Digital shapes US shopper habits

01 July 2011

NEW YORK: Digital tools are playing an increasingly important role in shaping US purchase decisions, a study has argued.

Based on regular quarterly research among American shoppers, insights provider SymphonyIRI reported younger customers are particularly open to new media marketing.

Using an index where 100 points represented communications had an average impact, it found 18-34 year olds awarded recommendations and information on blogs, social media some 605 points.

In-store touchscreens posted 476 points, ahead of iPhone apps' 349 points, manufacturer websites or email with 251 points, and favourable comments from other emails and websites, on 171 points.

The last of these channels proved most popular with 35-54 year olds, securing 115 points, where iPhone applications generated 108 points, and Web 2.0 properties hit 106 points.

Official web portals received 102 points, while digital screens in shops recorded 91 points, the study stated.

Regarding participants aged over 55 years old, all of the mediums assessed registered between 61 and 69 points, except for social networks and blogs, on 30 points.

"Across a wide variety of demographics and income groups, consumers are increasingly value and deal conscious," said Srishti Gupta, executive vice president, Emerging Media Solutions, SymphonyIRI.

"So they are looking for the same information. It's just where they look for it that might be different."

Overall, the study revealed 24% of respondents now research products on the internet, with 8% doing so on sites like Twitter and Facebook, matching the amount reading blogs for this purpose.

An additional 21% visit deal sites such as Woot and Groupon, and 14% look for updates from retailers or manufacturers via email and text message.

Downloading coupons is the most widespread activity, as 35% of the sample access vouchers on brand sites, equalling the total for ecommerce hubs, and beating the 31% seen by specialist platforms like SmartSource.

To date, however, only 3% of the featured buyers purchase grocery goods online and have them delivered.

When making shopping lists, 47% of consumers use store circulars, 44% see which coupons they have available, 8% look on the internet, and 6% turned to retailer websites.

The 18-34 year old cohort displayed the highest uptake of digital tools and were the most likely to reclaim vouchers.

Similarly, people earning between $35,000 and $54,000 per year are more influenced by new media.

By contrast, individuals with annual salaries in the $55,000 to $99,000 range typically focus on third-party or retailer websites.

On-going financial problems may contribute to the adoption of new habits, with one third of Americans anticipating their personal situation would decline in the coming year, and half expecting no real change.

More broadly, 70% think the cost of food will rise, standing at 62% concerning utilities, and 58% for gasoline.

As such, 69% of those polled are using shopping lists in a bid to contain spending.

Other "streamlining" strategies include cutting back on non-essential purchases, on 60%, and reducing the variety of items acquired, logging 27%.

"Consumers are feeling bumps in the road as the country continues to strive towards an economic recovery," said Susan Viamari, editor, Times & Trends, at SymphonyIRI.

"Americans are still leery about their job stability and are finding it necessary to save even more money as they face uncertain times."

Data sourced from SymphonyIRI; additional content by Warc staff