Frugal Optimism Is Consumer Mindset For 2012

According to the recent SymphonyIRI Group’s MarketPulse survey, shoppers became more optimistic in Q4 2011, with an increase among those believing the economy improved in the last six months and will continue to strengthen during the first six months of 2012.

However, Susan Viamari, editor of Times & Trends, SymphonyIRI, notes that “... the vast majority of shoppers... have no plans to change their conservative shopping behaviors in the near future... (so) the influence of both traditional and new media on shopper decisions continues to grow... ” 

20% of surveyed shoppers stated they expect the economy to improve during the next six months, a jump of 4 percentage points over Q3. Those believing their personal financial condition will be “a lot better” or “a little better” totaled 27% in Q4. 32% of wealthier consumers consumers, though, feel that their personal financial position will become stronger in the coming year.

Despite shoppers’ more optimistic view of the economy and their personal financial conditions, feelings around job stability have remained fairly unchanged throughout 2011, with 16% of consumers expecting improvement in the coming year.  But, persistent pessimism is revealed in the growing ranks of those expecting deterioration of job stability. 

18% of consumers indicated expectations for diminishing job security in the coming year, says the report. While expectations for the overall cost of living are not quite as rosy as they were in Q1 2011, 21% noted in the Q4 survey that the amount they will be able to put into their personal savings for the next year will improve. 21% expect the value of their investments to rise, and 16% expect their ability to get credit to become easier. In the most recent quarter, 16% of consumers expect their ability to save will deteriorate “greatly,” and 11% expect their home real estate value to fall “greatly.”

A cornerstone to shoppers’ conservative behavior continues to be the deal, says the report.

  • One-third of consumers purchased 50% or more of their baskets on deal in Q4, 2011 
  • 35% of the country’s wealthiest shoppers, those earning more than $100,000 annually, also purchase at least 50% of their baskets on deal 
  • 26% of shoppers are buying more on deal today than one year ago
  • Among wealthier shoppers, 20% purchased more goods on deal than one year ago 

Digital Media Usage In Shopping  (% of Respondents; Q4 2011)


% of Respondents, Q4

Coupons from manufacturer websites


Coupons from retailer websites


Coupons from couponing websites


Research products on websites


Visit online deal sites


Source: SymphonyIRI, January 2012

Shoppers made brand decisions based on a wide range of traditional and new media influences throughout 2011, says the study. Among traditional media:

  • Use of in-store circulars increased 8 percentage points during the year and were cited as a heavy influencer of brand decisions for 44% of respondents 
  • Coupons influenced brand choice for 55% of consumers in Q4
  • Use of newspaper circulars from home grew from 43% in Q1 to 49% in Q4
  • Shopper loyalty card discounts proved influential to 42% of consumers, ahead of signs or displays in the store (30%)  

Influence of new media is currently below that of the more traditional forms of communication and promotion, but these new means of reaching shoppers are growing quickly, notes the report:

  • Online advertising influence grew by 3 percentage points to 11% in just one quarter
  • Recommendations from blogs or social networking sites also increased 3 points, from 5% to 8% during the year

For additional information from SymphonyIRI, and to access a free copy of the report, please visit here.


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