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Mobile Users Speak…to their devices!

May 29, 2012 3 comments

Do you ever find yourself driving down the highway, asking your smartphone for directions to a restaurant or a friend’s house? 3 in 4 Mobile Users say they utilize at least some form of voice activation on their smartphones or tablets, for a variety of uses from commands (“Call Mom”) to personal assistants (“Siri, what restaurants are nearby?”), according to the latest mobile survey from Prosper Mobile Insights.

The most popular voice features are Internet searches and directions. Nearly 1 in 3 (32.0%) regularly speaks to a device to search the Web and another 20.7% ask their smartphone or tablet for directions. 14.6% say they regularly talk to text, 12.8% utilize personal assistants and 11.6% use voice commands often:

Among the 74.4% who use voice activation at least occasionally, most (63.1%) are somewhat or very satisfied with the voice capabilities on their mobile devices. However, about a fourth of this group (23.8%) is neutral—they are neither satisfied nor dissatisfied. Perhaps these folks just haven’t used voice activation to the fullest? Maybe they’ve read too many autocorrect mishaps? Or maybe other smartphone and tablet features are just more alluring. Mobile Users say texting, Internet access, calling and email are the top features they can’t live without, along with GPS and of course, apps.

Even more insights are available on your tablet via the Prosper Mobile InsightCenter. You can install the app on your iPad or download to your Android™ tablet. No tablet? No problem! View the InsightCenter online here.

Android™ is a trademark of Google, Inc.

Source: Prosper Mobile Insights™ Mobile Survey, April 2012, N=328

© 2012, Prosper®

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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.

Why Are Shoppers So Glum About Spending?

April 16, 2012 3 comments

As we recently reported in our April BIG Executive Briefing, two in five consumers (39.8%) say they plan to decrease overall spending over the next three months…that was April’s top financial priority, dethroning the usual intent to pay down debt (34.7% in Apr-12).

Forty percent actively attempting to curtail their expenditures is a big number. So big, in fact, that we’ve only approached this figure three times in the past SEVEN years. Researching this a bit further, it was pretty easy to tie a piece of history to each of the three previous peaks: Hurricane Katrina, the Summer ’08 Record High Gas Prices, and Holiday ’08 (see chart below, but don’t strain your brain…I’ll break it down in a second). Because two of these three events had at least a little something to do with pump prices, I added in the average price per gallon of gas during the week of our survey collection, as reported by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Plans to Decrease Overall Spending v. Average Price Per Gallon of Gas

Now, let’s break this down historically:

Hurricane Katrina: When this natural disaster slammed into the Gulf states in Aug-05, we were all affected nationwide. New Orleans, et al were literally adrift, slow response times left victims with prolonged suffering [*coughs* FEMA], and price per gallon of gas soared to $3 [ah, $3/gal…how I miss thee]. By September, consumers were responding with their spending sentiment: 40.0% were planning to decrease overall expenditures. As you can see in the chart though, as pump prices edged back downward, consumers backed off this conservative fiscal mantra.

Summer ’08 Gas Price Highs: According to the AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report, pump prices hit an all-time high on July 17, 2008, at $4.114/gal. By now we were also in the belly of the recession, and 39.2% of consumers reacted with plans for spending cutbacks. And though gas prices bottomed-out by Holiday 2008, consumer spending plans didn’t respond in kind #thankyoubankfailures

Holiday ’08: It’s safe to say that the Holiday 2008 shopping season was a disaster. The severe spending cutbacks that materialized with shoppers were not anticipated by retailers, who were left deeply discounting the massive amounts left on their store shelves pre- and post-holiday. More than two in five consumers (42.9%) rang in New Year 2009 with resolutions to decrease overall spending, a record high. So – obviously – it’s not always gas prices that ignite spending cutbacks among consumers…sometimes, you can blame it on a recession.

Furthering the point that pump prices aren’t always that culprit, when the cost of fueling up topped off at over $4/gal last May, drivers didn’t have a fiscal knee-jerk reaction. While at the time consumers were bracing for a $4.25/gal price by Memorial Day ’11, that never materialized and plans to decrease overall spending continued to fluctuate in a relatively [new] “normal” 30% to 35% range.

So what’s different this year? Average gas prices have crossed that $4/gal threshold again, and 39.8% have responded with plans to cut back. Have consumers just had enough? Are they tired of dealing with pump prices in addition to the inflating price tags on apparel, food, and other household items? Are they not willing to tap into their hard-earned savings to cover the additional costs of fueling up? Are they hedging on a response [or lack thereof] from Capitol Hill?

At any rate I think it’s safe to say that if gas prices don’t cool off as summer heats up, retailers might be in for a spending drought.

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

Like the timeline infused with BIG data? Be sure to sign up for complimentary access to our Vital Signs InsightCenter™, an advanced platform for the visualization and delivery of insights and answers on how consumers in the U.S. are reacting to key economic events. It illustrates how consumers feel about the economy, changes they make in their lives in reaction to the economic situation, and how their personal financial and spending plans are affected by key events. It goes beyond traditional point-in-time data reports to trended insights in one easy-to-use, decision-ready format.

