As consumer confidence and economic optimism slowly returned in the first half of 2010, marketers and market researchers differed sharply over whether the price-conscious consumer who dominated the marketplace during the Great Recession would prove to be a temporary aberration or a permanent fixture in the American economy. This Packaged Facts report sifts through five years of Experian Simmons National Consumer Study (NCS) data to follow the twists and turns in consumer confidence before, during and in the immediate aftermath of the most severe economic downturn in 70 years. The report contrasts the attitudes and behavior of consumers on the highest end of the Consumer Confidence Index of the Experian Simmons NCS (“Confident Consumers”) with those on the lowest end (“Anxious Consumers”). By doing so, it sheds light on the conflicted mindset of consumers as the recession loses its grip and suggests how marketers might respond to their customers in an uncertain post-recession economic environment.
The first chapter of the report tracks changes in consumer confidence between 2005 and 2009, provides in-depth insights into trends affecting the post-recession environment in key areas such as price sensitivity and use of premium brands and highlights key opportunities in the post-recession consumer market. The next chapters contrast the demographics of Anxious and Confident Consumers today, analyze how Confident and Anxious Consumers handle their personal finances and provide an overview of their shopping and spending patterns. Subsequent chapters offer an in-depth view of how Confident and Anxious Consumers shop in supermarkets and drugstores and how they behave when shopping for the home. Another chapter offers an extensive analysis of how Confident and Anxious Consumers spend leisure time, including home entertainment, going out, and using the Internet and cellphones. The final chapter focuses on Confident and Anxious Consumers in the fashion and automotive sectors.
Read an excerpt from this report below.
Market Insights: A Selection From The Report
Consumer Confidence a Dynamic Phenomenon
One of the most striking findings of this Packaged Facts analysis of Experian Simmons NCS
consumer confidence data is that “consumer confidence” is a highly fluid concept. From
2005 through 2009 there were tens millions of Americans who migrated in and out of the
ranks of Confident and Anxious Consumers. At the end of this period, the demographic
profile of Confident and Anxious Consumers had been dramatically transformed.
Many Changes in Demographic Profile of Anxious and Confident Consumers
The demographic profile of Confident and Anxious Consumers changed radically during the
Compared to 2005, the Confident Consumer population base now includes a smaller
percentage of non-Hispanic whites (62% vs. 73%) and consequently a higher
proportion of multicultural consumers (38% vs. 27%).
The same period also saw a reversal in the political composition of Confident
Consumers. Whereas in 2005, only 24% were Democrats and 41% were
Republicans, by 2009 only 24% were Republicans and 41% were Democrats. The
percentage of political conservatives dropped from 45% to 33%, while those
identifying as conservative evangelical Christians declined from 38% to 31% of the
Confident Consumer segment.
Marketers Try to Redefine Meaning of Value in Unpredictable Post-Recession Environment
Retailers and marketers are coming to grips with the need to reposition their brands in the
post-recession era. After surviving a period when they and their customers defined value
purely in terms of price, marketers are searching for strategies that transcend the idea that the
main benefit of buying their brands is to save money. A Macy’s executive has noted that the
retailer is “working to more clearly define Macy’s value to our customers in a way that isn’t
focused only on price,” and is concentrating on longer-term strategic issues such as its
localization program. A Kimberly-Clark Corp. executive has pointed out the need to focus
on innovation that is truly meaningful to customers. As noted in Advertising Age (February
1, 2010), “A big part of the coming-out-of-recession strategy lies in keeping the value
messaging that worked so well in the downturn, but now redefining the meaning of value. Whether it be through transitional messaging, product mix or innovation, the bottom line of
marketing your way out of the recession boils down to honing your relationship with the
In the News
Confident U.S. Consumers Make Much Anticipated Return to Post-Recession Marketplace
New York, April 29, 2010 — Consumer confidence and economic optimism are on the upswing in the first half of 2010, accompanied by new opportunities for marketers and retailers to redefine the meaning of “value” in a still unpredictable economic environment, according to The Post-Recession Consumer in the U.S. by market research publisher Packaged Facts.
“We anticipate that consumers traumatized by the severity of the economic downturn will continue to watch their wallets in the short-term,” says Don Montuori, publisher of Packaged Facts. “In response, retailers and marketers are coming to grips with the need to reposition their brands. After surviving a period when they and their customers defined value purely in terms of price, marketers are searching for strategies that transcend the idea that the main benefit of buying their brands is to save money.”
The report, based largely on Experian Simmons National Consumer Study (NCS) data, reveals that as recently as the first half of 2009, the number of fiscally pessimistic consumers increased significantly. By the time economic optimism rebounded in the second half of 2009, the number of confident consumers increased 25% over the first half from 38 million to 48 million Americans.
Packaged Facts identifies confident consumers as essential to the post-recession rebound due to their above average household incomes and the numerous other characteristics that make them amenable to marketing appeals that transcend the incumbent “price equals value” motif. For example, confident consumers are eager to shop in new stores, try out new products and experiment with new foods. They see the benefits of advertising and are much more likely to pay attention to ads in a wide range of platforms. Confident consumers are also early adopters and influencers who shop frequently and enjoy doing so. In addition, the cohort has a higher likelihood of making a wide range of major purchases in the next year.
The Post-Recession Consumer in the U.S. sifts through five years of Experian Simmons National Consumer Study (NCS) data to follow the twists and turns in consumer confidence before, during and in the immediate aftermath of the most severe economic downturn in 70 years. The report contrasts the attitudes and behavior of consumers on the highest end of the Consumer Confidence Index of the Experian Simmons NCS (“Confident Consumers”) with those on the lowest end (“Anxious Consumers”). By doing so, it sheds light on the conflicted mindset of consumers as the recession loses its grip and suggests how marketers might respond to their customers in an uncertain post-recession economic environment.
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