How Consumer Shopping Habits Are Changing in Response to Inflation

September 9, 2022

Contributor: Kassi Socha

And ways you can pivot to accommodate this shift.

As average selling prices rise, consumers are purchasing less or walking away with less items for the same amount of spend. Because of this, couponing is enjoying a resurgence. While the physical act of sitting at the kitchen table and cutting out coupons from the newspaper may have disappeared, the rise and utilization of digital price comparison tools and digital coupon tracking has replaced it. Now more than ever, consumers are turning to such tools to combat inflation

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In a recent Gartner consumer community survey, more than 30% of consumers said they are utilizing digital price comparison and coupon tracking tools. In fact, younger generations are more likely to increase their usage of digital tools compared to older generations: Almost 50% of Gen Z and millennial consumers use digital tools to track coupons. 

Digital marketers must consider how to address this shift in consumer behavior through a reinvestment in and focus on discounting. Associated tools should be reconsidered in your digital marketing strategy going forward.

The three types of digital price and coupon tools

Three types of digital price comparison and coupon tools have emerged as front-runners for brands to implement in their digital marketing strategies: dedicated digital coupon tracking tools, integrated tools and brand-owned tools.

No. 1: Dedicated digital coupon tracking tools

Third-party digital coupon tracking tools often fall into a brand’s affiliate marketing strategy. Brands partner with these tools through an affiliate network and pay a percentage commission on every sale. Most tools offer content marketing sponsorships and opportunities for features on their various digital channels for added promotion, visibility and traffic.

These tools are highly utilized by target consumers and participating aids conversion. It could mean the difference between acquiring a customer or not. Examples include:

  • Rakuten (formerly eBates) offers cash back on purchases if consumers begin their shopping journey through one of their digital platforms. They feature percentage bonuses and exclusive offers in their app to encourage mobile browsing and shopping. 

  • Paypal Honey has a web browser extension that alerts consumers about potential savings while they’re shopping online. Users automatically get cash back for their purchases if they activate the extension and can browse additional exclusive offers.

  • RetailMeNot offers coupons for thousands of brands that can be accessed for digital as well as in-store redemption. They’re often the first search result when searching for a specific brand and coupon.

No. 2: Integrated digital coupon tools and features

Many payment, credit card and banking platforms launch targeted offers. They utilize a consumer’s first-party spending data to surface relevant offers. When consumers log in to their accounts, they’re presented with offers and can opt in to participate.

  • Paypal serves up brand offers customers can save on and opt into within their app and website. Occasionally Paypal offers will pop up on partner sites users are browsing. Brands set the offer, timeline and target volume of redemptions, then Paypal determines who is a relevant target based on past spending.

  • Similarly, Chase has a section of its website and app showcasing brand offers to credit cardmembers. Customers can opt in and link limited-time spend offers to their credit card. They’re automatically reimbursed for the offer instead of having to manually redeem it.

No. 3: Brand-owned digital tools and features

Best-in-class brands partner with digital tools to offer discounts by surfacing coupons and offers exclusively to loyalty members as an added benefit or perk.

  • Target has a category within its app for Circle members to save on relevant in-store deals. Target uses past purchase history and first-party data to tailor these offers.

  • Michaels allows rewards members to clip coupons within its app and save them for redemption in-store or online. Michaels is known for physical coupons, but chose to pivot into digital to acquire new customers.

In short:

  • As average selling prices rise, consumers are purchasing less or walking away with less items for the same amount of spend.

  • Consumers are now utilizing digital price comparison tools and digital coupon tracking to combat inflation. 

  • Marketers must consider how to shift their digital marketing strategy to accommodate shifting consumer behavior and new discounting tools.

Kassi Socha is a Gartner Director Analyst who helps clients to better position their brands for success through strategic use of retail and consumer insights.

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