CATALOG AGE’s Exclusive Consumer Shopping Survey: Part I

Part I

Did you know that the number of U.S. consumers who shop from catalogs rose 7% during the past two years? That’s just one of the statistics uncovered by our survey of more than 1,000 shoppers coast to coast Gathering information about industry best practices and benchmarks is critical to any company’s continued success. But businesses also need to look outside, to the universe of customers and prospects.

That was the goal of CATALOG AGE’s Consumer Shopping Survey: to provide print catalogers and i.merchants with data regarding consumers’ buying habits and preferences. So in December 2000, Market Research Institute completed 1,004 telephone interviews with consumers throughout the United States. A compiled list of households in all 50 states was sorted on an nth-name basis. The proportion of names selected from each state was based on the proportion of the national population represented by that state.

In this, the first of a three-part series presenting the findings of the survey, we’ll look at the demographics of catalog and Internet shoppers, and examine how much shoppers spend and how many purchases they make, based on gender, age, income, and other factors.

Part II of the series, scheduled to appear in the October issue, will look at the types of merchandise consumers buy via catalog and the Internet, and how they rate the shopping experience. The final part of the series, in the November issue, will examine why they opt to buy from catalogs and the Internet and just as important, why they don’t.

Who buys

Just about half of the 1,004 consumers surveyed 49.6%, to be precise made at least one catalog purchase in 2000. That’s an increase of 7.1% from our original Consumer Shopping Survey, conducted two years prior, when 46.3% of respondents had made at least one catalog purchase within the previous 12 months.

Not surprisingly, given the newness of the Internet vs. the maturity of catalogs, the growth of online buying far outpaced that of catalog shopping. Whereas two years ago just 10% of those surveyed had made an online purchase within the previous year, this time around 26.4% of respondents had that’s a healthy 164.0% rise.

Looking at shoppers by gender, 56.0% of the women surveyed made at least one catalog purchase in 2000, compared with 35.8% of the men. That’s not far off from our earlier survey, in which 53.0% of the women and 35.4% of the men had shopped from catalogs.

Online, however, things have changed considerably during the past two years. Among respondents to the earlier survey, 7.3% of the women had made an online purchase, while the percentage of male online shoppers was nearly double at 14.0%. But women are closing the gender gap. In the most recent survey, 24.9% of the women had made an online purchase, as had 29.6% of the men.

Regarding the correlation between household income and the likelihood of shopping from catalogs or the Web, there are no surprises here. The more money people make, the more likely they are to shop from either channel. What is interesting, though, is that the higher the income, the less of a gap there is between the percentage of catalog shoppers and the percentage of Web shoppers.

For instance, among respondents with an annual household income of less than $25,000, 36.6% bought from a catalog within the past year nearly three times the number as those (13.1%) who’d bought from the Web.

Similarly, more than twice as many respondents with an annual household income of $25,000-$40,000 bought from catalogs (47.0%) than from the Internet (21.4%). Of respondents with income of $40,000-$85,000, 35.0% had shopped online compared with 61.1% who’d shopped by catalog. But among those with income of more than $85,000, 69.0% had bought from catalogs, and 58.3% had bought from the Web.

Geographically speaking, those living in the western states home of Silicon Valley and Microsoft were more likely to shop online than were their counterparts elsewhere in the country. More than one-third 36.8% of Westerners had made an online purchase in 2000. Those in the Southeast weren’t far behind, with 35.9% of respondents in those states having bought online. Residents of the north-central U.S. were still somewhat mouse-shy when it comes to shopping: Only 19.1% of survey respondents in that region bought online.

Then again, residents of the north-central states were also the least likely to shop by catalog. Only 43.6% of respondents in those states had made a catalog purchase last year. Again, Westerners and Southeasterners led the way, with 52.7% and 52.6% of participants in those regions respectively buying from catalogs.

Baby boomers are the most likely to have bought by catalog or from the Web. Among survey participants ages 36-50, 56.9% had bought from a catalog, and 33.8% had bought online in 2000. Of respondents over the age of 50, 51.1% had bought from a catalog, but only 20.6% had shopped online. And of respondents ages 26-35, 43.1% had made a catalog purchase, while 31.7% had bought something online.

Unlike their older counterparts, participants ages 18-25 were more likely to buy from the Web than from a catalog. While 24.7% had made at least one catalog purchase in 2000, 29.6% had made at least one online purchase during the same time frame. Clearly, this speaks of a sea change in terms of shopping behavior.

How much they buy

The mean number of catalog purchases for the year among survey respondents who shopped from catalogs was 5.93. Men made marginally more purchases than women: a mean of 6.17 vs. 5.86.

In fact, in terms of means, there weren’t many variations across the board. As expected, those with an annual household income of more than $85,000 made the most purchases (a mean 7.60), while those with a household income of less than $25,000 made the fewest (a mean 5.41).

The plurality of married catalog-shopping respondents 34.9% made two or three catalog purchases during 2000. But the plurality of nonmarried catalog shoppers (34.5%) made four to six purchases last year. So did the plurality of those with income of more than $85,000 (34.5%) and of those living in the Northeast (31.2%) and in the Southeast (29.3%).

Perhaps of most interest to catalogers are the frequent buyers, those who made at least a dozen purchases in 2000. That would be 19.3% of the male catalog shoppers vs. 16.1% of the females; 8.2% of those 18-35 years old vs. 18.4% of those older than 35; and 27.6% of those with annual income of more than $85,000 vs. 16.1% of those with income of less than $25,000.

As for how much respondents spent on their catalog purchases, the mean for the year was $313. Just as men made slightly more purchases than women, they spent somewhat more: a mean $363 vs. $298. Catalog shoppers in the Northeast dropped a mean $350 for the year, outspending those in the southeastern region ($340), the south-central states ($319), and the north-central and the western states ($290 each).

Catalog shoppers with household income of at least $85,000 spent a mean $456 in 2000, compared with $197 for those with income of less than $25,000. Catalog shoppers with household income of $25,000-$40,000 spent a mean $292, while those with income of $40,000-$85,000 spent $311.

The plurality of overall catalog shoppers 34.7% spent $101-$300 on catalog expenditures in 2000. But among male catalog buyers, just as many (31.6%) spent $101-$300 as spent more than $500. And though the plurality of catalog shoppers with income of less than $25,000 spent only $50-$100, the plurality an appreciable 44.8% of those with income of at least $85,000 spent more than $500 on catalog purchases last year.

Male catalog shoppers ages 18-35:

  • made a mean 4.08 catalog purchases last year
  • spent a mean $334 on catalog purchases last year

Female catalog shoppers ages 18-35:

  • made a mean 4.63 catalog purchases last year
  • spent a mean $261 on catalog purchases last year

Male catalog shoppers over the age of 35:

  • made a mean 6.73 catalog purchases last year
  • spent a mean $370 on catalog purchases last year

Female catalog shoppers over the age of 35:

  • made a mean 6.04 catalog purchases last year
  • spent a mean $304 on catalog purchases last year

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