SymphonyIRI: Shoppers optimistic yet frugal

CHICAGO — U.S. shoppers believed that the economy improved in the last six months of 2011 and that growth will continue through the first six months of 2012, but many remain cautious with their spending, according to SymphonyIRI's fourth quarter 2011 MarketPulse survey.

Although 20% of those surveyed in fourth quarter 2011 said they expected the economy to improve during the next six months, which was 4% higher than third quarter 2011, one-third of consumers surveyed said 50% or more of their purchases were discounted. Additionally, deal-seeking behavior is on the rise, as 26% of shoppers are buying more on deal today versus one year ago. This also rang true among wealthier shoppers, 20% purchased more goods on deal versus one year ago.

When it came to what brands were purchased, 44% of shoppers during the fourth quarter were influenced by in-store circulars (which saw a gain of eight percentage points during the year), 55% were influenced by coupons (versus 48% in first quarter 2011), 49% were influenced by newspaper circulars (up from 43% in first quarter 2011). New media also influenced purchases, with online advertising growing three percentage points to 11% during the quarter, and recommendations from blogs or social netowkring sites increasing to 8%.

“Through quarterly analysis of a full year of MarketPulse data, we discovered that shoppers were more optimistic in Q4 over Q3, but in many ways less optimistic than they were in Q1,” said Susan Viamari, editor of Times & Trends at SymphonyIRI. “Still, the vast majority of shoppers made clear in Q4 that they have no plans to change their conservative shopping behaviors in the near future. As a result, the influence of both traditional and new media on shopper decisions continues to grow.”