Why, How, Where, What: New Survey Reveals Consumers’ 2021 Shopping Plans
With an Unpredictable New Year Ahead, Consumer Data Gives Marketers Insight Into Ad Responses, Online Choices and Shopping Behaviors

Allocadia, the leader in Marketing Performance Management (MPM), announced a second round of survey results showing why some ads are effective, how social media influences consumers, where people will shop, and what they plan to buy in 2021. With 59% of Americans reporting they are drawn more to the product or brand when viewing an advertisement than to the people who are in the ad (30%), marketers need hard data to understand motivations—especially with pandemic uncertainties still prevailing.

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“In 2020, COVID-19 forced marketers to completely rethink their strategies and budgets,” said Julia Stead, CMO of Allocadia. “Economic forecasts and consumer behaviors remain difficult to predict as we move into the new year still contending with the coronavirus. Where and how people are shopping and why they’re buying can change very quickly. Behavioral data is crucial to giving marketers the actionable insights they need to pivot campaigns fast and be agile with budget when trends emerge overnight.”

Puppies, Relationships and Justice: Emotional Impact Rules

As marketers think about why people act on some ads and the kind of emotional experience more likely to cause brand engagement and purchase, positive emotions reigned supreme. Americans cited inspiration (42%), joy (40%), hope (34%), and love (38%) as triggers for them to engage or buy. People are decidedly not likely to engage or buy if an ad incites sadness (7%), fear (8%), anger (8%), or annoyance (6%).

Forms of advertising also were key in gaining consumer attention. TV commercials still resonate most with people (54%), followed by social media ads (36%). Radio is cited as what resonates least with people (15%).

Americans specified commercials that had the biggest emotional impact on them:

  • 28% chose Budweiser’s holiday puppy commercials
  • 25% chose Google’s “Loretta” commercial (where a man asked Google Assistant to remember details about his late wife)
  • 24% chose Nike’s social justice commercial for the Black Lives Matter movement

Notably, regardless of the form of advertising, 73% of Americans expect brands to incorporate more diversity into their ad campaigns in 2021.

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Third-Party Sites and the Social Media Divide

How third-party sites like Amazon and social media platforms impact consumer behavior figured among the survey’s especially useful findings. For online shopping, 75% of Americans reported that they buy from those sites, with Amazon (73%), Facebook (48%), and Instagram (32%) used most often.

Consumers are split as to whether social media ads influence their purchasing decisions: 51% say yes, 49% say no. For those who are influenced:

  • 50% say social media ads spark gift ideas
  • 44% say social media ads introduce them to a product they didn’t know of
  • 44% say social media ads remind them of a product they need or want

On social media, for 44% of Americans, influencers promoting or using a product can make a difference in the decision to buy, if the buyer likes the influencer. This aligns with Americans’ overall buying behavior when a celebrity they particularly admire is in an ad or commercial, with 43% more likely to buy. Marketers can make highly strategic decisions that improve funnel and sales by testing different types of celebrity-centric social media campaigns, then honing their emphases based on those findings. The ROI potential is worth setting aside enough “flexible” budget to conduct this kind of data-backed A/B or split testing.

Online or In-Store, Essentials Matter Most in 2021

With the pandemic continuing to create economic and public health uncertainty across the U.S. and around the globe in the new year, 61% of Americans said they plan to shop more for essential items like food and clothing. A comparatively low 38% said they’d purchase fun items such as new tech gadgets and toys, and 37% intend to buy functional items such as laptops and home entertainment equipment. Only 37% of Americans have travel plans for 2021.

Regardless of the virtual platform or specific brick-and-mortar vendor, where Americans plan to buy those goods in 2021—virtually or in-store—is fairly evenly distributed:

  • 47% plan to shop most at a big box store in-person
  • 41% plan to shop most at a small business in-person
  • 40% say they’ll shop at a big box store online
  • 38% will shop small businesses online

With respect to venue, comparing reported shopping behavior in 2020 to expected behavior in 2021 yielded a noteworthy change. In 2020, 41% of Americans reported doing most of their shopping online, 28% said most was in-store, and 31% claimed both venues. But for 2021, plans are likely to shift, with a decrease, 33%, saying they’ll do most shopping online, 27% saying most will be in-store, and an increase, 40%, saying they’ll do most of their shopping in both venues. This data is worth careful consideration. Marketers want to think about which channels and spend tactics will be most effective in driving different kinds of consumer buying behaviors. Measuring those behaviors based on the particular context and strategy employed is important in shaping accurate market insights and next steps.

Finally, the survey yielded some important results around general spending behaviors that help marketers compare trends in a context of overall economic balance: 42% of Americans expect their spending to be about the same in 2021 compared to 2020, while 30% expect to spend more, and 28% expect to spend less.

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