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Finding shopper optimism amidst economic uncertainty in 2024

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The new year often brings with it a sense of fresh possibilities and optimism. So it’s fitting that after years of health and economic uncertainty, shoppers at the end of 2023 have confidence that 2024 will bring improvement to some areas in their lives. 

In 2023, shoppers changed their habits and discovered new strategies and “hacks” to help navigate the changing economic landscape on their own terms. From changing where and what they ate to shifting how and when they shop, grocery customers showed flexibility, resilience and resolve as they sought to make the best of the situation whenever possible. They’re taking that same mentality into 2024, where optimism is emerging in the parts of their lives where they feel they can take control and make a difference on their own. 

Inflation concerns leveling off despite economic uncertainty

Despite its persistence, customer sentiment about inflation is helping to set the stage for cautious optimism in 2024 in some aspects of their lives. Our new Consumer Digest 2023 Year in Review report, Adapting with resilience: The new customer paradigm, reveals that over the past year, there was a steady decline in shopper concern over inflation from February to July, with concern leveling out in the last four months of the year as consumers likely have grown accustomed to inflation. 

In addition, a growing number of shoppers ages 55 and older expect inflation to last less than one year. When asked in November 2023 how long they expect inflation to last, 34% of shoppers that age predicted it will last less than one year, up from 30% in April.  

Shoppers’ action in response to rising prices

Consumers found ways to take action to mitigate rising prices such as looking for sales, deals and coupons, cutting back on non-essentials, switching to lower-cost brands, purchasing fewer items on shopping trips and cooking from scratch more often. 

Controlling what’s controllable

As 2024 approaches, that optimism is finding its way into other parts of customers’ lives as well. Our research found that after experiencing years of stress and uncertainty related to the pandemic, shoppers are more optimistic about areas of their lives where they feel they have some control. 

While nearly half of customers expect that the level of uncertainty surrounding uncontrollable external factors such as the economy, public health and political and social issues will continue to weigh on their outlooks in 2024, customers believe that a path to optimism lies in the aspects of their lives they have some ability to personally control – from their jobs and relationships to their own health. 

When asked in November 2023 how optimistic they’re feeling heading into 2024, shoppers were more optimistic (Top 2 Boxes related to optimism on the survey scale) when it comes to their personal relationships (38%), their job/profession (26%) and their personal health (24%). 

Increasing optimism was also evident in comparing these responses to shopper sentiment when asked the same question in 2022 about heading into 2023. Compared to 2022, 2023 saw a slight uptick in the number of people who said they are “extremely optimistic” about their personal relationships (up from 18% to 21%).  

While levels of uncertainty will undoubtedly follow us into 2024, the brands that understand where optimism can be found will be able to create more relevant and meaningful shopper experiences. Staying attuned to shifting attitudes creates opportunities to tailor strategies, meet customer expectations and satisfy unmet needs. 

Over the past two years, our Consumer Digest has tracked shopper attitudes and spending to understand how those behaviors trend over time in response to ongoing economic uncertainty. To better understand how shoppers are adjusting their habits to better meet these customers where they are, read our new Consumer Digest 2023 Year in Review report, Adapting with resilience: The new customer paradigm.


If you’d like to learn more about grocery shopper behavior trends to inform and fine tune your strategy, here are some additional pieces that might interest you: 

Holiday Data Unpacked 2023: Holiday shopping is evolving, and customer habits are changing. This 84.51° white paper uncovers 9 shopper insights to understand how customers are navigating their holiday grocery lists and explains how brands can position themselves at the forefront of a highly competitive shopping season. 

Better Homes & Gardens: If You Think Holiday Decor Came Early This Year, You're Right—Here's Why: Holiday displays continue to appear earlier and earlier each year. In this article, Barbara Connors, 84.51° vice president of strategy and acceleration, shares how changing shopper behaviors play a role in the phenomenon. 

Smart Brief: The evolution of grocery brand loyalty: Inflation and other budget restrictions have become a major concern for consumers, and have given the impression that loyalty is on the decline. But this article by Becky Eldredge, 84.51° vice president of commercial loyalty, explains why that’s not the case and how food retailers and consumer packaged goods manufacturers should respond.  

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