Tag Archives: consumers

Consumers still wary going into 2012

The Harris Poll has made its annual beginning-of-the-year assessment of the financial plans and sentiments of Americans, and it finds continued uneasiness. This is despite a recent spate of confidence polls that show at least mild improvement. However, a bright spot in the study is the finding that fewer consumers will be looking to decrease their household spending than last year.

The most general result concerned overall expectations for the economy in 2012. Almost half expect things to remain about the same – 47%, to be exact. Pessimists unfortunately outnumber optimists by a 29%-23% margin.

Looked at by age demographic, the older respondents were the most pessimistic. The mature 66+ crowd actually managed to be the most optimistic AND the most pessimistic. The chart below tells the tale. As a point of age reference, Echo Boomers are 18-34, Gen-Xers are 35-46, Boomers are 47-65 and Matures are 66+.

Expectations Echo GenX Boomer Mature Total
Improve 23 22 23 28 23
Stay the same 55 51 42 38 47
Get worse 22 27 35 34 29
Source: The Harris Poll

One thing is clear from the survey – the economic collapse experienced in 2008 has had a lasting impact on consumer money-handling habits. Gone are the days when revolving credit accounts and home refinancing kept stock moving off of American retail shelves and out of American warehouses. Consumers are still more apt to pay off rather than incur debt, and accumulating savings is much more top-of-mind than it was before the fall of 2008.

“There has been plenty of reporting on Americans’ financial concerns for the past several years,” commented THP as it scanned the downward trends. “However, looking at Americans’ current expectations for both their own finances as well as for the state of the nation, it seems that the bad news may not be over yet.”

The number we particularly like to see in the latest Harris survey is 45% — that is the percentage of respondents looking to cut overall household spending in 2012. We’d like to see it much lower, but it still beats the 49% of thrift-oriented respondents from the 2010 survey and is much better than the 55% in 2009.
The percentage of respondents looking to pay down debt, invest more in savings, cut up a credit card (or two or three), sock money away for retirement and invest in home improvement have all been trending down over the three year period.

Harris did note that the decrease in houses looking to cut expenses was a positive sign.

Here are the three year trends in a number of fiscal categories:

Fiscal action 2009% 2010% 2011%
Cut household spending 55 49 45
Pay down debt 45 41 39
Save more 42 40 36
Drop credit card(s) 24 22 16
Save for retirement 21 22 16
Home improvements 14 13 11
Invest more safely 9 8 5
Refinance mortgage 5 6 5
Open home equity credit 2 2 1
Other 6 6 5
Nothing different 16 18 23
Source: The Harris Poll

The 2011 results from the chart above were also provided by age demo. It should not come as a surprise that the Mature group results can almost be tossed – if members of this group have not made a few investments into retirement by now, for example, there isn’t a whole lot of time left to catch up – and indeed, very few cited this as a 2012 priority, and in almost all categories, they were far below the national average.

The middle two groups are more likely to cut spending and eliminate debt, while the younger set is more interested in filling up savings accounts. Here are the full results:

Fiscal action Echo GenX Boomer Mature
Cut household spending 42 49 49 38
Pay down debt 35 49 44 24
Save more 47 38 34 18
Drop credit card(s) 13 16 21 12
Save for retirement 15 18 21 5
Home improvements 8 9 15 9
Invest more safely 4 7 6 4
Refinance mortgage 3 9 4 2
Open home equity credit 0 1 1 1
Other 6 5 4 2
Nothing different 21 17 21 39
Source: The Harris Poll

Harris summed up its results, saying, “Americans continue to face difficult economic times and the New Year may not provide a totally clean slate financially, but there are some bright spots when Americans discuss their expectations. Fewer U.S. adults now say that they will cut back their household spending in the year ahead. This is positive news for the millions who rely on the retail, dining and entertainment industries, and may be small sign that Americans are ready to move on from the harsh times of the past several years.”

Mobile Marketing on the Rise

According to the national report, not all automotive consumers are alike when it comes to mobile Internet usage. Among Audi owners, 63.7% have accessed the Internet via smart phone, iPod Touch or similar mobile device in a typical week, a figure that is twice that of the general population. Similarly, 56.6% of BMW owners have reported Internet usage via a mobile device (79% more likely to be a mobile Internet user), and among Land Rover owners, 64.5% are mobile Internet users (more than twice as likely compared to the general population).

