel planning and health, the worst is yet to come 

As noted, the pandemic has also shifted consumer focus onto themselves and the ways that they can best care for themselves given the circumstances. As a result, they are quite focused on personal rejuvenation as well as improving their overall health– mind, body, and soul.

  • 63% believe they need to re-evaluate their current lifestyle and include healthier habits
  • 87% believe eating healthy food will improve their quality of life
  • 81% are interested in a vacation that focuses on relaxation

Finally, for many, the search for stability in a world that seems to be uncertain and constantly changing has resulted in a focus on their financial futures.

  • 60% are concerned about their future and plan to change how they approach financial stability
  • 62% are researching how to take better control over their finances
  • 74% are preparing to be financially secure for the near future

In summary, it seems, as of now, that consumers are looking for ways to establish certainty, security, and stability in their lives, particularly when it comes to their overall well-being, from health to finances. Businesses and brands that can find ways to help consumers establish, strengthen, or simplify those habits, will likely find success over the next year. In fact, our research on minimalism in the marketplace and the prioritization of health and wellness  both suggest these trends will continue, and strengthen, through the year.

As our research continues over the year in these areas, we’ll be asking these questions and more. We’re driven by our love of research, our desire to understand what motivates consumers, and our curiosity. “I personally am intrigued to learn how consumers continue to adapt to what we now call the ‘new normal.’ Will we start thinking of this as just ‘normal’ and think of life pre-COVID as the old days? And how will consumers accept the new normal? How optimistic will people be?” Murga finds himself asking.

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