It's easy to focus on the negative impact of the recession: layoffs, foreclosures, and a seeming explosion of the debt collection industry. Yet, according to research commissioned by American Express, the recession has taught Americans to become more thoughtful about the way they spend money. The changes aren't unique to the United States, since researchers found similar results by polling consumers in Canada, Australia, Japan, Mexico, and the United Kingdom. Working with experts at The Future Laboratory, the credit card issuer has uncovered five trends that drive our shopping habits in a post-recession world:
Returning to Rural
More than half the Americans surveyed expressed a desire to support and improve their local economy. Nearly a third of global consumers want to shop at neighborhood retailers that offer local brands. Even in large cities, affluent shoppers have bucked the big box trend by seeking out the kinds of quirky, small stores once found only in rural towns.
Four out of five Americans surveyed want manufacturers and retailers to support worthy causes, while about a third of global consumers expect companies to act in ethical, environmentally friendly ways. Linking credit card purchases to charitable campaigns makes giving effortless for consumers.
In a backlash against mass-market goods, more than a third of consumers surveyed prefer to shop with companies that allow them to co-create or customize products. The percentage gets higher as the age group of respondents gets younger, signaling a coming shift in the way consumers plan their spending.
Nearly a third of Americans surveyed have signed up for online deal services like Groupon or Gilt. Consumers aren't just looking for low prices, though. The most popular new shopping services allow customers to share deals with each other and to leverage their networks to demand even better pricing from retailers.
A quarter of the global consumers survey admitted to changing their shopping habits based on easy access to GPS-equipped mobile devices. Location has become extremely important for shoppers when they can't find goods or services online. Instead of forcing customers to find them, smart retailers must insert themselves into their prospects' routine travel patterns.
The research team behind the survey has made their full report, "American Express: Consumer Spending Futures: The New Era of Pause and Purchase," available online as a free downloadable e-book.