Archive for January, 2012

5 Facts You Need to Know About the 2012 Consumer

January 31, 2012 Leave a comment

For the first BIG Call of the New Year, I had the privilege of presenting our new January data with Dr. Marianne Bickle, director of the Center for Retailing at the University of South Carolina and author of the soon-to-be-released book, The Changing American Consumer (written in cooperation with the Prosper Foundation).

This month, we discussed the 5 Fact You Need to Know About the 2012 Consumer:

1. Consumer Confidence is Questionable: Back in January 2007, 50.5% of consumers were very confident or confident in the chances for a strong economy. Our current level of confidence is 40% below that heyday, and we really haven’t made any headway on confidence as it compares to when we were weathering the recession.

2. Economic Rebound is Becoming Less Realistic: This month, we found that about a third of consumers are positive that the economy will rebound to its pre-recession glory. That’s down a couple of points from last year’s reading, but represents a full 20% decline from January 2010. More consumers today have a pessimistic take on any potential bounceback or just view our economic situation with a big question mark.

3. Budgeting is BIG: A couple of times a year, we ask consumers if they think that the current economic crisis will impact their lifestyles over the next 5 years. This month, the top lifestyle impact was sticking to a budget, which edged out considering purchases more carefully and becoming more price conscious when shopping for food and clothing (the latter two had been slightly more popular for the past two January readings.)

4. Practicality is Rising, while Impulse Spending is Declining: Over the past five years, practicality has been steadily increasing. This month, nearly 50% indicated that they were pragmatic in their purchases, up almost 10 points from five years ago. Those focused on needs over wants – and thus less focused on immediate impulse buys – follow this same trend, only on a slightly higher plane. This month, about three in five are only focused on the necessities when at the store, much higher than the 48.5% who said the same in January 2007.

5. Targeted Spending Hits the Bull’s-Eye: While spending may be perking up from the heart of the recession, we certainly aren’t seeing a recovery in spending…but that doesn’t mean that consumers have clamped their wallets shut. BIG Ticket purchase plans over the next six months for items like Autos, Computers, Furniture, Mobile Devices, and TVs, have improved from one year ago.

To listen to the recorded webinar, click here.

P.S. Dr. Marianne Bickle is also a regular contributor on our Prosper Now Blog on Click over to read her latest entry, JCPenney’s Consumers Voice Opinions Regarding Sales.

For more information on this data or for release information on The Changing American Consumer, please contact BIGinsight™.

Source: Consumer Intentions & Actions® Survey – JAN-12 (N = 9317, 1/4 – 1/11/12)

© 2012, Prosper®

BIGinsight™ is a trademark of Prosper Business Development Corp.

Generation Gap: Gen Y Says Super Bowl is for Socialization

January 27, 2012 1 comment

Let’s get ready to…chat it up? That’s right, according to our latest Super Bowl data (conducted by BIGinsight for the Retail Advertising and Marketing Association), Gen Y is the generation most likely to view the big game as, well, as big party.  Here are the segments we took a look at for this special analysis:

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

Before I get ahead of myself, I would like to clarify: among Gen Y-ers planning to watch the Super Bowl, two in five (40.4%) still said the game was most important to them. It’s just that a much larger proportion of these youngsters (25.6%) indicated that getting together with friends was the priority, particularly when compared to Silents (14.9%) and Boomers (15.0%). Slightly more Gen X-ers (19.4%) consider the Super Bowl a social event.

Interestingly, among both of the younger generations, the combined viewers who are into the Super Bowl for the commercials or to get together with friends eclipse the percentage of those who watch for the game itself. The opposite is true for Silents and Boomers: the match-up on the field is more important than all the other “benefits” combined.

