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The IT List: Hottest Trends for 2012

Amid reports of a ho-hum holiday season, you really have to wonder about current consumer mindset. After a strong turnout Black Friday weekend, Hurricane Sandy hit, we witnessed tragedy in Sandy Hook, while those on Capitol Hill literally left us hanging on the fiscal cliff. Retailers continued to give consumers what they really wanted – deals, deals, and more deals – but ultimately it appears that practicality and a focus on needs were at the forefront of consumers’ thoughts as we approached December 25. To top everything off, NBC revealed record ratings for its Christmas Eve showing of It’s a Wonderful Life…coincidence? Perhaps not.
 
We at BIGinsight tallied up all of the votes in the lively “Hot or Not?” segment for the whole of 2012 to see which of the 145 trends, personalities, and events really got consumers (Adults 18+) buzzing last year. And while items like holiday shopping online and the New Apple iPad landed high in the rankings, the top 10 list points to consumers focused more on what really matters:
 
#10 NFL (Sep-12)*
 

Football: America’s new favorite pastime? With its top ten ranking, the NFL is certainly giving Major League Baseball (Apr-12, #46) a run for its money. The Giants-Patriots match-up for Super Bowl XLVI (Jan-12, #19) finished within the top 20 this year; however, it was the Packers-Steelers bout in Super Bowl XLV that took top honors in this list back in 2011.

#9 New Apple iPad (Mar-12)

At #9, Apple’s third iteration of its popular iPad was the top tech gadget we polled in 2012, while the more recent releases of the Apple iPad Mini (Nov-12, #25) and Kindle Fire HD (Oct-12, #27) – which sparked the great tablet debate – ranked lower in our list overall.

#8 London Summer Olympic Games (Jul-12)

Fresh off of 2011’s royal wedding, the British invasion of sorts continued for Americans in 2012 with the London Olympic Games. Ranking higher than any other athletes on our lists, swimming superstars Michael Phelps (Aug-12, #21) and Ryan Lochte (Aug-12, #36) proved that they were certainly the pride of the yanks.

#7 Farmers’ Markets (Jul-12)

Perhaps it’s because they offer fresh fare or maybe it’s their “shop small” charm, but at #7, Farmers’ Markets were hit among consumers getting back to the basics this year, though Community Gardens (Aug-12, #81) and Gluten-free Diets (Jul-12, #106) didn’t rank quite so highly.

#6 2012 Presidential Election (Sep-12)

While those of us residing in the swing states couldn’t wait for the endless barrage of phone calls, mailers, and commercials to end, this year’s Presidential Election was certainly very important to all who exercised their right to vote.

#5 Coupons (Jun-12)

Indicative of a consumer group prioritizing budgeting, practicality, and – most importantly – saving money, Coupons scored a top five position in this year’s list. Note to retailers and manufacturers: keep ‘em coming in 2013.

#4 Voting (Nov-12)

You lose your right to complain when you don’t exercise your right to vote…right? Whether their candidate won or lost the election, Americans set precedence on voicing their opinions this year.

#3 “Made in America” Products (Jan-12)

While they may be few and far between, at #3 on our list, “Made in America” Products seem to be what consumers prefer. Or perhaps it’s logical reasoning for boosting our sagging unemployment rate

#2 Holiday Shopping Online (Dec-12)

Arguably one of the few bright spots for retailers over the past holiday season (gift cards were pretty popular as well), shopping online – whether via a traditional computer/laptop or a mobile device – just clicked with consumers this year. With free shipping offers abound, gift givers were able to skip crowded malls, long checkout lines, and stock-outs in favor of cruising the web for the big bargains, competitive pricing, and compelling customer reviews from the comfort of their couches. However, with Holiday Shopping in Stores (Dec-12) landing at #15, it appears that plenty of Santas still preferred to shop the old fashioned way.

#1 Thanksgiving (Nov-12)

While the Black Friday shopping tradition is increasingly encroaching on the fourth Thursday of November, consumers are seemingly taking a stand on the Thanksgiving holiday, placing it atop our list this year. (Giving Thanks was #2 last year.) It’s a Wonderful Life, right?

* The month/year each item was asked is denoted in parenthesis (MMM-YY).

This post originally appeared on Forbes.com as a contribution to the Prosper Now blog.

Hot Trends for December: Not a Creature Was Stirring, Except for a Mouse…

December 27, 2012 Leave a comment

Do you hear what I hear? That wasn’t eight tiny reindeer up on the housetop recently, but the soft sounds of mouse clicks bringing joy to all of those good little girls and boys, as holiday shopping online topped out “Hot or Not?” segment for December.

