When it comes to what consumers do when they go shopping, Marketing Daily readers want to know two things: Who's spending (especially if it's Gen Y), and how much are they spending? Here are the top 10 retail/consumer behavior stories of the year:
A question-and-answer session with Paul Parkin, founding partner of SALT Branding in San Francisco, generated more reads than any other story in the retail sector this year, probably because he articulated exactly why this generation drives marketers nuts: They've got no loyalty. "I have no doubt that when the new Facebook -- whatever that turns out to be -- comes along, Millennials will flock to it," he told us.
In a similar vein, a report from PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP and Retail Forward grabbed readers' attention by quantifying just how important those free-spending Millennials are to a brand's success. In fact, only 25% of the Gen Y shoppers included in the research say the economy changed their spending habits, compared to 36% of Gen Xers, and 37% of Boomers.
For all the buzz created by social media and m-commerce, this Booz & Co. report found that humble shopper marketing -- yep, boring old end-caps and shelf signage -- is emerging as one of the most effective tools in a marketer's arsenal, with 83% of food, beverage and consumer products planning to crank up their spending on it.
Of course, it's always possible that a Victoria's Secret story vaults into the top 10 just because of the models. (But if that's the case, we wonder why our story on Victoria's Secret's $2 million bra -- which even had a photo of the lovely Adriana Lima modeling the topaz-encrusted creation -- didn't make our list?) It's more likely that readers want to hear about companies using Facebook to actually win sales, and how VS uses its fan base to launch new products and special promotions.
Once again, demographics are the driver, and Gen Y isn't always the crowd that tickles your fancy: In this case, it was Experian research illuminating just how old the typical mom has gotten: The universe of moms of children 18 and under who are 35 plus has grown from 40.9 million to 44.9 million in just four years.
We suspect readers liked this story so much because even though it told them news they didn't want to hear -- and that fun-to-be-frugal gestalt has been especially painful in the luxury sector -- it was a truth many of us felt right to our very bones. In fact, 81% of consumers say they enjoy spending less. To borrow a line from a favorite Sprint commercial, we like sticking it to the man, even if we are the man.
It could be that readers clicked on this story so often because watching oldster actors Betty White and Abe Vigoda get tackled in the dirt is good clean fun, or that Super Sunday created a vast collective longing for the Clydesdale moment that never came. But we suspect it's that America got swept away by one of the most spectacular story lines to ever come out of the NFL. Sure, the ads were good. But "Who dat?" fever was better.
Okay, this one doesn't fit either our demographic or spending theme, and we can't even claim it's got that New Orleans juju. We're thinking that a) "tush" is just a really cute word, and b) there's a level of intrigue that anyone is silly to think "toning gear" actually works. Like Snuggies and Chia Pets, marketers wonder, "Who's buying this crap? And how can I get them to buy my crap?"
Like No. 6, readers went for this Nielsen data on private-label sales because -- even if you are in the business of branding -- it's hard not to applaud as sensible a consumer uprising as the success of private labels. With more retail chains creating multiple tiers of high-quality private-label products, it's nice to see that the principal rules of marketing still apply: Offer consumers quality products at a better price, and they'll take it -- no matter how good the national brand's ad campaign is.
And finally, our 10th-ranked story is yet another vindication of the clever consumer, beating back branding efforts at every turn. The recession turned coupon-clipping into a national sport, with Inmar reporting a 27% jump in coupon use in 2009. Brand equity, be hanged, the people say: Give me a dollar-off coupon and I'm anybody's baby.