The rising cost of living affects Aussie consumers’ wellbeing, Toluna reveals

Sej Patel, Country Director for Australia & New Zealand at Toluna

Toluna’s Global Consumer Barometer Study is a regular index that taps into a community panel of 40+ million members to provide accurate and timely info on the world’s current perceptions. The latest wave surveyed 1,016 Australian respondents between 25-31 August.

The report’s findings show that the rising cost of living continues to impact Australian consumers, to the point where it’s taking a toll on our health and wellbeing. Yet, even as Aussie shoppers seek out ways to cut their spending, they remain focused on brand values.

In fact, many are still prioritising brands whose values align with their own and they’re going out of their way to seek out environmentally and socially responsible brands.

How is cost of living impacting mental health?

Almost half (47%) of Aussies say they’re worse off financially compared to before the pandemic, and 38% are concerned about their finances in light of current global and economic circumstances. About one-third (31%) expect to be even worse off over the coming 3 months.

Over two-thirds (69%) of Australians are concerned about the rising cost of living, and 71% cite concern about the energy crisis, specifically. And these issues are weighing heavily on consumers’ minds, with 62% of respondents stating that both the energy crisis and cost of living are impacting their spending plans. More than half of the respondents (56%) are putting off big life expenditures until the economic climate is more stable.

In fact, the economic situation has become so stressful, that almost half (46%) of respondents said the rising cost of living is impacting their health and wellbeing; 31% are feeling more stressed, 18% are eating less healthily, and 17% are exercising less often. One in ten are smoking more cigarettes (11%) and a similar amount are drinking more alcohol (11%).

Over the next three months, Australians expect to spend less money eating out (39%), ordering takeaway (34%), going on holidays (31%), drinking in pubs and bars (27%), and buying new clothes (37%). Almost half (44%) will start reducing unnecessary purchases in their grocery shops and start buying more home brand items (30%).

How important are ethical brand values?

Despite increased cost of living & tightened spending, Aussies are still committed to shopping ethically. The majority of consumers 76% say it’s important to them that a brand’s values align with their own, with 43% stating that this is very 28% or extremely 15% important to them.

It’s also important to Australians that brands care about their role and contribution to the environment and society 80%, that they have policies which benefit the environment and society 76%, & that they commit to reducing their use of plastic and paper packaging 56%.

Respondents also said it’s important to them that brands only invest and operate in countries that behave in an ethical manner (81%), with four in ten (41%) stating that this is very (26%) or extremely (15%) important. Forty-two percent of Australians say they want to make a difference to their community and the world, with a similar proportion (43%) stating they care strongly about the social and environmental impact of their behaviours.

What were the values driving purchasing decisions?

Close to half (47%) say they feel satisfied when they make socially responsible choices. When it comes to ethical purchasing behaviour, Aussies are putting their money where their mouth is. A third (32%) of respondents said they go out of their way to engage with brands that align with their own values, while 37% will avoid using brands that don’t share their values. A third (30%) have stopped using a brand due to its negative environmental or social impact.

However, Australian shoppers feel they have inadequate information when it comes to making ethical purchasing decisions. Over a third (37%) would like to make more decisions about the brands they use based on environmental & social factors, but don’t have enough info.

Of course, price is proving prohibitive for some shoppers in the current economic landscape, with 39% stating they would like to base more of their purchasing decisions on a brand’s environmental and social activities, but they cannot afford to do so.

Green investments

It doesn’t stop at shopping; Australians are also starting to pay more attention to ethical investing. Almost half 46% of respondents said they want their savings and investments to align with their values, and 40% want their savings and investments to contribute to sustainability. In fact, 40% of respondents said they would never invest in a product if they knew was detrimental from a sustainability perspective.

Electric vehicles

There is a clear disconnect between values & cost when it comes to electric vehicle purchases. If cost wasn’t an issue, 48% of Aussies would purchase either an electric or hybrid vehicle for their next vehicle. However, the upfront costs 58%, lack of infrastructure 48%, maintenance costs 42%, & charging times 42% are all factors preventing people from making the switch.

What were Toluna’s thoughts on the research?

Sej Patel, Country Director, Toluna, Australia & New Zealand, said “Our findings show that the rising cost-of-living and energy crisis is causing consumers to become increasingly concerned, to the point where it’s impacting their health. Yet, even as Aussies are preparing to forego some of their lifestyle choices in the face of price hikes – like cutting back on eating out, taking fewer holidays, and trading down for more generic supermarket brands.”

“They are not prepared to sacrifice their values. Even in the midst of an economic crisis, Aussie consumers remain staunch when it comes to holding brands accountable & proactively seeking out the most socially & environmentally responsible,” Sej Patel added.

“This is an incredibly significant finding, & brands & businesses who are not already focused on improving their ESG efforts must do everything they can to prioritise it. It’s clear that consumers are unwavering when it comes to their values, & businesses would do well to ensure they’re making efforts to understand how their customers tick to remain relevant.”