The “Hot or Not?” segment in our September survey was full of current events, personalities, and [my favorite] fall fashion trends. But what trumped the royal family, fantasy football, and peplum tops?
The 2012 Presidential Election.
I guess, though, it would be a little disturbing if the 9,000+ consumers who completed this month’s survey were more excited about the next generation Wii U than the race to the White House. #priorities
Fall’s arrival also has consumers gearing up for the 2012 NFL season as well as fantasy football leagues. And, despite its recent political controversy, Chick-fil-A is still a winner with fast foodies:
In other news, it appears that Prince Harry’s recent antics in Las Vegas only served to endear him further with Americans at large. The royal, now serving in Afghanistan, bested big bro Prince William in our poll this month. Lance Armstrong – with his own “Did he? / Didn’t he?” doping drama – found himself in an unfamiliar position toward the end of the pack this month.
With half the population – i.e. men – finding little to get excited about here, fashion trends typically find themselves in “ice cold” territory. However, it does look like ladies’ best bets for fall are entrenched in the more preppy territory with hunter green and blazers topping vegan leather and peplum tops.
I’m grateful, though, that women under 35 are more psyched about the faux leather movement: while my husband recently gave my leather-like coated denim a big thumbs down [the term “80s groupie” was used], this is a trend I’m planning to stick with…anything to keep you young, right?
For more on what we found “Hot or Not?” for the month of September, plus other consumer highlights, check out this month’s video briefing:
© 2012, Prosper®
BIGinsight™ is a trademark of Prosper Business Development Corp.
2012 hasn’t been kind to JC Penney. And, it doesn’t appear that Q4 will get any better for the department store, which has struggled to shake up its stodgy image this year and in the process has rattled its core customer base. According to the Prosper Spending Index, JC Penney shoppers’ outlook for holiday gift spending falls below that of the general population, with an index of 95.9 (baseline index = 100).* Among JC Penney shoppers with holiday spending plans in mind, two in five (44.2%) plan to spend less on holiday gifts this year than they did for 2011, while fewer than one in ten (7.4%) plan to spend more.
As could be expected, the holiday spending outlook is similar among those shopping Walmart (index = 94.4). Still, a slightly larger proportion of shoppers at the discounter, known to cater to more cash-strapped, lower income households, plans to spend more for the upcoming holiday season (9.5%) compared to JC Penney shoppers (7.4%).
Among the customers analyzed, shoppers at Macy’s, a retailer which has arguably benefited from JC Penney’s EDLP strategy switch-up, maintain the most positive outlook on holiday gift spending, with a Prosper Spending Index of 110.9. TJ Maxx loyalists also hold a brighter-than-average outlook (index = 106.3). Target (102.4) and Kohl’s (101.0) shoppers’ holiday spending plans are in line with the overall average.
So we know JC Penney shoppers will be trying to cut back on their holiday gift spending this year, but just how do they intend to accomplish this?
Memo to Ron Johnson: Your shoppers (or what’s left of them) are still motivated to buy based on sales and coupons.
Among JC Penney customers, nearly half say they are shopping for sales more often (45.4%) and/or are clipping coupons (42.1%) in efforts to help balance their budgets – higher than the overall average. Among the retailers mentioned, Kohl’s shoppers – rabid for that Kohl’s Cash – are the only ones eclipsing both of these figures.
With economic uncertainty pervading consumer mindsets, today’s shoppers – JC Penney’s included – continue to possess an innate need to feel good about spending their hard earned dollars, particularly when it comes to spending on those not-so-essentials like gifts and apparel. And in shoppers’ “feel-good” toolkit are coupons, weekly promos, and special sales. These items are, of course, generally absent from JC Penney’s promotional strategy – setting the department store up for additional customer loss during the critical holiday season.
Think about it like this: getting a $60 sweater on sale for $30 is something to write home tweet about. Simply buying a sweater for the $30 ticket price? It’s a little ho-ho-hum.
* Holiday outlook insights are based on celebrants who have holiday spending plans in mind.
This month, we’ve introduced the Consumer Snapshot – a concise look at a few trending topics for the month of September, designed to give you a BIG picture view of current consumers.
In this month’s video analysis, we’re examining consumer confidence, practical spending and personal finances, and the pain at the pump. And, we wrap things up with a peek at Holiday 2012 spending plans.
Interested in becoming a BIG VIP? Please click here to sign up for access to a host of complimentary insights, from our briefings and webinars to press releases and more.
To view the latest BIG Consumer Snapshot in its entirely: September 2012.
© 2012, Prosper®
BIGinsight™ is a trademark of Prosper Business Development Corp
On the eve of what *may* finally be Apple’s iPhone 5 announcement, we thought we’d check in with our consumers to see how they are handling their possible-new-smartphone-related anxiety.
In our August survey of more than 9,000 consumers, we put the iPhone 5 rumors to the test in our monthly “Hot or Not?” feature. As it turns out, more deemed it “not” (66.1%) than “hot” (33.9%) – placing Apple’s would-be new offering at the low end of our heat spectrum this month, just ahead of current tabloid target Kristen Stewart. [cue Debbie Downer]
Recall the iPhone 5 rumblings a year ago? Consumers were much more likely to hotly anticipate the Apple’s latest iPhone iteration back in August 2011, with the majority (50.7%) feeling the heat – from 2011 to 2012, that’s a 33% drop in hotness! With the iPhone 4S not quite living up to our update expectations last year, it appears that consumers are bracing themselves for a less-than-astounding announcement on September 12. #poorSiri
But don’t cry for Apple…it looks like the iPhone 5 [or whatever is soon announced] will have many a shopper clamoring for the new device – particularly among the younger set. Nearly three out of five 18-24 year olds (56.0%) are declaring the 2012 rumors to be “hot,” while those 25-34 index above average as well (45.7%). Expectedly, the temperature on the iPhone 5 buzz gets increasingly chillier as age rises:
With my contract expiring at the end of the year, here’s hoping that Apple’s developed something of grand proportions. You know, it’d be great if Siri could take on my vacuuming. #iwantanappforthat
Source: BIGinsight™ Monthly Consumer Survey, AUG-11, AUG-12
© 2012, Prosper®
BIGinsight™ is a trademark of Prosper Business Development Corp.
