LONDON: Almost half of UK consumers have permanently changed their shopping behaviour because of the economic downturn and now habitually use reward schemes, coupons and vouchers, a new report has said.

Loyalty firm Aimia surveyed 2,000 adults for its Loyalty Lens report and found that while 61% of respondents said they had altered their shopping habits because of recession, some 43% claimed to have done so on a lasting basis.

The report comes alongside the release of latest official GDP figures for the UK, showing the economy is experiencing a broad-based recovery and is growing at a rate of more than 3% a year.

"The coping mechanisms used during the recession have evolved into new behaviours in the home and on the high street that look set to last," Jan-Pieter Lips, president of Aimia EMEA, told Marketing.

He described the current situation as "a new rewards economy". Everyone, he said, whatever their income, was "using a toolbox of ways to make their money go further, from discounts and rewards, to entertaining at home".

The survey found that the proportion of respondents using reward schemes to stretch their budget had risen to 74%, a three point rise from a similar survey in May 2012.

The use of price comparison sites and price auction websites had also increased over the same period, from 56% to 57% in the case of the former, and from 49% to 52% for the latter. The use of shopping vouchers was steady at 70%.

A more dramatic shift was evident in the finding that 48% of people now opted to entertain at home rather than eat out, up from 39% in 2012. And when they did eat out more were using vouchers or coupons than before – 44% against 34%.

Lips suggested that people were focused on making smaller daily savings in order to continue to enjoy spending on larger purchases. For example, only 30% of respondents now said they were forgoing a foreign holiday in order to save money, compared to 43% in 2012.

"Loyalty schemes, discounts and rewards are going to continue to be critical," said Lips. "But as consumers become harder to please, businesses should be wary of slipping into short-termism. Businesses need to work harder than ever to win and keep customers.

"Those that concentrate on building stronger personal relationships based on understanding their customers over the long term will be the ones that succeed," he added.

Data sourced from Marketing/ONS; additional content by Warc staff