People are often surprised to learn how frequently Affluent consumers use coupons and other forms of discounts. Our latest barometer, conducted in late January 2012, again revealed relatively strong interest in coupons of all types, along with widespread and frequent use. Among Affluents, defined here as the 58.5 million adults living in households with at least $100,000 in annual household income, we found that:
- 71% use paper coupons once a month or more; 47% do so at least once a week
- 54% use online coupons once a month or more; 23% do so at least once a week
- 58% have gotten some kind of “deal of the day” offer, most commonly from Groupon (46%) or LivingSocial (25%), but with significant numbers (5-12%) trying new or more niche-oriented offerings such as those from Amazon, Google, GiltGroup, and Woot.
Just as telling: coupon interest and usage shows little or no drop-off if we examine more elite financial groups, such as those with $250,000+ in household income, or those with $1+ million in assets. The fact is that a strong value-orientation and “love of the deal” are felt widely and strongly among Affluents; they are deep-seated elements of the consumer psyche that were intensified, not created, by the long-running economic downturn. Today’s “deal of the day” and group coupons further boost interest by tapping into additional hot-buttons – the desire for novelty, and the quest to be “in the know” – that add cutting-edge angles to long-standing promotional tactics.
Although interest in discounts cuts across many traditional demographic groups, and reaches well into the upper economic strata, there is a very clear gender difference: women outpace men by 10-20 percentage points on most measures of coupon use. In some ways, the prevalence of coupons across both genders (but led by women) may reflect a broader and more fundamental change in the marketplace, and in society more generally: the continued ascension of women into leadership roles – in the family, in the marketplace, and in society more generally.
That’s a conclusion supported by “Women, Power & Money,” an on-going survey of women we conducted and commissioned jointly by Fleishman-Hillard and Hearst Magazines. The first wave of the study, conducted in pre-recession 2008, set out to examine “today’s successful woman,” and found that virtually all American women consider themselves successful, and have defined success on their own terms; moreover, the study concluded that she had become the de facto CEO, COO, CFO and CPO of most American households.
Wave Four of the study, released last month and titled “Game Changers: Women Defining the New American Marketplace,”* found her impact has grown even more profound, concluding:
“Her influence within the family, and in broader circles as well, has led to an amplification of her preferences – in a very real sense, her preferences have become the de facto defining preferences for today’s marketplace.”
Several factors have converged to shape these trends, creating a perfect storm of environmental conditions that favor marketplace approaches more characteristic of women:
- A persistent economic downturn, favoring value-orientation, frugality, pragmatic expectations from brands, cautious investing decisions, and a willingness to delay gratification.
- The proliferation of information and choice in the marketplace, favoring thoughtful, considered, and researched purchasing decisions.
- The emergence of social media, which expands one’s sphere of influence, and has shaped the attitude that one can and should express opinions (women are more likely than men, for example, to be a friend/fan of a product or company on Facebook).
On a tactical level, these trends have made the market ripe for coupons and discounts, across genders and income groups. More profoundly, they have fostered a fundamental shift in marketplace values, and marketplace power.
* “Game Changers: Women Defining the New American Marketplace” from Fleishman Hillard and Hearst Magazines represents the fourth wave of the ongoing study: "Women, Power & Money." It can be downloaded here.
The Economy As At The Core of Female Consumer Behaviors
According to "Women, Power & Money," a survey by marketing research firm Fleishman Hillard, The economy is by far today's female consumer's greatest concern, and this concern continues to weigh heavily on her mind, and her shopping decisions. Economic concerns have intensified her decidedly utilitarian approach to the marketplace. She seeks value, quality, performance, and above all, substance. She generally prefers a solid “good” choice over a more expensive “great”choice. In many cases, she researches purchases thoroughly, and applies complex, category‐specific decision rules in making marketplace choices. And again, her influence within the family, and in broader circles as well, has led to an amplification of her preferences – in a very real sense, her preferences have become the de facto defining preferences for today’s marketplace.
The economic stress that has taken a foothold after the Great Recession has affected how female consumers shop. Here's what women said about how the economy has affected their spending behavior:
- 75%+ said: “I shop differently now than I did before the recession.”
- 71%+ said: “Life is more complex today than it was before the recession.”
- 58%+ said: “Financially, I am worse off now than I was before the recession started.”
