According to a study carried out by the Finnish Retail Research Foundation at the end of last year on 15-30 November 2021, Finns’ willingness to shop in physical stores has increased: three out of four people say they were happy to go to the store, while only 44 per cent of the respondents thought so a year ago.
“This reinforces the perception that commerce will continue to be multi-channel, and not all purchases will go online. People still want to go shopping in shops,” says Heikki Karjaluoto, Professor of Marketing at the University of Jyväskylä, who compiled the study.
However, according to the study, the pandemic has increased interest in e-commerce of food, for example. More people have also bought food online than before: nearly one-third of the survey respondents said that they had bought food online, while the corresponding figure for the year before was 16 per cent. More than half (61%) feel positive about e-commerce of food, and almost a third intend to continue buying food online. However, the majority (85%) still say they prefer to buy food in the store rather than online.
The Retail Trade Research Foundation conducted the survey in November 2021. The data collected in October 2020, the data collected before the pandemic in 2019 and the data collected during the initial phase of the pandemic in May 2020 have been used as the comparison material.*
The values hit the hardest are sense of belonging and self-realisation
According to the study, the values of Finns have changed during the coronavirus pandemic, which has lasted for two years already. The importance of values in people’s own lives has diminished during the year, with the greatest decline occurring in the sense of belonging and self-realisation.
“For example, when it becomes more difficult to achieve a sense of belonging and self-fulfilment due to restrictions, it seems to have an impact on consumers’ perceptions. A year ago, 74 per cent thought that a sense of belonging was important, but now only 63 per cent thought so,” Karjaluoto explains.
Although the importance of values in relation to one’s own life has weakened, the values’ order of importance has remained almost unchanged. Personal health and the health of loved ones remain the most important values. Security, self-respect and good relationships are the next most important values for Finns. For the first time, self-respect has surpassed good relationships in order of importance in the study.
More information retrieved online to support purchasing decisions
Consumers are increasingly seeking information online to support their purchasing decisions. The three most used sources of information are still Google, the shop’s website and manufacturers’ websites. Of these, the use of Google and the manufacturers’ websites is increasing. Store staff, either in-store or in a chat, are also increasingly used as sources of information in purchasing processes.
Nearly 70 per cent of Finns use Google almost always or always when searching information to support their purchasing decisions. YouTube has also grown in importance as a search channel: almost every fourth (23%) person aged 18–34 almost always or always looks for information on YouTube to support their purchasing decisions. Amazon and Instagram are the least used information retrieval options in purchasing processes.
Young people have difficulties buying online, social media influences purchasing decisions
In the longitudinal survey, the difficulties of buying online decreased earlier with each measurement. Now we have returned to the 2019 level, and the difficulties in buying online have increased slightly from last year. It should be noted that young people between the ages of 18 and 24 have the most difficulties.
“The result can be explained by the fact that the youngest age groups have for the first time made online purchases in certain online stores or product groups. There have also been problems with the availability of some products,” says Karjaluoto.
Social media is increasingly influencing purchasing decisions. Approximately one in five (19%) is now quite, much or very much influenced by social media in their purchasing decisions. A year ago, the corresponding figure was 14 per cent.
With age, the impact is reduced: 80 per cent of people over the age of 50 are not influenced by social media and only 6 per cent of them are quite, much or very much influenced by social media. Being influenced by social media influencers is also on the rise: 13 per cent say they are influenced by social influencers in their purchasing decisions, while the figure was 9 per cent a year ago. Young people between the ages of 18 and 24 are clearly the most affected.
Reduced concerns about irresponsible environmental exploitation
Attitudes towards the environment, such as concerns about the state of the environment and pollution, have remained similar compared to comparative data. The biggest change in environmental attitudes has been the reduced concern about the irresponsible use of the environment by people.
There is a growing interest in the sharing economy and the rental of goods instead of ownership. More than one-third (37%) might consider favouring the sharing economy, compared to 32 per cent one year ago. Similarly, a good one third (36%) tries to buy goods primarily second hand. Women and the lowest income brackets aged under 34 are the most interested in the sharing economy and buying second-hand goods.
On 27 January 2022, the Finnish Commerce Federation together with the Retail Trade Research Foundation will organise the Commerce Research Day where current research on commerce will be presented to the sector and its stakeholders. The survey day has been organised annually since the 1990s at the turn of January-February. Heikki Karjaluoto, Professor of Marketing at the University of Jyväskylä, will present the results of the survey at the research day organised as an online event.
*The research material was collected during the period 15–30 November 2021. (Taloustutkimus web panel + telephone) from Finnish consumers (N=2504). Target group those aged 18–75 by population (age, gender, and wide-area quotas).
Comparative data from previous year’s surveys (October 2020; N=2568; December 2019, N=2156; May 2020, N=1249). The material can be downloaded by those participating in the research day from the Commerce Research Day website: From 28.1.2022 onwards: https://vkts.fi/kaupan-tutkimuspaiva/
Heikki Karjaluoto, Professor of Marketing, University of Jyväskylä, email: heikki.karjaluoto(at)jyu.fi
The survey data is available to universities for theses and other academic research. For enquiries from university representatives: heikki.karjaluoto (at)jyu.fi
Jaana Kurjenoja, Chair of the Retail Trade Research Foundation, Chief Economist at the Finnish Commerce Federation, email: jaana.kurjenoja(at)kauppa.fi