The modern shopping experience is in a state of constant evolution and a recent seminar co-hosted by The Store, WPP’s retail practice, and Kantar Retail revealed interesting trends within this evolution.

The seminar focused on a study of American shoppers in lower (<$25K), middle ($25K-$84K) and upper ($85K+) household income brackets. The data was gleaned from a study set of 50,000 unique primary household shoppers over the course of a year and there were many insights that also apply to the Canadian market.

Here is a look at five major trends that are impacting North American shoppers in 2012, as identified by the study.

Macroeconomic factors

Food and fuel prices are driving inflation and,  in-turn, are impacting spending behavior.  80 per cent of shoppers say they’ve noticed food prices increase significantly in recent months. To cope with this rise in food prices, middle income shoppers are deal-seeking (using more coupons, buying sale items, planning meals around what’s on sale) and limiting spending (avoiding expensive items,  buying fewer items on impulse and sticking to a list). In comparison, lower income shoppers are coping by trading down (buying more private label items and less expensive versions of products).

The evolving grocery trip

Traditionally, consumers have trended towards once-a-week grocery stock-up trips. While weekly stock-up trips still happen, they have decreased from 73 per cent in 2008 to 67 per cent in 2011. Shoppers are now opting for smaller, more frequent trips for fill-in items or for immediate consumption. The grocery trip is also defined along gender lines as 86 per cent of women and 78 per cent of men plan their grocery trips in advance. And, when it comes to choosing a store, men are more likely to go to conventional supermarkets rather than a super center, warehouse club, etc.

Shopping list 2.0

New digital tools are driving new shopping habits. 19 per cent of Gen Y shoppers have used an app to make a shopping list and 16 per cent of them have shopped for items using a retailer’s app, compared to Boomers at 5 per cent and 2 per cent, respectively. While using smartphones for shopping purposes is not just a Gen Y phenomenon, the gap in smartphone usage between Gen Y and Boomers is widening overall. Shopping is just one example of a trend that is fuelling that gap

Bringing value to the mainstream

Value retailers now have widespread appeal and can no longer be perceived as an “alternative” or “emerging” channel.  While the shopper base at value retailers does skew towards lower income (65 per cent), middle income (53 per cent) and higher income (38 per cent) shop at value channels as well. Increasingly, consumers are shopping at value discount stores for planned grocery stock-up and fill-in trips, as opposed to general merchandise and impulse trips.

New views on value

Value is the new normal. Consumers rank minimizing spending (67 per cent) and getting a good deal (63 per cent) as the two most important factors when shopping, followed by having a stress-free shopping experience (53 per cent) and completing shopping as quickly as possible (42 per cent). There are two types of value shoppers – those who are seeking a good deal and those who are looking to spend a little money as possible. “Good deal” shoppers prioritize having fun and enjoying the shopping experience and purchasing high quality products. “Spend as little as possible” shoppers value completing the shopping as quickly as possible and ensuring the experience is as stress-free as possible.

Look for these and other trends to continue to inform how North Americans shop, both online and in person. The behaviors may change but the appetite for fresh, innovative shopping experiences remains.