Here are some other fun facts about celebrating Super Bowl Sunday:
– Gen Y-ers (42.9%) are the most likely to attend a party that day, double the number of Boomers (21.5%).
– The Gen X group is the most probable to host a party (23.1%), just edging out Gen Y (21.8%). Just a small fraction of Silents (3.1%) are sending out invites.
– Bring on the taco dip! Eight in ten (79.9%) Gen X-ers are planning to buy food/beverages for game day, slightly more than Gen Y (76.6%) and Boomers (70.7%).
– File this under ironic: Although the least likely to vote the game as the most important aspect of Super Bowl Sunday, 16.6% of those in Gen Y plan to show their team spirit by buying new apparel or accessories, more than any other generation.

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

UPDATE: RAMA’s Executive Director Mike Gatti name his picks for the Top 5 Super Bowl Ads: Goosebumps, giggles and gadgets: Mike Gatti’s top 5 Super Bowl commercials.

And, click to view the original RAMA press release: Record Number of Americans to Celebrate Super Bowl This Year with Plans to Spend $11 Billion

Source: Consumer Intentions & Actions® Survey – JAN-12 (N = 9317, 1/4 – 1/11/12)

© 2012, Prosper®

BIGinsight™ is a trademark of Prosper Business Development Corp.

Timeline: What’s behind consumers’ gloomy outlook in the New Year?

January 25, 2012 Leave a comment

In the past three years, Americans have lost confidence that the economy will make a full recovery. This year, 32.3% think the economy can rebound fully, an 8% drop from 35.1% who said so in January 2011 and a whopping 35% drop from the 49.7% who said so back in March 2009.

Why so gloomy, America?

Taking a look at the Vital Signs of the nation as well as a timeline of major economic events, you can really see the picture unfold (if only pictures were worth $1,000…oh wait, stimulus plans don’t help!)    

Three major instances occurred in the past 3 years that can shed some light on the dim view Americans’ have on the economy, and perhaps one can bring hope:

  • April, 2010 – BP Oil Spill– Although gas prices didn’t skyrocket after this event, pump prices have certainly continued to rise as the U.S. struggles to find cheaper ways to obtain fuel without threatening the environment (sorry Keystone XL pipeline). In January 2012, 73.1% say gas prices impact their spending. How are these consumers coping? Taking fewer shopping trips (40.8% say they do this in Jan 12) and shopping closer to home (also 40.8%) appear to correlate directly with the price of gas, implying that consumers have removed “joy ride” from their vocabulary.

    Click to Enlarge

  • October, 2009 – Unemployment Above 10% – This number was simply unheard of in a “healthy” economy, and after economists reported that the recession had ended in July, this simply made no sense. Currently, more than 1 in 4 (27.0%) is worried about more layoffs in the next 6 months while 51.0% expect the same. The “same” still means roughly 8.5% unemployment.
  • January 2009 – President Obama Inaugurated – In March 2009, nearly half (49.7%) believed the economy would rebound to its happy pre-recession days. Since then, this number has dropped considerably, as previously mentioned. Those with faith in recovery have increased only slightly since this past summer (2011), and there is a likely cause: another election is approaching! Optimism for rebound peaked shortly after an inaugural address in 2009 – can it do the same in 2013?

Only time will tell how Americans will feel after choosing a Commander in Chief – but feel free to keep an eye on them until then! Be sure to check out the Vital Signs InsightCenter™ for the latest consumer views on the economy, including a unique timeline of major events!

Source: Consumer Intentions & Actions® Survey, JAN-09-JAN-12
© 2012, Prosper®
BIGinsight™ is a trademark of Prosper Business Development.

2011 Customers’ Choice Award Winners

January 19, 2012 4 comments

For those of you unable to attend the NRF BIG Show this year (or who may have been hibernating under the retail rug), winners were announced this week for the 2011 Customers’ Choice Awards.

For the past several years, we’ve been pleased to provide the research behind the Customers’ Choice Awards to the NRF Foundation /American Express…research which (of course) comes straight from the thoughts of more than 9,000 consumers in our monthly survey.

While finding out which retailers rated tops among consumers is exciting, it’s always interesting to see why a particular retailer received a vote [because we ask that, too.] Results to this unaided, write-in question are available by request to the relevant retailer on a case by case basis, but we thought it’d be interesting to share a few for the Top 10 retailers:


“Amazon always does an excellent job fixing any problems that come. They’ll give you a quick refund or send a replacement item immediately. If the shipping takes longer than expected, they’ll refund the cost of shipping or give you store credit. They really got the extra mile to prove that they actually care about your business.”

