Pulse Report: Back To Basics

Against a backdrop of stagnant wages and high unemployment, consumers increasingly are clipping coupons and scouring store circulars as they write up their grocery lists before heading to the supermarket, according to SymphonyIRI Group's latest MarketPulse Survey findings.

By planning ahead, shoppers are cutting back on nonessentials, trading down to less-expensive national and store brands and sticking to a budget. In fact, eight out of 10 consumers are making CPG purchase decisions at home, and seven out of 10 are arriving at grocery retailers with a shopping list in hand, SymphonyIRI's research indicates.

Robert I. Tomei,
president of Symphony Consumer & Shopper Marketing

But do shoppers still purchase all the categories and brands on their lists, or do in-store efforts influence them to buy different products at a lower price or on deal?

"Consumers have evolved into master bargain hunters during the course of the economic downturn," says Robert I. Tomei, president of Symphony Consumer & Shopper Marketing, a business unit of SymphonyIRI Group. "The dramatic shift we have seen toward at-home decision-making is powerful enough to incent all CPG marketers to ensure that they are beginning to impact shopper decisions well before the shopper enters the retail space."

But it's critical that retailers continue to provide consistent, complementary communication at the point of purchase, says Tomei, to reinforce these buying decisions.

Half of consumers say they are stocking up on items when they go on sale, while 55 percent are making brand decisions based on available coupons, and 42 percent base some purchases on available shopper loyalty discounts. Multi-pronged programs, such as coupons, samples delivered through the mail or bundled with newspapers, and strong digital and social media presence are critical today.

"The CPG environment is quickly evolving," says Tomei. "Retailer strategies, too, must evolve."

How shoppers make their lists
Q3 2011
Q1 2011
Listed categories to buy (e.g. coffee, frozen pizza, vitamins)
Used a store circular to make the list
Used coupons to make the list
Made a list based on ingredients needed for recipes
Listed specific brands to buy
Listed specific private label/store brand items to buy
Used the Internet to make the list

SOURCE: SymphonyIRI MarketPulse Q3 2011 & Q1 2011

Homework: Shoppers study up on sales

Shoppers are spending more time studying products, prices and promotions before they head to the store. About 49 percent of consumers reported using a store circular when making their shopping lists in the third quarter of 2011, up from 44 percent in the first quarter, while 44 percent said they used coupons when developing their list in the third quarter, up from 38 percent in the first quarter. In addition, 8 percent used the Internet to determine what to buy. About 17 percent of consumers listed specific brands on their shopping lists, up from 14 percent in the first quarter, and 9 percent said they note specific private label brands to purchase.


Consumers who have cut back on "nonessential" grocery items

Consumer financial status
SOURCE: SymphonyIRI MarketPulse Q3 2011

Top ways consumers save on personal/beauty care expenses

I try to make personal care products last longer

I go to hair salons or spas less often

I try to make beauty/cosmetic products last longer

I am going to the doctor less often and self-treating more to save money

People in my household share more products than we used to

SOURCE: SymphonyIRI MarketPulse Q3 2011

DIY products make inroads

To save money, half of consumers say they are frequenting hair salons or spas less often, while one-third report visiting the doctor less often and choosing to self-treat with over-the-counter remedies. But even when trading down from professional services, consumers are still scrimping on personal care products and cosmetics, with 55 percent saying they try to make personal care products last longer and 43 percent reporting the same strategy for beauty products.

How consumers cope with tighter budgets
SOURCE: SymphonyIRI MarketPulse Q3 2011

TIP: Market to consumers at home, where shopping decisions increasingly are being made, as well as on the go and in the store.


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