Those who love the annual Christmas tradition of fighting for a parking space, scouring the [sale] racks for perfect gifts, and braving the long checkout lines, however, kept holiday shopping in stores alive at #2 in our heat spectrum this month. Buoyed by a large proportion of celebrants under 35, New Year’s Eve Parties clocked in at #3.

And perhaps one of the stories we’ll hear most about in 2013, mom-to-be Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, bested the results for Princes William and Harry earlier in the fall. She’s certainly shaping up to be the next people’s princess [at least among us Yanks] – particularly among women 35+.

Hot or Not? December 2012

Proof that you can put anything in front of the word “diamond” and find gift-giving success among the female crowd: about two in five women gave brown/chocolate diamonds two thumbs up. Ditto for cashmere. And rounding out fashion, while ugly christmas sweaters registered pretty cool on our heat-o-meter this month, those under 35 found the humor in this new holiday tradition.

Finally, while it appears that consumers certainly intend to celebrate as the ball drops for 2013, don’t expect them to be rockin’ with Ryan Seacrest.

For more on what we found “Hot or Not?” for the month of December, plus other consumer highlights, check out this month’s video briefing:


Happy New Year!

Source: BIGinsight.com

© 2012, Prosper®

BIGinsight™ is a trademark of Prosper Business Development

Pain at the Pump: Gas Price Impact Update

After learning about how gas price expectations impact behavior, what changes consumers are making as a result, and who they believe is in control, I thought we could take it back to basics this month and dig into where the impact stands today. We know that confidence is up slightly this month but not looking stellar compared to previous years, and the economy continues to play a big role in back-to-school spending plans.  Are pump prices still a pain or are they becoming a slightly more manageable ache? We turn to the Consumer Vital Signs InsightCenter™ to get our answer.

For the third consecutive month, the average gas price* in the U.S. has declined, dropping from $4/gallon in April to $3.42 in July. After hearing about $5/gallon forecasts, $3.42 doesn’t seem so bad. Following suit, the percentage of consumers being impacted by gas prices has declined from 76.3% in April to 71.5% in July, nearly 15 points lower than the 86.0% of Adults 18+ who were being impacted in June of ’08 when the price per gallon was $4.03.

*The average gas price is for the first week of each month to correspond with when the survey is being conducted.

This still means, though, that the majority of consumers are being impacted by fluctuating gas prices and changing their spending habits as a result. After paying $3.25/gallon last week and feeling like I was getting a deal, I quickly came to realize that notion was absurd; $3.25 per gallon is still a lot of money when you remember a day when prices were less than $1/gallon. It seems the majority tends to agree.

While driving less often continues to be the most popular (and logical) habit to conserve fuel, this is down from last year (45.8% in Jul-11 to 41.0% in Jul-12). Reducing dining out, decreasing vacation, spending less on clothing, delaying major purchases, and spending less on groceries are also all down from last year among Adults 18+. Carpooling, however, has seen a very small increase from 7.6% in Jul-11 to 8.3% in Jul-12.

So, is consumers’ pain at the pump excruciating or just a slight annoyance? With the large majority of consumers still being impacted by fluctuating gas prices, it does still seem to cause them a bit of pain. However, Anxiety at the Pump may be a more appropriate name for this ongoing blog. After feeling the pinch of $4/gallon in the midst of the Great Recession, there is always the fear that those prices will become part of the New Normal in the uncertain world we now live in. We may never go back to the days of not being conscious of how much gas we’re using.

To keep updated on fluctuating gas prices and other ways consumers are being impacted, register for the Consumer Vital Signs InsightCenter.

Source: BIGinsight™ Monthly Consumer Survey – JUL-12 (N = 8509, 7/2 – 7/9/12)

© 2012, Prosper®

BIGinsight™ is a trademark of Prosper Business Development Corp.

Fresh Consumer Insights via Video

For those of you who may have missed our latest Executive Briefing or our monthly BIG Call, we just wanted to let you know that you still have a chance to get up-to-date on the latest consumer trends via our Video Briefing!

That’s right…in just 5 minutes, we’ll educate you on what you need to know about confidence, consumer spending, unemployment, and retail. Simply click the play button below to view our latest insights from our Monthly Consumer Survey:


Interested in becoming a BIG VIP? Click here to sign up for access to a host of complimentary insights, from our briefings and webinars to press releases and more!

For more information on this data, please contact BIGinsight™.

Source: BIGinsight™ Monthly Consumer Survey – JUN-12 (N = 8760, 6/5 – 6/12/12)

© 2012, Prosper®

BIGinsight™ is a trademark of Prosper Business Development Corp.

Pain at the Pump: Who (or What) is Controlling Pump Prices?

