Readers with keen memories will recall Tracey's discount chicken (bit.ly/u8Qzon), the subject of this column back in February 2009.
For those who have not been memorising every word to date, Tracey - the eponymous author of Tracey's Thrifty Tips, a blog for the recreational shopper - loved nothing better than the thrill of the chase.
She would hold off on the purchase of 'the bag that will change your life' until the retailer discounted it to an acceptable level, dubbing this game of nerve 'discount chicken'. With her readers keenly following, she set out all the tactics she used to maximise value for money, elevating this rational economic behaviour into an art, a hobby, a game.
A report published recently in the US by Yahoo! and media agency Universal McCann has concluded there are more and more Traceys out there, with the result that the web is making consumers less impulsive.
The sheer abundance of shopping tools makes for a complex landscape, so, sensibly, the report divides them into three groups, following the consumer's goals. 'Discover' is the finding-out phase, learning about features and finding the most suitable product. 'Evaluate' is finding the best value for money, and, lastly, 'Socialize' describes getting feedback to improve and speed up decision-making.
All of these occur at each stage of the shopping process, and the report looks at the degree to which consumers pull the different levers as they move through the stages, drawing three important conclusions about how they have come to terms with the change the internet has brought.
First, consumers have got to grips with the internet: 69% report that they trust it for information on goods and services, substantially more than trust magazines and double the level for TV. They have figured out how to filter and which sources they can rely on, and now they are just getting on with it.
Second, shoppers have become less impulsive. They spend lots of time researching stuff and, even at the most inopportune times, check for reviews before committing.
Third, shopping is social. People like advising others, sharing, collaborating and competing with each other, emphasising the sense of solidarity with other shoppers that they get.
Finally, it's 'cool' to find good deals. Now, we're not talking about my friend who paid for our lunch in PizzaExpress the other day with a two-for-one voucher. He admitted he'd never have done it a year ago, but now it 'feels OK'. The report found that 82% of consumers said that finding a great deal contributed to a feeling of winning, that 49% give advice to others, and that 69% now seek more deals and coupons online.
The authors recommend that brands should contribute by becoming part of the conversation. They should make the consumer feel special by tailoring deals and encouraging sharing. They do not need to be considered a consumer's friend, but should aid them through trusted sites, which perform better. Because online works with offline, the brand should be integrated in the online experience. Lastly, they remind us that online isn't just about the rational: it should delight emotionally, too.
I don't buy the impulsiveness conclusion. Consumers have a lot more information now; in the past they weren't more impulsive, they simply had less to go on.
My problem with this report runs deeper, however. Since reading it, I've gone back twice to check the publication date. This is 2011. If you're reading this stuff and any of it seems like a revelation that makes you gasp, it's probably time to start panicking. Tracey and her friends have been at it for years; I'm just surprised this looks like news to Yahoo! and Universal McCann.
Andrew Walmsley is a digital pluralist
30 SECONDS ON ... DEALS AND VOUCHER SITES
- More than 9.5m people in the UK used coupon or voucher websites during September this year, a rise of 22% since April, according to comScore Media Metrix.
- The leading deals site in the UK is Groupon, which recorded almost 3.1m users and grew its user base by 29% over the preceding six months.
- The fastest-growing of the UK's top five voucher sites was Hotukdeals.com, which attracted 1.5m unique visitors - a rise of 48%.
- Its forum-style format means that eagle-eyed, expert bargain-hunters can post the deals they have found, either online or in stores, for others to share. The site has more than 300,000 members.
- The other three sites that appeared in the UK's top five for September were Vouchercode.co.uk (2m visitors), Myvouchercodes.co.uk (1.2m) and LivingSocial (0.8m).
- According to Nielsen, almost 10m people in the UK used an online voucher code (not including printable vouchers) in the 12 months to September.
This article was first published on marketingmagazine.co.uk