The Global Shift in Shopping Behavior: Fewer Shopping Trips, More Interactions

The Global Shift in Shopping Behavior: Fewer Shopping Trips, More Interactions

Even though the Great Recession officially ended in mid-2009, 72 percent of global respondents to a Nielsen online survey say they feel like they’re still in a recession—a feeling that’s having a lasting effect on their shopping behaviors.

To get a handle on how the shopping dynamics of consumers around the world are changing after the recession, Nielsen analyzed consumer transactions totaling $33 trillion in GDP across 14 countries* to see how people are shopping these days. The analysis looked at year-over-year growth rates and found that while spending intentions around the world are up, trips per household are either flat or declining, reflecting a new consumer mindset across both developed and developing markets.

When the global economy was battered, it wasn’t unexpected for people to cut back on their shopping trips. But as consumer confidence and financial trends have improved, consumers are still making fewer shopping trips—a behavior that’s a notable part of the new normal. The silver lining in this trend, however, is that they’re spending more per trip.

In the three-year period that was analyzed, shopping trips crept up a meager 0.8 percent among the developed countries reviewed, while they slumped 1.1 percent in the developing ones. Across 2008 and 2009, the average number of annual trips per shopper was 158. Today, it’s 144.


While the decrease in shopping trips may be perceived negatively for retailers and companies hoping to see more of their customers, the trips customers are making have the potential to be more lucrative. Decreasing trips places greater importance on each transaction, making interaction with the consumer much more critical.

In Indonesia, for example, households are spending 9 percent more per trip these days than they were just a few years ago. Over the study period, consumers in Indonesia are making 2 percent fewer trips, on par with shopping trip trends in Colombia and Chile. Comparatively, trip frequency is down 6 percent in South Korea, 3 percent in Canada and the U.S., and 1 percent in France. Spending per trip is up the most in Indonesia, where households are spending 11 percent more per trip than the year-over-year growth rate.

The implications of the global shift are clear: consumers are looking to spend, but retailers have fewer opportunities to interact with them. Consumers are planning, demanding and above all, connected. Retailers need to capture consumers where they are because they’re going to be seeing them less often than they have before.

Lifestyle and Technology are Key Factors Driving the Shopping Shift

So what’s driving this change? In short, lifestyle and technology.

Consumers are looking for balance in their lives and concern for work-life balance is paramount; more than 80 percent of global consumers cite spending quality time with friends and family is their top value. Another key consideration is rapidly advancing technology—quickly evolving devices that put consumers in very close contact with an ever-expanding realm of shopping opportunity. Today, 49 percent of online respondents make purchases online—a figure that’s only going to increase as mobile technology continues to proliferate. In 2012, for example, there were more than 1 billion smart phones around the world, a trend worth watching wirth respect to mobile purchasing.

Bringing the Store to the Consumer

The key to success is identifying and maximizing the opportunities where they exist. Just as consumers are more connected, retailers will need to follow suit, engaging with consumers wherever they are and at each stage of the promotion of a product or service: the before, during and after have never been more important.

Today, it’s all about bringing the store to the consumer through various methods pre, during and post purchase cycle. Advertising, blogs, social media and word-of-mouth are critical tools in the ramp up to selling a product or service, while in-store displays, coupons, sampling and shelf talkers are great ways to continue momentum once a product or service is out in the market. But it doesn’t end there. Social media, customer relationship management, text message programs and on-pack coupons are important ways to continue engaging with consumers after they’ve left the store.

*Canada, U.S., Mexico, Colombia, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Chile, Spain, U.K., France, Italy, South Korea, Thailand, Indonesia