IRI MarketPulse Finds Shopper Sentiment Surging

May 5, 2015
Big jump detected in Q1; typically disgruntled millennial sentiment also rising.

Shopper sentiment surged in the first quarter of this year amid optimism over the labor market, job stability, personal finances and gas prices, according to the latest IRI MarketPulse survey. While a Q1 jump has occurred for several consecutive years now, this year’s spike marks the largest jump in IRI’s Shopper Sentiment Index since it was launched in 2011.

The 2015 first quarter Shopper Sentiment Index was 138, compared with 120 in Q4 2014. The benchmark score of 100 is pegged to the first Shopper Sentiment survey, in the first quarter of 2011. A Shopper Sentiment Index score of more than 100 reflects consumers who are less price-driven, more loyal to favorite brands and better equipped to maintain their desired lifestyles without changes, as compared to Q1 2011.

“Consumers tend to start each new year with a modicum of optimism,” notes Susan Viamari, editor of Thought Leadership for IRI. “The fact that this year’s Shopper Sentiment Index spike is so substantial, and that the increase spans all age groups and all of the measures that comprise the index, is cause for optimism among CPG marketers.”

IRI’s Shopper Sentiment Index provides insight into how the economy is impacting consumers and changing how they shop for groceries. It's a nationally representative internet-based survey with more than 2,200 respondents and was taken in March. The data provides perspective on price sensitivity, brand loyalty and changes in spending required to maintain desired lifestyles.

Millennials, in particular, are feeling more financially secure and optimistic with an index of 131 in Q1 2015 compared with 114 in Q4 2014 and 95 in Q3 2014. Millennials have struggled since the economic downturn began and have generally indexed the lowest among consumer age-based segments, according to IRI. However, the Q1 figures are the highest index levels for millennials since the survey began.

Overall, one-third of millennials feel the economy has improved in the last six months, and 28 percent expect even more improvement in the next six months. Still, 25 percent of millennials are having difficulty buying groceries, compared with 20 percent of the total population. So, it’s no surprise that deal-seeking continues to rise among millennials, with 26 percent saying they buy more on deal today than a year ago. Among this cohort, 30 percent say more than half of their most recent shopping basket was bought on deal, which is comparable to the total population.

Significant percentages of millennials are turning to the Internet to find these deals, including:

  • 47 percent download coupons from couponing sites, such as SmartSource 
  • 45 percent download coupons from retailer websites 
  • 43 percent download coupons from manufacturer websites 
  • 35 percent visit online deal sites, such as Woot or Groupon 

It’s not just millennials who love a bargain. While deal-seeking behavior has eased slightly during the last year, many consumers remain enthralled by a good buy. 29 percent of consumers estimate that 50 percent or more of their most recent basket was bought on deal, compared with 34 percent in Q1 2014. The following money-saving strategies among all consumers are still broadly embraced:

  Q1 2014 Q1 2015
Making shopping list before entering the store 69% 65%
Looking at circular before or at the store 57% 50%
Stocking up on certain items because they’re on sale 54% 49%
Seeking out and buying store brands to save money 39% 32%
Selecting products to create more meals at lowest total cost 36% 30%

“CPG marketers should find relief in the continued improvement in shopper attitudes, but sharp withdrawal of value-focused programs would be a mistake,” concludes Viamari. “Conservative mindsets still prevail and, in the near term, purchase behavior and loyalty will be strongly influenced by products and programs that meet or exceed consumers’ expectations for great quality and strong results at a reasonable price point.”

IRI provides new survey results at the end of each calendar quarter covering shoppers’ behaviors and attitudes as they directly relate to their strategies for learning about, purchasing and utilizing CPG and healthcare products, as well as information regarding perceptions of economic conditions and their ability to provide for their families. For more information about customizing the research for a particular category or industry, contact [email protected].

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