SymphonyIRI Quarterly MarketPulse Survey Finds Gen-Xers Practicing Frugal Ways

Generation X—those born after the post-World War II baby boomers—generally has a positive outlook on the economy, but that doesn’t mean they are free spenders. In fact, they are more frugal than baby boomers and seniors, according to SymphonyIRI’s Q3 2012 MarketPulse, the company’s ongoing survey series that analyzes consumer sentiment about the economy and how the evolving economy is impacting their attitudes, perceptions and CPG shopping behaviors.

On the surface, it may seem Gen-Xers have more in common with boomers, but the reality is that they share many of the same penny-pitching, tech-savvy traits of millennials. In addition, SymphonyIRI is releasing the latest results from its Shopper Sentiment Index, which finds that, in general, U.S. consumers have been demonstrating an increasingly positive financial outlook during the third quarter.

“From seniors and millennials to Hispanics and moms, our MarketPulse survey has allowed us to examine a vast array of critical consumer segments during the last year,” says Susan Viamari, editor of Times & Trends, SymphonyIRI. “Now, we are filling in another piece of CPG marketers’ consumer puzzle by checking the pulse of Gen-Xers with our latest survey. Sandwiched between baby boomers and millennials, Gen-Xers are aged 35–44 and are sometimes referred to as the ‘ignored generation.’ However, these consumers have well-established careers and families, and their spending power should not be overlooked by CPG retailers and manufacturers.”

Cheap but Cheerful

Gen-Xers were graduating from college and entering the adult world after the 1987 stock market crash and the recession that followed, so many were left jobless and moved in with their parents. This somewhat “bleak inheritance” shaped their future financial attitudes and shopping behaviors much like The Great Recession has influenced millennials.

Even though Gen-Xers are more financially optimistic versus the average shopper—24% think their financial situation has improved during the last 12 months and 37% feel their finances will improve during the coming year—this generation is very cost conscious and careful about their purchases. According to MarketPulse survey results of Gen-Xers:

  • 37% buy brands that are on sale rather than their preferred brands versus 45% of millennials, 27% of boomers and 22% of seniors;
  • 33% choose products based on loyalty card discounts versus 35% of millennials, 25% of boomers and 16% of seniors; and
  • 20% steer clear of certain aisles to avoid unplanned purchases versus 22% of millennials, 15% of boomers and 11% of seniors.

Of course, it takes some planning and forethought to save a buck, so Gen-Xers also do their homework before heading to the store. A whopping 69% make shopping lists and use a variety of tools in their list-making process: 49% review circulars, 48% use coupons, 14% leverage the Internet, and 10% refer to a retailer’s website. When it comes to list making, Gen-Xers’ coupon, Internet and retailer website usage is comparable to millennials and higher than boomers and seniors.

From Slackers to Tech Leaders

Generation Y, or millennials, are often touted as the most tech-savvy generation, but Generation X is actually right on par with millennials and much more “wired” versus boomers and seniors in a number of ways when it comes to CPG-related behaviors.

  • 52% download coupons from manufacturer websites, 51% download coupons from retailer websites, and 51% download coupons from couponing sites, such as SmartSource.
  • 38% research products online, and 35% visit deal sites, such as Woot and Groupon.
  • 31% use social media sites, such as Twitter and Facebook, to get coupons, and 23% look for updates from retailers/manufacturers via email/text message, while 18% research products on blogs.

SymphonyIRI Shopper Sentiment Index

In Q2 2012, SymphonyIRI launched its Shopper Sentiment Index to shed light on purchase behavior in terms of price sensitivity, brand loyalty and changes in spending required to maintain desired lifestyles. With a benchmark score of 100 based on Q1 2011 information, a Shopper Sentiment Index score of more than 100 reflects consumers that are less price driven, more loyal to favorite brands and more easily have the ability to maintain their desired lifestyle without changes.

Latest findings from the Shopper Sentiment Index reveal that overall sentiment inched up to 99.4 in Q3 versus 97.8 just one quarter prior. This nearly mirrors the 99.5 experienced in Q1 2012, reflecting a rebound from the dip that occurred in the second half that year.

When looking at the Index by age group, sentiment for millennials, those aged 18–34, saw the sharpest uptick last quarter, while other age groups also increased, but to a lesser degree. Despite this most recent uptick, millennials are still lagging behind their elders when it comes to views of their own personal financial rebound.

”Millennials are trying to get their feet on the ground during a long and difficult economic season, so it makes sense that it is going to take them longer than older, more established shoppers to find firm financial footing,” concludes Viamari. “But, the good news is that all age groups are beginning to show signs of optimism, and that bodes well for CPG marketers that are looking to turn the page on The Great Recession.”

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