The 2022 consumer – what do they want?

After years of being trapped indoors, people have reassessed how they want to spend their time and money. People want and expect more than products to possess. They want experiences. They want a means to express themselves. They want a way to feel part of something bigger than themselves.


Recent Microsoft Ads studies say that people are more likely to spend money on experiences than materialistic items. Millennials headed the shift, and other age groups followed suit.

Let’s look at the trends leading the way this year. 



Call it vintage, second-hand, thrifting, or charity shopping, whatever you want to call it – it’s on the rise. And as the retail industry makes moves to become more sustainable, thrifting is working its way to the top of the shopping list. 

A recent report from second-hand clothes E-commerce platform ThredUp estimated that the total ‘resale market’ is expected to more than double in value. (From £18bn to £39bn by 2023, taking up 10% of the retail market share.) Social selling app Depop targets Millennials and Gen Z and now has 13 million users, with revenue growth of 100% YOY for the past few years. 

It’s not just challenger brands that are hopping on the resale bandwagon. Levi Strauss launched ‘Levi’s Secondhand’ – a recommerce site for pre-loved Levi’s denim. Not only are there hand-selected vintage pieces, but the majority of items are bought back from Levi’s customers. Got an old pair of jeans you don’t like anymore? Take any denim item (even if it’s damaged), and exchange it for a gift card for future purchases. 

The chief marketing officer at Levi’s says Gen Z “love the hunt, they love finding a really unique item, and it makes it even better that it’s a sustainable choice.” 

People shop for vintage fashion for the experience of going and the thrill of the hunt for something special, especially Gen Z, saying they have more fun when shopping for pre-owned apparel. For Gen Z, upcycled, reclaimed fashion opens up a new sense of individuality and self-expression while helping to save the planet. 

Take away:

This sentiment echoes further than Gen Z though, in eBay’s research, approximately 34% of survey respondents said that sustainability was the driving reason for them to buy pre-owned. Levi’s has created a way to show people they share their values, while cleverly making sure they retain customers with their recycling programme. 


Hybrid Shopping

After people relied on online shopping for goods and services during the last few years, companies have upped their customer experience games – delivery and returns are swift, easy, and more importantly for many – free. 

After people got used to this level of service, they now want more instant gratification, with a speedy and convenient experience mattering more and more. 

This may come as a surprise, but Gen Z actually prefers in-store shopping experiences. They may be online more than any other generation and be the first generation to have had this type of technology available since birth. But, when it comes to shopping experiences, they’re likely to opt for physical settings – with 67% shopping in-store most of the time. That said, 51% will search for promotions or discounts for products they want through their mobile, and 53% will use it to look for items online that might not be available in-store.

Shoppers already use their phones when physically shopping, so brands need to be making moves to make this a seamless experience for shoppers in-store. Imagine seeing something you like in-store, but it’s not your size. A QR code that lets you order the product instantly, with the speedy delivery consumers increasingly expect, could be the difference between a sale and no sale. 

Take away: 

Because of advancements in the way people use social media, both in discovering brands and making purchases, the entire sales funnel can live within social media. 83% of people use Instagram to find new products and services and 87% said they took a specific action, like making a purchase, after seeing product information. (Facebook for Business)

There is an opportunity for brands to revisit their marketing strategies, rework offerings, and create a connected experience online and in-store. 


Social Experiences 

Social experiences are favoured more highly by Gen Z – games nights, food tasting, and immersive experiences are all coming up above the typical boozy night out. It’s not just Gen Z that wants experiences, though – we’ve seen a growing number of pop-up eateries, brunch experiences, and dine-in restaurants often selling out tickets. Nearly half of people would spend more on a dining experience if it had a unique offering, an immersive experience, or live entertainment. Whatever it is, consumers are looking for something more. Something that gives them a sense of getting more for their money. 

This increased appetite for experiences has also influenced how people are gifting. Mother’s Day searches used to heavily focus on jewellery, clothing, flowers, and accessories. Now, spas, restaurants and experiences have all seen a tremendous increase in interest. 

Research also shows that both spa and restaurant gifting was centred around supporting local businesses after the effects of the pandemic, showing us that people don’t just want experiences, they want to feel that they’re making a positive difference in the world. 