June 25, 2012 1 comment

In an election year, gas prices are more than just a concern for consumers. They become a hot topic in debates and fodder for those political ads we all love so much. Consumers’ pain at the pump can quickly turn into a reason for voting (or not voting) for a particular candidate.

In our May American Pulse survey, we asked respondents who or what they believe controls gas prices, and the American people were most likely to indicate that most control is held overseas. Nearly half of Adults 18+ believe that leaders in the Middle East are in control, followed by 44.3% who say that good ol’ supply and demand holds the power, while “International Conflicts” come in third. Under one in four say that Congress (24.4%) or the President (23.1%) are responsible for pump prices.

When breaking this down by generation, the youthful are more likely to spread the power out. While supply and demand tops their list, they are the least likely to say this basic economic principle controls gas prices. They are also the least likely to believe leaders in the Middle East are in control, but more likely than older generations to say the President and Congress are holding the reigns.

When we asked these questions in May, consumers had expected gas prices to be $3.95 per gallon by Memorial Day weekend, only to be pleasantly surprised when they were only at $3.67 per gallon (EIA.gov). With gas prices below expectations and continuing to decline (not to mention those $5/gallon summer forecasts we were hearing about heading into the Spring seemingly by the wayside), we decided to ask consumers in our June American Pulse survey who they believed was responsible for the drop in the average price per gallon, using the same list of available answers. In other words, we know who they think controls them, but who do they give credit to when things are going well?

For Adults 18+, supply and demand tops the list of responsible parties when it comes to prices declining, followed by consumers themselves (the “demand” side of that S+D equation).

As they did with the control, Gen Y was most likely to spread out the credit. Older generations were more likely to focus on supply and demand and consumers. 20.9% of Gen Y indicated that the President was responsible, compared to just 12.6% of Gen X, 6.2% of Boomers, and 4.5% of the Silent Generation. Congress followed the same trend with Gen Y being the most likely to indicate they were responsible for the drop in prices.

So, let’s bring this all back to the election. Will gas prices have a direct impact on who consumers vote for in the November?

If consumers are feeling the pinch (or even anticipating it) because of the dollars draining from their wallets when they fill up their tank, it seems the faces of the incumbents in the Oval Office and at the State House will be flashing in their minds along with the dollar signs. Steep gas prices could be an advantage for those looking to steal a seat in Congress or make Pennsylvania Avenue their new address. On the flip side, with consumers not giving a whole lot of credit to politicians currently holding office, a slight drop in gasoline prices alone probably won’t be the tipping point for incumbents to hold onto their seats.  Either way, Gen Y is most likely to equate pump prices with political offices.

Source: American Pulse™ Survey, May & June 2012, Jun-12 N = 3603

© 2012, Prosper®

Pain at the Pump: Great Expectations

May 18, 2012 2 comments

Earlier this month, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) significantly downgraded the forecast for summer (April through September) pump prices by 16 cents per gallon to $3.79. With the EIA changing their expectations for the summer, are consumers doing the same? Will the pain at the pump impact Memorial Day? And how do gas price expectations impact consumer behavior?

Let’s start with the upcoming holiday weekend. Less than half (43.3%) of Adults 18+ indicated that increased gas prices will impact their spending for Memorial Day, down more than 10 points from last year (53.7%) when gas prices were more than 30 cents higher on average. This is on par with May of 2007 (43.2%) when gas prices were $3.10 on average and below May of 2008 (56.4%) when prices were $3.66 per gallon. What a difference a few years can make; $3.10 per gallon would feel like a clearance sale at this point.

Note: The EIA gas price data is from the first week of each month which corresponds with the timing of the survey collection.

What do consumers expect prices to be by the time the holiday weekend has passed? On average, Adults 18+ anticipate that prices will be $3.95 by the end of May. Consumers have lowered their expectations after an increase in April ($4.17). While this is still above the $3.79 average expectation the EIA recently released, it’s important to note that they announced their new forecast on May 8, 2012, the same day we completed fielding the Monthly Survey. Stay tuned for June to find out if consumer expectations continue to lower and if these decreasing pump price forecasts help boost their confidence in the economy after it fizzled in May.

Why all this talk about expectations for gas prices? Do they really matter? In the April BIG Call, we learned that the answer is yes. When gas prices exceed consumer expectations, they make changes quickly. The chart below shows the percentage of consumers who said they are driving less because of gas prices compared to actual gas prices. From February to March of 2012, we see a more than ten point jump in those who are thinking twice before putting their foot on the gas pedal. While there was a 30 cent upswing in the average gas price during this time, the percentage who were driving less remained flat from March to April when prices increased 15 cents per gallon. Wouldn’t we expect to see some sort of increase in consumers driving less often in April if the 30 cent upswing in March had such a dramatic effect?