“I have shopped with them for many years now. They have always been very helpful and have always gone out of their way to be helpful sometimes even going above and beyond the call of duty, so to speak.”

2.       L.L. Bean

“I called once because an item was missing in my order…the lady who took my call was pleasant professional and really fast at figuring out how to help me. I received my item two days later…which to me indicated that she had the item ready that same afternoon to ship out immediately.  That’s Customer Service.”

“They stand behind their products 100% and no questions or hassles should you need to return an item, even years later.”


“No charge for shipping (either way) and returns without a hitch. Attentive to a problem if it arises, which it usually doesn’t.  These people know how to run a business.  They should be in Congress.”

“24/7 live customer service, free shipping and free returns with no hassle, video of products to see what they look like on real (not models) people!”


“I love! They have wonderful selections that are ever changing and ever growing. They offer sales and promotions more than anywhere else. Their shipping is fast and secure and usually less than anywhere else. You can call and speak to someone live about any issue or question. What’s not to love?”

“I just think they stick out more to me because whenever I had issues with the products I purchased through them, they were always so quick to help me find a solution regarding the problem.  They were quick in shipping out a replacement product and followed up with an email.  They are awesome!”

5.       QVC

“Because they are the best at customer service. They strive to make sure all orders are correct and are very helpful whether on the phone or online. They are the best!”

“QVC means quality, value and convenience.  As a result, no matter what day or time I call or online chat, return a product or ask questions, they are always friendly, engaging and interested in my issue, concern or purchase.”

6.       Kohl’s

“Always a hello and smile when you walk in the door. A no haggle return policy and great sales are the biggest assets to the company.”

“Kohl’s has not lost sight of the “little people.”  Unlike [Retailer Withheld], who seems to be more concerned with having the lowest price on everything possible….which is not ALWAYS what the customer wants.  I had worked in retail myself for over 17 years and can tell that Kohl’s has the same mentality that I had learned many years ago….customer service is the key!!!!”

7.       Lands’ End

“They give exact measurements of every garment and are the friendliest people I have ever encountered. When I have to exchange or return something, they go out of their way to help me.”

“The consistently provide the most efficient and friendly customer service in all formats.”

8.       JCPenney

“JCPenney always goes out of their way to help the customer.  They have a fair return policy.  The store associates are on the floor and easy to find if you need help.  The company has wonderful sales and reward incentives for shopping with them. I have never had a negative experience shopping at JCPenney!”

“You would have to be in the store to experience what I’m talking about.  It’s like all of the staff had been trained at the same place as Nordstrom.  They have put the emphasis on customers.”

9.       Newegg

“They provide the customer with the tools to rate and complain (if needed) and give overall feedback on each product and the store in general.  They are always willing to work with you if you have a problem.”

“I work with this company a lot. As such, I see some less than stellar attempts at delivery that result in high dollar items being destroyed. All of my contact with them is great and these people are ones that I feel like I can sit and have a beer with.”

10.   Nordstrom

“I have never been to a Nordstrom where employees did not go far out of their way to help me. They will help you pick out clothes. They will ask other employees to help find things if they need it. They have extraordinarily good return policies. They actually care about customers. I do not shop frequently yet I have had employees remember me and what I purchased.”

“They care, offer plenty of time for you to make a decision… unhurried, pleasant experience all around.  The merchandise isn’t all jumbled together, rather it is laid out logically. The dressing rooms are spectacular with good lighting, mirrors and almost a hushed atmosphere.  I fell well taken care of there.”

To read more about the 2011 results as well as methodology, click here.


© 2012, Prosper®

BIGinsight™ is a trademark of Prosper Business Development Corp.

