In its latest Consumer Focus study, the Baltimore-based company found that people are less reliant upon television to spur their purchasing decisions and instead are looking toward inserts--as well as online promotions--to help make up their minds.
According to the most recent survey of 3,000 American adults--the company's 10th annual--only 22% listed television as the main influence in making their purchasing decisions, down from 30% in 1998. Conversely, those who cited inserts rose a similar amount, from 19% ten years ago to 27% now.
"A lot of [marketers] think of an insert as a buying tool," Vertis research director Scott Marden tells Marketing Daily. "But [consumers] are browsing them for styles, projects and activities."
Not surprisingly, the Internet is also growing as a decision driver. Ten years ago, Vertis didn't even ask about the Internet in a consumer's decision-making process. And when Vertis first posed the medium eight years ago, only 11% cited the Internet as a decision driver. This year, 26% said it was a key driver, Marden says, adding: "The convenience and ease with which people can get information from the Internet means it will only continue to grow."
The increased availability of information has also led to a more informed consumer when it comes to making purchases. According to the survey, only 17% of adults said they entered a store without having conducted prior research last year, compared to 31% in 2004 (when the question was first asked). Approximately 57% of consumers said they used advertising inserts as a research tool, 50% cited the Internet and 38% used catalogs, according to the survey.
Over the 10 years of the Consumer Focus survey, Vertis has also tracked certain consumer behaviors. For instance, young adults are participating less in team sports than they were 10 years ago. They're also choosing to stay in, rather than go out. According to the survey, only 3% of young adults said they were more likely to go out to a movie than stay in. In 1998, 13% said they were likely to go to a movie.
"That's not only important [information] for advertisers, but also for people who serve home needs," Marden says. "As people spend more time in their homes, all of those categories are going to take on more importance."
The survey also noted that single women are becoming a more influential category versus 10 years ago. In 1998, only 69% of women between 18 and 24 were involved in home electronics purchases. By 2008, that number has grown to 91%, in part driven by the prevalence of personal electronics such as cell phones and computers.
Over the past 10 years, the number of women 25-34 who were single or living with a significant other (as opposed to being married, divorced or widowed) increased 8% to 38%, according to the survey. And they are more educated: the percentage of women who had an undergraduate or graduate degree increased, from 28% to 41%, over those 10 years.
Consumers are much more socially aware than they were 10 years ago, and are making decisions based on that awareness, Marden says. "Nowadays, people are much more environmentally focused or concerned about social fairness," he says.
Consumers are also more open to change, whether it's in the form of political action or personal preference, he says. "Right now is the perfect time for new things, whether it's new products or new leadership. We're also seeing a younger attitude in the country, so we're talking about adopting messaging that's fresh and innovative and captures a new attitude."