Take away: 

For brands, having clear information about ingredients and efforts to protect the world is a key driver for many consumers looking to buy a new product. Being wishy-washy with your intentions won’t cut it with today’s audience – they want to see evidence of your efforts.


Unfiltered Social Media 

A new social media app, BeReal, doesn’t just let users post whenever they like – instead, they have to wait for a prompt. Filters are prohibited, and the user only has 2 minutes to capture and post an image. The app takes a photo using both the front and rear-facing camera, giving people a real glimpse into their friends’ lives. And if you think you can get Instagram ready and wait for your two-minute window – nope – the app changes your posting window every day. 

As the name suggests, BeReal is all about authenticity and champions real-life, unperfect moments in life after covid, and people love it – BeReal has seen its active users increase by more than 315% this year, according to data from Apptopia.

Even though BeReal is a social media platform, they have interrupted the increasingly tiresome flow of perfectly edited photos and false ideas of what people’s lives look like. By completely removing the use of filters and in-app editing, BeReal has differentiated itself and challenged the way that many people, for many years, have used social media – to show only the very best sides of themselves. 

Take away: 

As society takes steps to be more authentic on social media, the need for brands to do the same is already making itself heard. Creating authentic content, with your audience in mind will help you build an emotional connection with your audience and increase the likelihood of them remembering you tenfold.



According to Microsoft, travelling continues to be the most sought-after experience. Searches and clicks for tours and activities are up compared to pre-pandemic times, and travellers are willing to spend more on travel experiences in 2022. 

Luxury experiences look to be a big priority for travellers this year, with ‘Luxury Travel’ searches up 26% YOY, surpassing even pre-pandemic levels, suggesting people are looking for all-inclusive comfort after a turbulent few years.

As well as luxury experiences, travellers are seeking out new and enriching experiences. Travelling preferences vary between generations – Gen Z is most likely to seek adventure during their travels and are most likely to plan activities through research and recommendations from social media. While millennials generally prefer to stay in the comforts of their hotel or resort, with 83% wanting an all-inclusive package. That said, searches for tour-operated excursions and cultural sightseeing experiences are up across the board. Microsoft found that searches for Tour Operators are up 45% compared to before the pandemic. 

Travellers are also looking to take a different kind of holiday. “Wellness tourism” is the new subcategory of travel that has been consistently rising. As health and wellness were a top priority in 2021, the focus has influenced people’s ideal holiday destinations. Not only have they re-evaluated how they want to spend their money and time, but they’ve also assessed their mental health needs and how they can be incorporated into things like holidays – with beaches, spas, and resorts at the top of the list. 

A report from the Global Wellness Summit agrees that wellness travel will be one of the fastest-growing wellness sectors to clock up the fastest growth levels after the pandemic – estimating the growth of 21% each year. As consumer values are changing, we’re expecting an increase in experiential holidays consisting of nature, healing, and mental wellness activities. 

As well as a shift in the types of holidays people are wanting to take, how they find their travel destinations has also changed. Social media is now a place people use to find travel inspiration – and it’s not just travel influencers either – social proof from regular people using hashtags is opening people’s eyes to destinations they would never find flicking through a travel book. 

Take away: 

What brands can take from this is the importance of people-first content being an integral part of your social media strategy. Consumers have shown us they want authentic, original content from real people. In fact, 85% of consumers find UGC more influential than any form of brand content. 


So what?

Across all of these trends in 2022, we’ve seen some common threads. Social media is seeing some massive changes – now a place of research for potential consumers – the need to give them a good experience when they find you has never been more vital. Consumers are literally telling us what they want, and it’s the brands that listen that will find the most success – being able to properly use social listening should be at the top of every brand’s to-do list this year. 

Brands that build memorable and personalised experiences that are the direct result of consumer data will see the returns on their attention and investment through strengthened consumer relationships and brand loyalty, and, of course, purchases. Social media is the way to bridge the gap between physical and digital experiences – how can you take what you learn from social media and use it to enhance physical consumer experiences? And vice versa. To create a real brand experience that has the same impact across all touchpoints. 

Get in touch for help injecting some realness into your content.


With thanks to:
Wunderman Thompson