After years of living in the face of uncertainty, consumers are weary, guarded about their spending, and used to constantly resetting their expectations and adapting their patterns of activity. In 2022, consumers will continue testing new ways to fulfill their needs with an eye toward long-tail pandemic disruption; in the process, their new behaviors will create new economies.

Lingering fear around physical and financial health, along with tempered optimism for a post-pandemic recovery, will compel consumers to find brands, products, and experiences that provide an immediate — even if temporary — sense of happiness, comfort, and relief. An analysis of our multimodal consumer data collected through our Consumer Technographics® methodologies reveal that, in 2022:

  • Consumer demand for brands that deliver instant happiness and comfort will propel category growth. In 2022, consumers will turn to uplifting, pleasing products and experiences that offer reprieve from the fatigue of ongoing uncertainty. In the words of one of Forrester’s ConsumerVoices Market Research Online Community (MROC) member, “I’m looking for brands that make me happy, make me relax, and that put me in a good mood to help me escape.” For some consumers, this means turning to the physical goods that spark joy — from comfort food to at-home spa kits. For other consumers, this will come from experiential consumption, like prioritizing time for personal care or IRL face time with friends and family.
  • A majority of consumers will see the world as all-digital, with no divide. The benchmark for consumer technology adoption and usage has changed: Since the start of COVID-19, 49% of UK and over 60% of US online adults started making online transactions for the first time; 35% of UK and 44% of US consumers upgraded their in-home technology. Even consumers who were once considered to be digital holdouts anticipate continuing the online behaviors they picked up during the pandemic.
    As a result, more consumers have higher expectations that digital experiences work well. Although consumers are generally willing to forgive companies struggling with pandemic-related disruptions, they also expect companies to double down on building a successful and sustainable digital customer experience. Around six in 10 US and UK consumers believe that companies should have figured out how to handle pandemic-related disruption by now; six in 10 US and UK consumers also expect companies to have marshaled their digital resources to prepare a better response in the event that the country is plunged into another public health emergency.
  • Device-enabled mobility will signal the new status symbol. While 50% of US consumers prepare to spend much more of their spare time at home over the next year than they did before the pandemic, consumers are also desperate for variety and movement. In places where COVID-19 isn’t yet well controlled, persistent consumer fears are causing travelers to delay longer-distance leisure trips despite pent-up demand. Thus, the most affluent consumers in 2022 will achieve a freedom of movement by paying for the technologies, service providers, and safety measures that allow uninhibited mobility. Tethered to their devices rather than to a single place, these consumers will shape new habits of productivity while on the road or while engaging in anywhere-work. Companies will incent these affluent consumers to share their personal data in exchange for high-quality on-the-go experiences.

Learn more about what to expect from consumers in 2022 by reading our full Predictions report and by tuning into the Consumer Predictions 2022 webinar on December 22, 1 p.m. ET.