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RISMEDIA, July 15, 2010—American consumers have re-learned how to shop—and in the process re-shaped the playing field for both consumer product marketers and packaged goods retailers. The recession has made it necessary for Americans to rethink and adjust their shopping patterns, which has resulted in a more strategic, informed—and even calculating—approach to a shopping game previously driven by impulse, advertising responsiveness and the fundamental attractiveness of brands.

A joint study released by Deloitte and Harrison Group titled, “The 2010 American Pantry Study: The New Rules of the Shopping Game,” found that 92% of people surveyed have changed their grocery shopping behavior in the last two years. In particular, 89% said they have become more resourceful while 84% say they are more precise when they shop.

In addition, the survey showed that while this new shopping approach is generally based on spending less, approximately two out of three (65%) people do not feel like they are sacrificing much. In fact, 79% reported feeling smarter about the way they shop versus two years ago. Moreover, consumers have embraced a persistent recessionary mindset, as 93% surveyed said they will remain cautious and keep spending at their current level when the economy improves.

“We continue to witness consumers creating a whole new rule book and skill set for shopping that’s based on value, not boasting of brands,” said Pat Conroy, vice chairman and Deloitte’s consumer products practice leader in the United States. “Our analysis concludes that personal gratification and a desire to feel smart about what consumers are putting in their shopping carts are trumping brand satisfaction, and that price-consciousness, value-orientation and bargain-hunting will remain prevalent for years to come.”

4 shopper decision strategies: new rules in a changed game
To play the new game of shopping, consumers plan resourcefully and often follow their “game plan” precisely, resulting in a win at check-out. The Deloitte/Harrison Group study revealed four distinct shopper decision strategies, embodied by four segments of consumers, each reflecting their own attitudes and resourcefulness:

-Super savers manage their resourcefulness at the cash register, hunting for and taking pleasure in savvy price management through extensive coupon collection.

-Sacrificers manage resourcefulness at the shelf, selecting among competing products on the basis of unit price, shopping more store brands and eliminating convenience shopping.

-Planners address resourcefulness through pantry management where they plan out meals, accept bulk pack discounts and set fixed spending limits.

-Spectators are the most loyal to national brands and were the least impacted by the recession, but still strive to be resourceful. Their pursuit of value still allows room for specialty goods, but they learn how to save by taking advantage of in-store discounts.

According to the study, three of these shopper segments—super savers, planners and spectators—which combined account for about 80% of shoppers, have little intention of returning to their old shopping practices. They see the changes they have made as having led to emotional, as well as practical, rewards and they do not believe they have made unacceptable trade-offs in the marketplace. Sacrificers, on the other hand, are not as pleased with the changes they have had to make—particularly when it comes to the adoption of store brands.

“The extent and duration of the recession has given people the motivation to learn and adapt to new strategies,” said Dr. Jim Taylor, Harrison Group’s vice chairman and director of syndicated research. “Consumers are using more discount strategies, such as coupons and store incentives, and are consulting with their family about which brands really matter to the family’s sense of well-being and where family members will trade price for brand. It’s not disloyalty to brands, per se; it’s loyalty to family need. As a result, people are shopping more stores, looking more carefully at the ingredients, cooking more from scratch and substituting store brands. Family gratification has replaced product satisfaction as the ‘go-to’ goal for America’s shoppers.”

A revamped shopping arsenal
This new resourceful shopper has an ever-evolving set of tools at their disposal and the insight to know how to use them effectively. They view their ability to mix coupons while leveraging multiple channels, discounts and store competitions as essential to getting the most value for their dollar.

The study also uncovered that loyalty cards are very important to shoppers with 84% reporting having at least one, and 65% describing them as an “essential/very important” money-saving method. In addition, 44% of consumers surveyed are now using loyalty cards in grocery stores every time they shop.

According to consumers surveyed, coupons are another popular tool with 67% of people increasing their coupon usage and finding them across a variety of media outlets including: newspapers (59%), mail (54%), store (53%) and online (41%).

Brand loyalty fades as consumers hunt for bargains
Watching store fliers has also become somewhat of an American pastime and a key strategic approach for consumers’ to meeting their objective. There is an increasing preference for shopping only for sale items with nearly half (48%) putting off a purchase of a product they wanted because it was not on sale.

In addition to delaying a purchase until the “right deal” comes along, consumers are also considering different brands. According to the survey, three out of four (75%) people are more open to trying private label and store brands than two years ago. Consumers surveyed don’t believe they are sacrificing when buying store brands, with 85% saying they have found several brands that are just as good as national brands. In fact, 80% of those surveyed believe that most store brands are manufactured by the traditional national brands.

“This choice between brands heralds back to the consumers’ belief that the game is not necessarily about the savings itself, but about the hunt for the savings and what goes into it—resourcefulness, planning and precision,” said Conroy. “Consumers have become so skilled in executing their new approaches that most feel they have become smarter, more calculating shoppers. Moreover, these new ‘badges of honor’ will not fade away. As a result, consumer product marketers shouldn’t expect to see a return to the carefree spending or impulsivity more reminiscent of the mid-2000s.”

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