More Shoppers Estimating Better Financial Situations for Themselves, According to SymphonyIRI

Just over one quarter of shoppers (27%) anticipate they will be financially better off a year from now, up from 22% with this view one year ago. In a similar sign of good news, 21% believe their financial positions will be worse a year from now, down from 30% with that opinion last year at this time. This cautious optimism is a principal finding of SymphonyIRI’s second-annual EconoLink survey, “Economic Shopper Segmentation: A Look into How Shoppers Are Changing Their Behaviors in Today’s Economic Environment.” The study segments shoppers into one of six profiles and surveys their attitudes and shopping patterns. To get into the spirit of this year’s election season, SymphonyIRI also conducted a companion survey that analyzes shopper voting preferences based on their EconoLink profiles.

“Many shoppers believe their financial situations will be stronger next year, reflecting other SymphonyIRI surveys released this year,” said Robert I. Tomei, president, consumer and shopper marketing, SymphonyIRI Group. “We anticipate, however, that many shoppers across all segments will continue to practice prudent shopping patterns, such as buying on deal, choosing store brands over national brands, and researching offers online. These foundational trends are not fleeting shopping behaviors and will have a profound impact on manufacturers and retailers for years to come.”

EconoLink groups shoppers into a series of unique profiles, enabling CPG and retailer marketers to better understand how categories, brands and stores perform. These segments include:

  • Downtrodden: With a median annual income of $41,000, these shoppers are highly pessimistic about their financial situations and tend to shop at mass merchandisers, dollar and convenience stores.
  • Cautious and Worried: These shoppers also have a bleak financial outlook, tend to shop at mass merchandisers, and have a median income of $42,000.
  • Start-Ups: Impacted by the recession but with a bright outlook, Start-Up shoppers have a median income of $44,000 and skew toward shopping at grocery, drug and convenience stores.
  • Optimistics: With a median income of $48,000, these shoppers favor supercenters, drug and convenience stores. The category name describes this group’s outlook.
  • Carefree: A financially stable group, these shoppers earn a median income of $59,000 and skew toward shopping at club stores. They tend to be brand loyal.
  • Savvy Shoppers: Earning on average $81,000 and financially stable, Savvy Shoppers favor grocery, drug and mass merchandiser channels. They enjoy shopping and the quest for value.

Shoppers Increasingly Optimistic, but Pockets of Gloom Remain

The outlook for the future is generally positive among all EconoLink segments, with the most optimism exhibited by Downtroddens, 16% of whom believe their financial situation will be stronger one year from now as compared to 11% who held this belief last year. Start-ups’ optimism doubled; 18% believe their financial situation will be better next year, as compared to just 9% last year. Carefrees also have a positive outlook (18% this year versus 11% last year).

In addition to their outlook for the future, EconoLink also studied shoppers’ attitudes about their financial positions today versus one year ago. Overall, 18% believe that compared to last year at this time, their financial positions are better, versus 15% who held this view last year. Those stating their financial positions are worse today versus last year decreased from 38% in 2011 to 34% today. Within the EconoLink shopper segments, the largest increases in optimism occurred among Start-Ups (11% stating their financial situation today is better than one year ago versus 6% one year ago), and Carefrees (15% versus 10%).

However, trends that point to weaknesses in the recovery remain. Dollar spending via trade and coupons jumped to 31% from 27% in Q2 2012 over Q2 2011. Shoppers in some EconoLink segments are faring less well than others. Just 17% of Savvy Shoppers believe their financial situations are stronger today as compared to a year ago, versus 23% last year. Even Optimistics are not as positive as their segment name indicates; their beliefs about their financial situation this year versus last and for the future are statistically flat in this year’s survey when compared to last year’s results.

“Today’s shopping environment is extraordinarily complex, with shoppers sometimes reporting what appears to be inconsistent behavior,” said Larry Levin, executive vice president, general manager, consumer and shopper insights, SymphonyIRI. “For example, Cautious and Worried shoppers, with the second-lowest median annual incomes and a bleak outlook, are not likely to actively collect coupons, use in-store circulars or pay attention to signs and displays in the store. Yet, they are among the most price-sensitive shopper segments. CPG and retail decision makers should use EconoLink segmentation information as part of an ongoing strategy to not only better understand their shoppers’ attitudes and habits, but also to develop relevant communications and promotional programs to drive their shopping behavior.”

And the Winner of the Election Is…

SymphonyIRI fielded a companion survey to this year’s EconoLink study, asking shoppers about their voting plans for the 2012 presidential election. Note, this survey was conducted prior to any of the presidential debates.

When grouped by shopping segment, 60% of Optimistics, 49% of Savvy Shoppers and 48% of Start-Ups generally have a more positive outlook on the economy and appear more likely to vote for President Obama, while 46% of Downtroddens and 44% of Cautious and Worrieds seem to favor Governor Romney. Those who remain undecided in these segments range from 11% to 19%, which appear to be a higher percent than is widely reported in national polls.

On an encouraging note, very significant majorities in all shopper segments are both registered to vote and plan to vote. Carefrees, Savvy Shoppers and Optimistics reported the highest numbers in both categories.

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