The doldrums of summer arrived early, it seems. Several recent research reports on consumer sentiment and shopping behavior show that Americans are not ready to open their wallets any wider this year than last.
Nearly half of the people polled by BIGresearch disagreed or strongly disagreed that a financial recovery is under way. Two-thirds of the 6,648 consumer polled said they had cut back on their credit card usage and 72.9% said they didn’t plan to return to how they used credit cards before the recession.
AlixPartners found even gloomier sentiments: 70% of Americans said their economic situations were the same or worse than a year ago, and 83% expect to spend the same or less on non-essential purchases in the next 12 months. Almost two-thirds (63%) do not expect an economic recovery until 2012—or later. That percentage is strikingly higher than the firm’s previous surveys.
To cope, consumers are resetting their spending behaviors and focusing on value, according to NPD Group’s “Retail & Brand Landscape Report Series 2010” study. For example, they shop at more stores but realize they can leave without buying something. They have also widened their brand considerations, MediaPost reported.
For 81% of the participants in Deloitte’s “American Pantry Survey,” however, their new-found use of coupons and loyalty programs is fun—and 93% said they still expected to spend cautiously even if the economy improved.
Even as they expect to spend less, consumers are shopping more online. Some 55% of respondents to a PriceGrabber.com survey said they were spending more time shopping for and researching purchases on the internet this year, compared with 26% in 2009.
Just as consumers have changed their shopping and spending behaviors, marketers and retailers should examine their digital efforts. Make saving money fun, but keep the emphasis on brand value. Comparing prices online and researching purchases to get the best deal will remain important to consumers who still don’t see easy economic times ahead. Though some indicators point to renewed growth, marketers must keep in mind that their customers are still wary and looking to stretch their dollars.