Researching products on a smartphone or tablet is quite popular among Mobile Users – 39.6% say they regularly conduct mobile research while 48.5% occasionally do so. Two in three (66.5%) also regularly or occasionally purchase products using their mobile devices. It’s no big surprise that mobile cross-shopping (searching the web on a mobile device to compare offerings and prices while browsing a physical store) is a growing trend among shoppers equipped with smartphones and tablets.
More than half (59.1%) say they have compared prices on a mobile device while shopping in a physical store. 1 in 3 still purchased from the same physical store (34.5%) but just as many chose to purchase from a different retailer (33.8%). The next most popular mobile cross-shopping activities include purchasing from another retailer’s website, either using a smartphone or tablet (25.9%) or logging on using a laptop after leaving the store (22.3%). Those Mobile Users who shopped Best Buy or Amazon.com in the past 90 days are more likely to engage in these activities:
*For this analysis, Shoppers are defined as those who said they shopped at a particular retailer in the past 90 days.
It’s interesting to see the vast majority of those who’ve recently visited Best Buy have cross-shopped without leaving a store, further promoting Best Buy’s growing reputation as Amazon.com’s showroom. These savvy mobile users are looking for the best buy, whether it’s at their current shopping location, next door or online.
Further, mobile devices are great shopping companions. 39.0% say they’ve used a smartphone or tablet to check out product reviews, 35.7% have scanned a QR code for more info, 23.8% have “checked in” for a discount and 17.7% requested a price match—all while shopping in a physical store! Amazon and Best Buy customers are even more prone to these thrifty digital habits:
Over a third (36.8%) of Best Buy shoppers say they’ve requested a price match via mobile while shopping…perhaps they’ve informed a Geek of a better buy found through the Price Check app from Amazon? Best Buy could be in trouble if Amazon’s customers continue to find the site so favorable.
Source: Prosper Mobile Insights™, Mobile Survey (AUG-12), N=328
© 2012, Prosper®
- Recently our friends over at the National Retail Federation directed us to Amazon.com, where Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos had once again posted a public letter to customers, this time stating:
I’m happy to report that Amazon has been rated #1 in the National Retail Federation Customers’ Choice Awards…
Why were we excited to see this? BIGinsight compiled the list of Customers’ Choice Award recipients for the NRF Foundation, which was unveiled at their BIG Show earlier this year. These awards recognize the retailers that provide the “best” customer service and were nominated through an unaided, write-in question by (who else?) consumers.
2011 Customers’ Choice Awards: Top Ten (source: NRF Foundation)
- L.L. Bean
- Lands’ End
- JC Penney
Customer service in the conventional sense has generally implied face-to-face communication: greeting a customer; providing him/her with product information, demonstrations, additional options, or size assistance; suggesting add-ons or complementary products; and finally, completing the sale. Historically, the best opportunity to cultivate great customer relationships is within an environment where personal interaction between the retailer (i.e. sales associates) and customers is at its peak: a physical store.
So does it surprise you that a traditional brick-and-mortar retailer didn’t top this year’s list? Further, just three of the retailers (Kohl’s, JC Penney, Nordstrom) who graced the top 10 aren’t primarily entrenched in e-commerce, catalog selling, or home shopping.
So how does Amazon rank #1 in customer service?
The digital age has forced the evolution of customer service. In a world where emails and texts have replaced more intimate forms of communication, where shoppers can complete a sale 24/7 via online transactions, and where showrooming is linking the physical shopping experience with the virtual, the modern definition of customer service seems to have downgraded the importance of direct human interaction. And, let’s not forget that customer service in the traditional sense has also been crippled in recent years by an economy fostering a trend toward part-time, minimum wage, less “invested” sales associates.
As the world’s largest online retailer, Amazon has been a driving force behind the e-commerce movement and changing standards for customer service excellence. Some of the words consumers used in their reasons to nominate Amazon for Customers’ Choice included “efficient,” “fast,” “reliable,” “no hassle,” “easy,” and of course, “free shipping.” Note that these terms differ vastly from those who nominated Nordstrom, THE purveyor of traditional customer service: “experience,” “friendly,” “personal,” and “knowledgeable.” [More specific reasons can be found here for each retailer included in the top 10.]
Consider too the e-commerce services that online shoppers (a growing group) value. While the majority indicates that toll free “live” customer service very important or important, this figure has declined nearly 10% from 2007. With customers increasingly gravitating to such services as low prices, free shipping, and easy to use websites over the past few years, it’s obvious that verbal communication isn’t a service prerequisite when it comes to buying online.
But are Amazon’s low prices, free shipping, and efficient turnaround enough to capture sustainable customer loyalty? After all, the troubled economy did create a new consumer – one who shops around, is value-oriented, and may find it increasingly difficult to create ties with one retailer over another.
One of the most fascinating parts of the retail industry is that we are always looking toward for what’s “next” – hot new trends, advancements in technology, gotta-have products, or evolving practices that change the way we do business. Retailers like Best Buy and JC Penney have already announced efforts to ramp up one-on-one interaction to drive customers back to their stores, looking ahead to perhaps a renaissance of traditional customer service.
With its history as a game-changer, though, Amazon just might remain what’s “next” for the foreseeable future.