Thanks for the Customer Service, but my Smartphone Found a Better Price

January 16, 2012 Leave a comment

Forget about shopping in your pajamas – with smartphones and tablets, you can shop in multiple stores by going to just one store. Sure, you can do that online, from the comfort of your own home, but you can’t feel the product and really see it up close. You also don’t have the advantage of picking the brains of customer service reps and product experts.

I recently had the chance to “borrow” customer service from a store I wasn’t planning to purchase from. Sadly at the time, I did not have a smartphone (those were tragic times), but I still went in to an electronics store knowing prices and stats of laptops I had found online. I spent time chatting up a member of the customer service team and he helped me pick the model I wanted. When the associate was ready to ring me up, I chuckled a little and said “No thanks, I found this same model online for $200 less…in red.” Although the associate was bummed, he knew he was defeated (he could not offer me my heart’s desire – a new metallic red Toshiba!). He groveled and tried to counter the offer with warranties, but I would already be getting one from the manufacturer no matter where I purchased. Had his boss been aware of better deals and color selections elsewhere, perhaps the store could have made me a better offer.

Using smartphones and tablets, Mobile Users have pulled this same maneuver—they shopped one store, compared prices on their device, and then left to purchase somewhere else! 40.6% have gone to another physical store and 25.6% have purchased from a different online retailer:

Have you ever done any of the following on your smartphone or tablet while shopping in a store? (Check all that apply)
Compared prices and purchased from another retailer’s physical store


Read product reviews to decide between products


Compared prices but still purchased from the same retailer


Scanned a QR code to get more information about a product


“Checked in” for a discount


Requested a price match


Compared prices and purchased from another retailer’s website using my device


Compared prices and purchased from another retailer’s website using my laptop/desktop after leaving the store


Compared prices and purchased from the same retailer’s website using my laptop/desktop after leaving the store


Compared prices and purchased from the same retailer’s website using my device


Source: Prosper Mobile Insights™ Mobile Survey December 2011
Be sure to check out the release Opportunity Lost: 40% of Mobile Users Compare Prices, Purchase From Competition, According to Prosper Mobile Insights™

Several Mobile Users are also taking advantage of customer reviews, QR codes and check-ins.

Retailers need to watch out for these “smart” shoppers and iPad price investigators! Physical stores need to be able to compete with online stores, as well as their physical next door neighbors, since smartphone and tablet shoppers have all the competition’s price and selection information at their fingertips. Retailers can’t rely on the idea that shoppers like to touch and feel the merchandise before they buy—most shoppers still do, but they can experience your products in person and still purchase them somewhere else where the price is better! (They can take advantage of your knowledgeable sales people and still take the better price elsewhere 🙂

We want to hear your stories! How have you used a mobile device to help you shop? Have retailers lost your business because you found better deals somewhere else? (Have you made an electronics guru cry recently?) We want to hear from you!

Generation Gap: Gen Y is the Most Optimistic for Economic Rebound

January 13, 2012 10 comments

While hope for an economic rebound may be fading among consumers in general, Gen Y is the most likely to have a Pollyanna-like outlook for our future economy, generationally speaking:

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

According to the latest data from our Consumer Intentions & Actions® survey, more than one in three (36.7%) Gen Y youngsters have faith that the economy will bounce back to its pre-recession glory. Gen X isn’t too far behind at 35.8%, though Boomers (29.5%) and Silents (26.8%) are having a harder time embracing this outlook.

Interestingly, Gen Y-ers are also the ones most likely to view the future of the U.S. economy with a big ‘ole question mark (37.5%). Perhaps, though, this is because those on the younger end of this generation just didn’t fully experience the pre-recession economy as full-fledged “adults” [you know the full-time jobs, housing, debt, supporting a family…all those “fun” things]. Fewer of those in the Gen X (33.9%), Boomer (32.5%), and Silent (33.9%) generations express this uncertainty.

But who’s the Generational Grumpy Gus? Two in five (39.3%) Silents aren’t holding out hope for a rebound, while nearly as many Boomers (37.9%) feel the same way. Fewer than a third of Gen X-ers (30.3%) are taking a pessimistic standpoint, while just one in four (25.8%) of those in Gen Y share this sentiment.

