Recession Causes Consumers to Adjust their Shopping Patterns

The recession has made it necessary for Americans to rethink and adjust their shopping patterns.  As American consumers re-​learn how to shop, they are re-​shaping the playing field for both consumer products marketers and packaged goods retailers.  According to a new survey by Deloitte and Harrison Group, consumers are taking a more strategic, informed — and even calculating –approach to shopping, when they were previously driven by impulse, advertising responsiveness and the fundamental attractiveness of brands.

A joint study released recently by Deloitte and Harrison Group titled, "The 2010 American Pantry Study: The New Rules of the Shopping Game," found that 92% of people surveyed have changed their grocery shopping behavior in the last two years. In particular, 89% said they have become more resourceful while 84% say they are more precise when they shop.

In addition, the survey showed that while this new shopping approach is generally based on spending less, approximately two out of three (65%) people do not feel like they are sacrificing much. In fact, 79% reported feeling smarter about the way they shop versus two years ago. Moreover, consumers have embraced a persistent recessionary mindset, as 93% surveyed said they will remain cautious and keep spending at their current level, even if the economy improves.

Four Shopper Decision Strategies: New Rules in a Changed Game

To play the new game of shopping, consumers plan resourcefully and often follow their "game plan" precisely, resulting in a win at check-​out. The Deloitte/​Harrison Group study revealed four distinct shopper decision strategies, embodied by four segments of consumers, each reflecting their own attitudes and resourcefulness:

  • Super Savers manage their resourcefulness at the cash register, hunting for and taking pleasure in savvy price management through extensive coupon collection.
  • Sacrificers manage resourcefulness at the shelf, selecting among competing products on the basis of unit price, shopping more store brands and eliminating convenience shopping.
  • Planners address resourcefulness through pantry management where they plan out meals, accept bulk pack discounts and set fixed spending limits.
  • Spectators are the most loyal to national brands and were the least impacted by the recession, but still strive to be resourceful. Their pursuit of value still allows room for specialty goods, but they learn how to save by taking advantage of in-​store discounts.

According to the study, three of these shopper segments — Super Savers, Planners and Spectators — which combined account for about 80% of shoppers, have little intention of returning to their old shopping practices. They see the changes they have made as having led to emotional, as well as practical, rewards and they do not believe they have made unacceptable trade-​offs in the marketplace. Sacrificers, on the other hand, are not as pleased with the changes they have had to make, particularly when it comes to the adoption of store brands.

Brand Loyalty Fades as Consumers Hunt for Bargains

Watching store fliers has also become somewhat of an American pastime and a key strategic approach for consumers' to meeting their objective. There is an increasing preference for shopping only for sale items with nearly half (48%) putting off a purchase of a product they wanted because it was not on sale.

In addition to delaying a purchase until the "right deal" comes along, consumers are also considering different brands. According to the survey, three out of four (75%) people are more open to trying private label and store brands than two years ago. Consumers surveyed don't believe they are sacrificing when buying store brands, with 85% saying they have found several brands that are just as good as national brands. In fact, 80% of those surveyed believe that most store brands are manufactured by the traditional national brands.

[Source:  "The 2010 American Pantry Study: The New Rules of the Shopping Game," Deloitte and Harrison Group.  12 Jul.  Web.  12 Jul. 2010.]