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American Express Identifies ’A New Era of Pause and Purchase’ With Five Key Trends Driving Consumer Spending in 2011 and Beyond


* Report finds locally-sourced goods, digital shopping and “Give-a-nomics” are among top trends re-shaping the American consumer
* More than half (54%) of Americans said they try to support their local economy
* Over a third (38%) of Americans equate being good and ethical to quality of life, far higher than being rich (5%)
* 41% of Americans cite internet accessibility as the biggest factor affecting spending habits in years to come

American Express today announced the results of new research on consumer spending behavior, identifying a “New Era of Pause and Purchase” that shows U.S. consumers are giving more thought to their purchasing decisions and redefining what it means to be a smart shopper today. The report classifies five key trends that are currently influencing consumer spending and looks ahead to see how new technologies, changing social norms and increased brand transparency are causing a significant shift in the way consumers will shop and spend in the future.

The new report, “American Express: Consumer Spending Futures: The New Era of Pause and Purchase,” found key indicators that show how consumers are redefining value and how businesses can better connect with customers.

“The ’smart spender’ of the past was primarily focused on cost. Today’s smart spender is defined by values just as much as, if not more than, price,” said Mary Hines, vice president of marketing at American Express. “Furthermore, consumers told us that the ’buy buy buy’ model that has driven them for decades is now shifting towards a more conscientious and values-driven way of purchasing.”

Top Five Consumer Spending Trends for 2011 and Beyond
The five key trends that are shaping American consumer spending today were identified based on a combination of consumer survey data, expert interviews and qualitative research that form consumer case studies:

1. Rurbanism
Urban consumers report that they are shifting their habits towards those of their rural neighbors, seeking more local, home-grown and community-focused interactions, both in-person and online. These “rurbanites” buy to be part of their local community and are shopping for more sustainable products that protect the environment.

* 31% of survey respondents say they want to be part of their local community so they purchase from more local brands and vendors
* 55% of consumers are concerned about the quality of products over quantity
* More than half (54%) of Americans said they try to support their local economy

Implications: In the coming years, more consumers will continue to patronize smaller, community shops, local vendors and brands. Additionally, more ethical products will be prioritized as consumers make choices that promote a more self-sufficient, sustainable lifestyle.

2. Give-a-nomics
Consumers are choosing purchases that allow them to give back to charity, preserve the environment or help their communities. They are increasingly expecting brands to be socially responsible, and are looking for ways to make their everyday purchases count.

* 83% of Americans wish more products, services and retailers would support worthy causes
* 36% say they expect brands to be ethical
* 30% expect brands to be environmentally friendly

Implications: As consumers become more involved with charities through their purchasing behavior, they will continue to expect brands to be engaged in philanthropy and they will seek out brands whose actions are in sync with their personal beliefs. They may soon expect reminders of who or what their purchase benefits, like receipts, to make their efforts tangible.

3. COBs (Co-Created Own Brands)
Consumers are looking for greater creative input and personalization by co-creating with brands. In exchange, they expect rewards and benefits for their contribution of designing new product ideas and helping to market those products.

* 26% of Americans surveyed said they expect brands to be creative, rising to 37% among 18-24-year-olds
* 16% expect their retail environments to be collaborative, rising to 20% among 18-24-year-olds
* 23% of respondents look for well-being and luxury products they can customize

Implications: Modern “micropreneur” consumers will expect to play a bigger part in creating products and goods, radically changing the traditional retail model. Consumers will become part of the product design process, and may even share the profits that they generate.

4. Commsumption
The rise of online shopping and social networking has allowed consumers to shop as groups and consume as communities, or ’comm’sume. In turn, this has allowed brands to curate goods and services specifically for local consumers and reach those shoppers through their online social channels. Shoppers are willing to leverage their peers online to help drive deals and bargains.

* 41% of US consumers say they buy more products online than they did a year ago
* 41% of Americans cite internet accessibility as the biggest factor affecting spending habits in years to come
* 31% of US consumers say they use online vouchers or shopping portals, like those from Groupon or Gilt Groupe

Implications: Online coupon culture will move from desktop to mobile, reimagining discount culture with real-time, location-based deals.

5. CiCo (Check In To Check Out)
The use of mobile devices and the internet has allowed brands to personalize location-based offers and perks to entice shoppers to “check in” to share deals with fellow shoppers and incentivize group buying on the go before they “check out.”

* 25% of consumers say the use of GPS affects their shopping
* 23% say the availability of smartphones impacts their spending

Implications: CiCo is only the beginning of how consumer loyalty can evolve in the coming decade. The mobile web will become a key shopping portal, working as an intimate, personal digital concierge to revolutionize the shopping experience.

“You can imagine a time when every purchase and product is, in some way, tailored to a consumer’s individual needs,” said Hines. “Whether it’s a coupon offered only to your immediate social circle, or the ability to allocate a percentage of every purchase to the charity of your choice, we will have more individuality than ever before as consumers. American Express will continue to explore the newest innovations that will help our customers become the smartest shoppers they can possibly be.”

To download a PDF of the report, please visit

About Consumer Spending Futures: The New Era of Pause and Purchase
American Express commissioned Future:Poll, the research division of The Future Laboratory, to explore the impact of change on current and future consumer spending trends across six key markets: US, UK, Canada, Australia, Japan and Mexico. The survey, conducted in August 2010, polled the opinion of 1,000 respondents aged 18 to 65+ years old in each of the six countries, totaling 6,000 respondents. The process utilized a combination of quantitative and qualitative methodology, spanning extensive desk and visual research, online consumer surveys, expert interviews and consumer case studies.

About The Future Laboratory
Recognized internationally for its innovative approach to trend forecasting, consumer insight and brand strategy, The Future Laboratory offers qualitative and quantitative insights into future consumers. Since 2001, they have developed a consultancy that unites editorial work, independent research and creative thinking of the highest caliber with engaged operations that respond to a brand’s need for research and enquiry.

About American Express
American Express is a global services company, providing customers with access to products, insights and experiences that enrich lives and build business success. Learn more at


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