After taking a closer look, we came across a BIG insight. The differentiating factor from February to March is that gas prices exceeded consumer expectations. In February, consumers had only expected gas prices to be $3.69 per gallon by the end of the month. By the first week of March, they were at $3.85 per gallon. So, the consumer expectation was below the actual gas price. In March, consumers had an expectation of $4.08 per gallon by the end of the month and prices were only $4 per gallon by the first week of April. The expectation was higher than the actual price.

 *The actual gas price data is from the first week of the following month.

To keep a pulse on how gas prices and other economic issues are impacting consumers, sign up for the Consumer Vital Signs InsightCenter™.

Source: BIGinsight™ Monthly Consumer Survey – MAY-12 (N = 8789, 5/2 – 5/8/12)

© 2012, Prosper®

BIGinsight™ is a trademark of Prosper Business Development Corp.

Gen Y’s Financial Lessons from Forrest Gump

By now we all should be aware that Gen Y* is a group of savers. According to our May Monthly Consumer Survey, more than two in five (41.9%) of these youngsters maintain plans to pad their piggy banks over the next three months. This compares to fewer than a third of Gen-Xers (29.6%) and just one in five Boomers (22.9%). (Silents clock in at 14.8%, but you’ve got to account for the large proportion of retirees in this group.)

Planning to Increase Savings Over the Next 3 Months

Maybe Gen Y hasn’t taken on enough life “experience” in the form of children, mortgages, loans, credit, etc. to put paying down debt at the forefront of their financial priorities. Maybe Gen Y is still relying on $upport from their Boomer and Gen X parents while working their way up the pay scale. Or perhaps – having just experienced the Great Recession – Gen Y has learned a few lessons from its elder generations. Let’s examine some of these would-be lessons à la one of my faves, Forrest Gump.

[While I do realize that the oldest members of Gen Y were 11 when this classic hit the theaters, please...just humor me on this.]

Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get. Financial crisis, anyone? How about the housing meltdown, 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, dot-com bubble, war in the Middle East, or rocketing oil prices? [OK, we should have been prepared for a few of those.] Utopian society we are not; on both macro- and micro-environmental levels, we are always going to have something to be worried about. The difference between Gen Y and its older counterparts, though, is that the youngsters seemed to be preparing themselves for life’s uncertainties by improving their financial foundation. When asked to compare their personal financial situation to the previous year, more Gen Y-ers called their monetary “better off” (27.4%) than “worse off” (25.8%). In each of the older generations, those “worse off” outweighed those “better off.” Nearly two in five Boomers (38.0%) say they are “worse off” financially compared to this time last year, while just 14.5% think they are “better off.”

Stupid is as stupid does. Consumers buying on credit drove much of the spending growth we saw in the pre-recession 2000. Keeping up with the Joneses and living beyond their means left a lot of families in a lurch – and unable to keep up with their bills once the value of their McMansions plummeted, credit card fees and interest rates ratcheted up, and pink slips put many on the unemployment line. “Save not squander” might be the Gen Y financial mantra, as more than two in five (42.8%) say they are saving enough for future needs. This figure eclipses the rate of the second-highest financially prepared generation (Silents, at 31.0%) by a full 38%. Just over one in four Gen X-ers feel they are contributing enough to their piggy banks, while Boomers are the least likely to feel secure in their savings.

I am Saving Enough for Future Needs

It happens. Is anyone 100% secure in their place of employment? Unfortunately, a high unemployment rate is currently a fact of life, and – let’s face it – the current 8.1% doesn’t account for those underemployed or discouraged workers. Gen Y may be having trouble securing their first jobs, working up the pay scale, and avoiding LOFO [last on first off] layoffs. But in the event that “it” does hit the fan, this generation is making the most of the income that they have – by saving at rates higher than any other group. Nearly half (45.4%) plan to save more than 10% of their annual income, much higher than Gen X-ers (31.3%) and Boomers (22.9%). Of course, this may in part be the result of fewer financial obligations [*coughs* mortgages…children], but at least Gen Y is consciously saving and not burning through their paychecks, right?

And that’s all I have to say about that.

Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.

Inspiration for this post wasn’t completely random…I recently visited the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. in Miami.

For more information on this data, please contact BIGinsight™.

* Generations were defined for this analysis in the following manner:

Silent (born 1945 or earlier)
Boomers (born 1946 – 1964)
Gen X (born 1965 – 1982)
Gen Y (born 1983 – 1993)

Source: BIGinsight™ Monthly Consumer Survey – MAY-12 (N = 8789, 5/2 – 5/8/12)

© 2012, Prosper®

BIGinsight™ is a trademark of Prosper Business Development Corp.

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