Final thoughts? Speaking from a Gen X standpoint, let’s all hope the economy at least recovers to a point where we’re not waxing nostalgic about a time when it was worth ($) planning ahead for retirement. Sorry, Boomers.

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

Source: Consumer Intentions & Actions® Survey – JAN-12 (N = 9317, 1/4 – 1/11/12)

© 2012, Prosper®

BIGinsight™ is a trademark of Prosper Business Development Corp.

2011 in Review: Calling All Fashionistas!

January 11, 2012 Leave a comment

In our earlier review of the Hottest Trends for 2011, were you wondering where all of the fashion trends landed in our list? As it turns out, due to the male opposition to anything termed “fashion,” none of the 27 sartorial trends we surveyed in 2011 cracked the Top 50 in our overall list. And thus our reasoning for this very important post…

Top 10 Fashion Trends for 2011:

  1. Color Red for Clothing (Sept-11)2: Who doesn’t love a vampy pair of red pumps? Or a great crimson-colored bag? Though it appears that consumers crave red in small doses: the Red Jeans/Pants trend (Jun-11) came in at #22 on this list (of 27).
  2. One-Piece Swimsuits (Jul-11): Maybe a monokini qualifies here? At any rate, it’s nice to see a little modesty on this list.
  3. Denim Cutoff Shorts (Jun-11): Daisy Duke called…a lot of consumers are still ripping off this trend [literally].
  4. Ankle Boots (Sept-11): The vertically challenged cousin of the classic knee-high stomper, these boots work well with skirts, crops, dress pants, and denim, making them a versatile option for trendy girls on a budget.
  5. UGG® Boots (Jan-11): Try wearing these in the middle of winter. You’ll convert.
  6. Pajama Jeans® (Mar-11): You. Have. Got. To. Be. Kidding. Me.
  7. Pale Denim (Feb-11): While it may be a more relaxed and a less figure-forgiving than its dark denim counterpart, this was a relatively safe trend that a lot of consumers seemed to try.
  8. Plaid Fashion Trend (Dec-11): For the non-lumberjack look, try pairing a plaid shirt with a statement piece of jewelry. Perfection.
  9. Sheer Hosiery/Pantyhose (Aug-11): If it’s good enough for Duchess Kate and her sister Pippa, it’s good enough for us gals stateside.
  10. Clutch Handbags (Jul-11): When you can store just about anything on a smartphone, who needs to haul around a big handbag anymore? [OK, I do…but Clutches can come in handy].

And now for the trends that ended up at the bottom of the pile…

– “Mandals” (Oct-11): Men + Sandals, a fashion trend that President Obama inspired us to ask about. #allingoodfun
– Griege Nail Polish (Jan-11): Another mash-up (Grey + Beige), which consumers found more bleak than chic.
– Colorblocking Fashion Trend (May-11): Perhaps because it goes against what Garanimals taught the masses? It appears, though, that this trend is sticking around for 2012.

This all is, of course, according to the What’s Hot/What’s Not section of our monthly Consumer Intentions & Actions® survey1. Each month, more than 8,000 respondents have the opportunity to rate a list of trends, personalities, events, etc. as “hot” or “not”; the items we ask about are based on input from our respondents from the previous month’s survey as well as a variety of current trending topics.

And, for more information on this data, please contact BIGinsight™.

1 Hottest Trends for 2011 are limited to the 145 trends, personalities, events, etc. that were included in one of the 12 2011 Consumer Intentions & Actions® Surveys. Looking for Ryan Gosling, Charlie Sheen, Pippa Middleton, Keurig Coffee Makers, Occupy Wall Street, or Groupon? We got ‘em. Sorry about your luck on George Clooney, Zooey Deschanel, beach vacations, any of the Real Housewives, or Sperry Topsiders; they just didn’t make the our cut this year.

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

Source: Consumer Intentions & Actions® Survey, JAN – DEC 2011

© 2012, Prosper®

BIGinsight™ is a trademark of Prosper Business Development Corp.

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