Among all U.S. adults, 31.6% have accessed the Internet via a mobile device in a typical week. The figure represents more than 45.9 million consumers across The Media Audit’s 80 measured markets. 

Mobile marketing expenditures are projected to substantially increase — possibly quadruple over the next few years, as more consumers are drawn to mobile devices that have access to the Internet. The new report highlights some of the consumer and media audiences that have quickly adapted to mobile Internet usage and technology, thus impacting how local and national marketers will need to allocate advertising dollars. 

From a demographic standpoint, mobile Internet users are younger, more educated, and affluent compared to the general population, and skew male. According to the study, 53.5% of mobile Internet users are male, while 46.5% are female. Furthermore, those who earn $100,000 or more in annual household income are 71% more likely to be mobile Internet users, and those consumers under the age of 45 are considerably more likely to be mobile Internet users compared to those who are over 45. Consumers without a college degree are 16% less likely to be mobile Internet users, while college graduates are 23% more likely. 

As advertisers weigh the benefits of mobile marketing which can include messaging, display or search, the platform is largely recognized as a means to increase location awareness. Thus national advertisers as well as local advertisers will have to leverage marketing intelligence to get a better understanding of their customer’s mobile Internet behavior. 

An example illustrating the varying degrees of mobile Internet usage can be found in findings related to the fast food category. According to The Media Audit report, frequent consumers of fast food — those who consume fast food three or more occasions in a typical week, are 28% more likely to be mobile Internet users. 

However, among the different fast food brands, Subway and Taco Bell consumers are significantly more likely than McDonald’s or Burger King consumers to have access to the Internet via a mobile device. According to the report, 42.8% of monthly Taco Bell consumers have accessed the Internet via a mobile device, while 41% of Subway consumers have done so. Furthermore, only 37.6% of monthly McDonald’s consumers are mobile Internet users, while 34% of Burger King consumers have access to the Internet via a mobile device. Among fast food consumers least likely to access the Internet via a mobile device are those who have eaten at Boston Market and Hardee’s in the past month.

Online vehicle shoppers turning toward the phone

Believe it or not, trends going on in the automotive buying process are leading more towards consumers picking up the phone to contact dealers directly.

It seemed for a while that the internet would ultimately take over the car buying industry but over time, dealers have been too slow responding to leads and therefore training customers to call and complete their business over the phone or in person.

A study done by ADP Digital shows that dealers get 10 phone calls for every two internet leads, when a year ago the same statistic was seven phone calls per every two leads. Also, over the past 10 months, 2 percent of visitors have asked to be contacted  on dealer sites, whereas in 2007, the rate was 4 percent.

Phone calls are becoming shoppers initial contact because they have already researched what they needed to and are now informed and ready to be taken through the buying process by a professional. Professionalism is judged better via telephone or in person rather than by email or other means over the web.

Jefferson, the director of Internet and training for the Proctor Dealerships of Tallahassee, tells his salespeople to focus on getting timely and quality responses out for every 600 to 700 internet leads they get monthly. He says, “Tell them what you can do, not what you can’t.”

(Source: Automotive News, 5/16/11)

Protect Your Investment: How to make social media work for you

Unlike the past, when most communication between dealers and customers was one way, today you have the opportunity to participate in the conversation. You and your customer can talk, listen, connect to, and learn from one another. The longer this conversation goes, the stronger the bond you create. Here are a few things to remember:

  • Engage customers wherever they are looking for information that will inform their buying decision. Even after they’ve made a purchase, they’re already processing information for their next purchase. Stay in touch.
  • The sale doesn’t stop at the showroom door. Build your post-sale relationship by linking your customer to your other profit centers. A positive service experience will keep your dealership top-of-mind.
  • Customers are going to post reviews about your dealership—some positive and some negative. The important thing for you is to have a mechanism to capture and respond to that feedback in order to address your detractors while giving your fans a forum to express themselves.
  • Push relevant content—not just inventory—to search engines and social networks to position your dealership as the trusted expert, and pull customers into your brand.
  • Use multimedia to demonstrate what you’re doing for the community to cast your brand in a positive light.
  • Happy customers are powerful, highly authentic and compelling marketing tools.
  • When you invest in social media, track the performance of that investment. Benchmark your reputation and track it over time.

Making social media work for you may not look easy. But with the right tools it can be. By building relationships with your customers online, you can profit from the social media revolution and turn it into a powerful revenue generator for your dealership.