Her Leadership Style: From “It’s all on ME” to “Leading the TEAM”
Clearly today’s woman remains the agenda setter in most American households. She is the family visionary who keeps the big picture in mind,while also plotting the day‐to‐day course for the household and those who live in it. But her leadership style is less about doing‐it‐all herself and being Ms.Independence. Instead, it is a more collaborative and thoughtful approach, one in which she leads the team (at home and away) in developing and executing the agenda. She readily shares both the decision‐making responsibility, and the credit that goes along with it.
Women as Media: Expanding Social Circles through Receiving,Broadcasting, Influencing
There’s no denying the impact of online social networks on the female consumer, but it is important to put their impact into context. Her online social networking represents only a portion of what she does online, and of course, what she does online is only a portion of her life. Reading and posting product reviews are more common activities than marketplace‐related activities on social networking sites. Moreover, in‐person communications – in social gatherings, at work, in retail contexts – remain by far the most widely used methods for communication and influence.
Improving Lives for Self and Others: The Positive Nature of Her Influence and Communications
Reaching out to others and adding more social elements to her decision‐making is not a sign of insecurity or ducking responsibility. She certainly feels confident and empowered in the marketplace; 71% agree, “Today, I feel confident in my being a trusted source of information to others.” She feels smart and ultimately acts based on her own judgment. Rather, her decision‐making style is information‐oriented, and friends, family and other trusted sources have become among the most influential sources of information that she seeks out. It is not so much about safety in numbers – rather, it is theexpectation that collaboration will result in a better decision, for herself andthose she connects with.
Her primary reasons for sharing opinions (online and offline) – center around sharing positive experiences, seeing others benefit, and spreading the word about something they feel passionate about. Relatively few are focused on warning others about poor products or services, and only 5% say “it’s what everyone is doing these days.” (Interestingly, men are more likely than women to share product or service recommendations because they are confident that their recommendations are “the right way to go.”)
Her Marketplace Needs and Brand Preferences Skew Practical, Functional
When asked to list the brands women admire across a variety of categories, the brands named most consistently tended to be “solid,” but not necessarily spectacular. Across a dozen categories, American women were asked to list the brands they admire, and to describe in their own words why they admire those particular brands. The most cited automotive brands, for example, were Ford, Chevrolet, Honda and Toyota – traditional “luxury” auto brands ranked far down the list. The same admiration of good, if not great, brands emerges across categories. Olay and Cover Girl. Old Navy and Macy’s. Tylenol and SC Johnson. Kraft and General Mills.
Her practical marketplace approach also underscores why she admires particular brands. Across virtually every category, good and quality are the terms she uses most, with price typically close behind. Certainly there are some nuances by category – she wants health from food brands, style from fashion brands, innovation from technology companies, service from hotels, beautiful designs from jewelry, and effectiveness from over‐the‐counter drugs. But good quality at a good price (in other words, value) is generally her top consideration. (See below; font size indicates frequency of mention).
Sharing Recommendations Differs Among Generational Categories
The tremendous sway that recommendations have on behavior, for example, skews modestly by generation, but in the big picture, is a key marketplace theme across age groups. As shown in the table below, Millennial women are more likely to agree that recommendations from others can be comforting, and to have made specific marketplace choices based on recommendations; however, more than two‐thirds of Senior women agree with these sentiments as well.
In other respects, however, the tremendous diversity of the women’s marketplace is apparent. Millennial women more frequently broadcast information and make recommendations, and fully half point to online social networking sites as facilitating their shopping decisions. Millennial women bring a different approach to shopping more generally – displaying a more unabashed enjoyment of shopping both online and offline, and paying greater attention to celebrities. (interestingly, Millennial women are also most likely to describe themselves as “stressed” or “exhausted,” while self‐descriptors such as “caring,” “family‐focused” and “optimistic” are lowest among Millennialsand increase with age).
Judging from the Fleishman Hillard study, the aftereffects of the Great Recession as created the Era of the Frugal Consumer. The sharing of information and making recommendations about products and brands through different channels, both online and offline, have become vital in the buying decision. When affluent consumers making $100K+ are also looking for deals and resorting to clipping coupons, you know frugality is here to stay.
As for myself, I much prefer that my female partner maintain the family budget and do most of the shopping. Keep me as far away as possible from shopping malls. I'll shop for groceries to help out, but it's not on the top of my priorities. I definitely want to be "in" on major purchases, and this matches the findings of the study.
These days it is very important to take control of your household expenses, knowing where the money is coming from, and how it's being spent. Establishing a family budget begins with the essentials--things you absolutely need to buy or spend on, and keeping luxuries and discretionary items to a minimum.
Courtesy of an article dated February 15, 2012 appearing in MediaPost Publications Engage:Affluent