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Who Are You, Post-Recession Consumer?

While the economic downturn clearly had a significant impact on economies and politics around the world, it may have also fundamentally changed the values, perceptions, and behavior of consumers. Many businesses, marketers, and research companies have invested time and money in an attempt to understand the new behavior patterns of these new consumers. This post aims to answer the title question by understanding the values and perceptions that drive today’s consumers.

First, the post-recession consumer is a much more conservative spender. A Gallup survey conducted two years after the recession started reveals that 53% of American consumers spend less and 32% of them save more. This trend has been pretty stable since then. Even though the US economy is starting to show positive signs, monthly spending reports show that Americans have increased their spending modestly.

The consumer is not so trusting any more. Research conducted by advertising company Ogilvy & Mather reveals that the consumer’s circle of trust has shrunken significantly because of the economic downturn. People learned that they cannot trust the banks, the government, or large corporations, and they have reduced their circle of trust to entities that are close, tangible, and personal.

Second, the recession has led consumers to rethink their values and realize they like the new “them.” The Ogilvy survey revels that the recession has caused 69% of respondents to rethink their values about spending. 78% of participants reported they believe the change in spending habits that was forced on them due to the recession is for the best. The old mantra—reuse, reduce, recycle—which is mostly used in the context of green consumerism, is now being used by consumers in a much broader way. More and more people are choosing a sustainable way of life by reducing and reusing. Happiness is no longer linked to material wealth, and is now more closely associated with achieving peace of mind.

Third, post-recession consumers are much more aware shoppers. Shopping has become a mindful task. Consumer choices are much more thought out; the consumers constantly analyze and deliberate how their choices will affect their life and their community. But, and this is a big but, they still like to treat themselves and spend a lot of money when it comes to products they view as qualitative. While many consumers report that they are now buying private-label products, visit discount stores, and have increased their use of coupons, they still will treat themselves to a shopping spree every once in a while and will purchase expensive, quality items.

We are all post-recession consumers, and I’m sure you recognized a little bit of what I described here in yourself, but I hope this post helped put together the major changes consumerism has gone through in recent years. However, a big question remains: Are these changes permanent, or is the return of the pre-recession consumer is only a matter of time? I will discuss that question in my next post.

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