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Deloitte Study: Higher Prices Could Slow Consumer Spending, Mobile and Social Connections Make for Savvier Shoppers

Source: Deloitte

Posted on 11 Apr 2011

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Despite showing no signs of spending less in recent months, a new Deloitte survey found that nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of Americans believe higher prices could slow their spending in the months ahead. Deloitte’s study also revealed that mobile and social connections are helping shoppers make savvier buying decisions in the wake of the recession.

Households in the United States are taking note of events that could curb their willingness to spend. For example, more than seven out of 10 (71 percent) respondents cite concerns about higher energy prices, up from 54 percent at this time last year, and nearly one-half (47 percent) point to higher medical costs. Additionally, 44 percent indicate political unrest in other countries a factor that could cause them to lower their spending.

While four out of 10 (43 percent) consumers surveyed feel the economy is still in a recession, Americans in higher income brackets appear to have a more optimistic outlook than those at lower income levels. Nearly half (45 percent) of households earning $100,000 or more say their confidence in the economy has improved over the past six months, compared to 24 percent among those earning less than $100,000.

“Consumers continue to be resilient and give retailers reasons to be optimistic, despite their apparent lack of confidence in the economy,” said Alison Paul, vice chairman and U.S. retail sector leader, Deloitte LLP. “With day-to-day expenses on the rise, retailers must be innovative and offer more than just low prices to attract customers. By interacting more intimately with consumers through mobile, social media and other emerging platforms, and articulating a message of value and quality, retailers will do well with worried shoppers.”

Connected, perceptive consumers

Consumers appear aware of recent changes in retail stores and are taking advantage of the powerful Web-based decision-making tools to seek out the best price, service and experience.

“The recession has redefined the consumer’s relationship with retailers, and social and mobile applications have accelerated this change,” said Paul.

“Consumers are making more deliberate, informed decisions using a variety of tools and data. This presents a challenge and an opportunity for retailers to enhance both the in-store and online experience ? knitting those together in a compelling way to build shopper loyalty.”

Good deals are harder to find, according to survey respondents. Just over one-quarter (27 percent) of consumers surveyed say stores are offering more value for their money, down from nearly half (45 percent) of consumers who said so at this time last year. Meanwhile, 60 percent search more online to get the best product or price.

When referring to the in-store experience, more than half of consumers surveyed (54 percent) reported less sales help in the stores. Almost one-third (32 percent) said stores are running out of merchandise faster, and shoppers appear to be turning to their mobile phones to locate product inventory and seek guidance in the shopping process.

Among survey respondents who own a Web-enabled smartphone (32 percent), more than four out of 10 (43 percent) said they have used it specifically in a store to assist in their shopping; 37 percent wanted to use their phones while in a store but couldn’t because of connectivity issues. Additionally, four out of 10 (40 percent) consumers surveyed interact with retailers through social networking sites to find out about promotions, browse products, or review recommendations.

“Consumers are challenging retailers to be creative and deliver a multi-channel experience that stands out,” continued Paul. “Many retailers are considering investments such as providing Wi-Fi connectivity in the store which is an excellent way to connect with the shopper at the right time during the buying process. Of course, training for store associates needs to accompany these infrastructure changes to be sure associates are knowledgeable and ready for this more informed consumer.”

Although it’s the younger age groups that are more inclined to turn to their mobile devices and social networks, a broad range of consumers are using technology to assist in shopping. More than half (56 percent) of survey respondents that are at least 45 years old say they search more online to find the best product or price, and more than one-quarter (29 percent) connect with retailers via social networking sites. While nearly one-third (31 percent) of consumers surveyed under the age of 45 expect their favorite retailers to provide them with access to information through applications, social media, or mobile alerts, one out of six (17 percent) respondents age 45 or older expect retailers to do so.