Source: BIGinsight™ Monthly Consumer Survey – APR-12 (N = 8724, 4/3 – 4/10/12)

© 2012, Prosper®

BIGinsight™ is a trademark of Prosper Business Development Corp.

Pain at the Pump: At Least Gas Prices Aren’t $5/Gallon… Yet

With gas prices like this, who needs really needs a vehicle? A question I’m sure a lot of us have been asking ourselves lately

Unfortunately, public transportation isn’t always an option and I know the 20 mile bicycle ride to work doesn’t sound like fun to me. (Maybe I’ll change my mind if prices hit the scary expectations for the summer.) So what other changes are consumers making as prices continue to creep upward?

Taking fewer trips, shopping for sales more often, shopping closer to home, and using coupons more are the most recent top responses from consumers when asked what they are doing as a result of fluctuating gas prices. While taking fewer trips, shopping for sales, and shopping closer to home haven’t quite reached the summer of ’08 levels (yet), using coupons more often has certainly remained a popular response, peaking at 42.1% in September 2011.

As a result of fluctuating gas prices, are you doing any of the following?

The dark blue line in the chart shows the actual average gas prices for the first week of each month according to the Energy Information Association.

When comparing these responses to actual gas prices, there is one obvious visual trend to make note of. When gas prices dropped from an average of $3.54/gallon in October 2008 to below $2/gallon in December 2008, the percentage of consumers who were taking fewer shopping trips, shopping for sales more often, shopping closer to home, and using coupons more did NOT take a drastic decline like the prices at the pump did. Instead, after just being slapped in the face by the realities of the recession, consumers began to adjust to the “new normal.”

What will these numbers look like at $5/gallon? Stay tuned and we just might find out (eek!).

To learn more about how consumers are being impacted at the pump and other economic indicators, check out the Consumer Vital Signs InsightCenter™ at www.ConsumerVitalSigns.com.

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

Source: BIGinsight™ Monthly Consumer Survey – MAR-07 – FEB-12 (FEB-12: N = 8716, 2/1 – 2/8/12)

© 2012, Prosper®

BIGinsight™ is a trademark of Prosper Business Development Corp.

The Changing American Consumer

February 17, 2012 1 comment

Over the past year, I’ve had the pleasure of working with Dr. Marianne Bickle, from the University of South Carolina, on her latest book, The Changing American Consumer. She analyzed ten years’ worth of insights gathered from over a million consumer interviews from BIGinsight™ to paint a picture of how the American consumer is continuously changing.

Consumers have been evolving since the 1960’s, but recent events such as terrorism, financial crises and natural disasters have burned them. A new consumer has emerged from the “fire” with a new identity and a new focus. It’s no longer about the “McMansion” or a Hummer. Consumers are more practical, more budget-conscious and more in control of the marketplace.

In her book, Dr. Bickle not only details these changes, but translates it into relevant information that retailers can use. Topics include consumers’ financial wellbeing, building the American castle, their love affair with automobiles, fast food habits, and how they communicate, to name a few.

We are really excited about this book because Marianne provides an insightful and entertaining look at the American consumer. Her analysis will certainly help companies as they refocus their strategies in an ever-changing market.

Click here for more information: www.ChangingConsumer.com/info

An Amazonian Sized Challenge: The Smartphone and Tablet Price Check Era

February 9, 2012 1 comment

It used to be that in order for a consumer to do a price comparison it required some sort of inconvenience for them. Before the Internet, they had to drive across town or have their newspaper ads handy. Once the Internet came along, they could compare before they came in store but once they were there the options were limited.

In the smartphone and tablet era, not only can consumers compare prices between retailers while standing in a store, they can actually purchase the product from a different retailer while standing in another store.

In a survey we conducted for the National Retail Federation this past holiday season, 25.3% of Adults 18+ shopped for an item in a store and then decided to buy that same item online from a different retailer. The ability to find a cheaper price online was the overwhelming top reason for choosing the online retailer.

The convenience of shopping online was the second most chosen reason for going to a different retailer online and the item being out of stock or unavailable in the store came in third.

Another interesting insight from the January survey was about the Amazon Price Check Application. Of those who have a smartphone, 15.9% used the Amazon Price Check Application this past holiday season. I recently downloaded this app to my iPhone and tried it out. You can scan a barcode, take a picture of an item, type in the product name, or “Say It” and the app will search to find that product and give you the Amazon.com price. I took a picture of my office desk phone and it found it in seconds.

The smartphone and tablet era presents an interesting challenge for retailers that doesn’t look to be going away any time soon. New technology is always just around the corner helping to make consumers’ lives easier. What could possibly be next?

Check out the Prosper Mobile InsightCenter to find the latest smartphone and tablet consumer trends.

Source: BIGinsight™ Monthly Consumer Survey – JAN-12 (N = 9317, 1/4 – 1/11/12)

© 2012, Prosper®

BIGinsight™ is a trademark of Prosper Business Development

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.

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