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While Another Recession Looms, Consumers Continue to Seek Deals

As the Great Recession receded, one might have expected people to drift away from active economizing. Instead, US consumers across income levels added new retail venues (like digital resale) to their money-saving mix, while doubling down on older methods (like buying private-label goods). Thus, they’re poised for serious bargain-hunting if the coronavirus pandemic yields a serious recession.

“Consumers still care about quality and convenience,” said eMarketer principal analyst Mark Dolliver and author of our latest report, “Deal-Seekers 2020: Economizing in Ways Old and New.” “But the hunt for good prices and special deals is an aspect of shopping that seldom goes away, and it extends across ages and incomes. Economizing will become ever more standard procedure if the coronavirus crisis continues to roil financial markets.”

Price is often what prompts consumers to try a new product or stick with one they’ve been using. A June 2019 report by IRI (analyzing data from Q1 of that year) examined the propensity to “try new, lower-priced brands.” In a breakdown by income, 64% of US consumers in the $100,000-plus bracket said they do this, as did 70% or more in lower-income cohorts. Criteo polling in February 2019 found the top reason for returning to a brand purchased before was “best value for money,” cited by 66% of US internet users, followed by “lowest prices” (51%).

It’s hard to find a category where consumers en masse are not looking to save money. According to Adobe Digital Index polling conducted in December 2019, 78% of US internet users rated price as important when buying electronics. Asked in a May 2019 Ipsos survey to identify the most important factor when buying a personal airline ticket, 57% of US internet users pointed to price. How about when choosing a streaming video service? In KPMG polling in October 2019, price was among the factors most cited by US internet users ages 18 to 24 (52%) and 25 to 60 (67%). An October 2019 RetailMeNot survey found that 85% of US internet users said deals and discounts influenced where they chose to eat out in the previous six months. A January report by The NPD Group on 2020 trends said consumers “are even seeking deals in luxury industries, like prestige beauty—industries once considered immune to discounting.”

For that matter, consumers bring price-consciousness even to the life-and-death healthcare category, according to September 2019 polling by healthcare technology company Salucro. Apart from quality of care, price and cost transparency are key factors in making US internet users feel attached to a healthcare provider.

In one telling sign of how price-consciousness permeates consumer behavior, a Healthline Media survey in September 2019 found it affected decisions of parents and expectant parents in the US when buying baby products. “Cost” was rated as important by 62% of respondents—slightly outnumbering the 58% who cited “products that are nutritious/healthy for your baby.”

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