Consumer Confidence in Personal Finances Up, Though Consumers are Still Cautious

Consumers’ confidence in their personal finances is rebounding, reports SymphonyIRI Group’s latest MarketPulse survey. However, consumers remain cautious about their financial future and will continue to ramp up and/or maintain their conservative shopping behaviors this year. In addition, the survey uncovered that the nation’s 85 million moms have a sunnier outlook on the future compared to the general population.

“Americans have certainly been on an economic roller coaster ride for the past few years, so it is no surprise to anyone that they will not forgo their frugal ways even though they may feel a bit more confident about their bank accounts,” says Susan Viamari, editor, Times & Trends, SymphonyIRI. “They are opening their wallets a bit more these days, but they are still making lists and clipping coupons, so the key for CPG marketers is to demonstrate the value of their products to consumers.”

Financial Optimism Springs Back Slowly

Consumers’ confidence about their personal financial situations is rebounding in Q1 2012, after slipping in Q2 and Q3 of 2011 and inching up slightly at the end of last year. Today, 19% of consumers feel their financial position has improved during the past year, 40% feel it has remained unchanged and 41% feel it has deteriorated. While these are not glowing statistics, it is the most optimistic outlook seen since Q1 2011.

However, when consumers were asked about their expectations regarding personal finances for the coming year, they were not as positive compared to one year ago. According to the MarketPulse survey:

  • 28% of consumers in Q1 2012 expect improvement in their personal finances during the coming year versus 33% in Q1 2011
  • 46% feel the same about their personal finances today versus one year ago
  • 26% of consumers in Q1 2012 expect their personal finances will deteriorate during the coming year versus 20% in Q1 2011.

Conservative Shopping Behaviors Remain Top of Mind

Shoppers are still looking for a good deal and are putting the time and energy needed into finding the right product for the right price. For instance:

  • 71% of shoppers in Q1 2012 are still make shopping lists at home versus 67% in Q1 2011
  • 56% of shoppers in Q1 2012 are choosing stores based on lower prices offered versus 52% in Q1 2011
  • 62% of shoppers in Q1 2012 look at store circulars before entering the store versus 56% in Q1 2011.

In addition, consumers leveraged a wide variety of tools in Q1 2012 to find the best value:

  • 7% of shoppers are using retailer Web sites to make lists
  • 9% of shoppers are using the Internet to make lists
  • 42% of shoppers are making lists based on coupons
  • 49% of shoppers are making lists based on circulars.

Moms are Resourceful, Tech-Savvy Shoppers

For generations, moms have been teaching their families to “make lemonade from lemons,” and today’s moms are no exception and are tackling money-saving strategies from a number of angles. Because moms utilize new media quite extensively already, the influence of these technologies is notable. MarketPulse survey results show that moms over-index by a wide margin versus the general population across many social media activities. They are two-and-a-half times more likely than the general population to take recommendations/information from social networking sites or blogs. They are more than twice as likely to engage with smartphone applications, and they are twice as likely to react to mobile advertising.

“As the pool of tech-savvy moms continues to grow, the opportunity for CPG marketers and retailers that can connect with them across these various media will grow exponentially, too,” adds Viamari.

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