Consumers weigh causes and prices before buying

February 14, 2012

Can a causes strategy persuade consumers to visit your stores? For most, the answer depends on your prices and the causes you support.

Food retailers and CPG manufacturers that align with charitable causes largely move consumers – but not completely. 

One-third of consumers (33.1%) say the strategy doesn’t make them likelier to shop in a particular supermarket; just 13.3% say it does, according to findings of the 2012 National Grocers Association-SupermarketGuru Consumer Panel Survey Report. Notably, consumers who say “no” the most are the nation’s heaviest grocery spenders (36.8% of this group that spends $101 and more per week).

For the majority of consumers overall (53.6%), it depends – on the store’s prices, or on the causes it supports, or on a combination of both. People understand that charitable causes help others in need, but tough times are pretty much everywhere these days, and many already give in other ways beyond what a food store or food brand might do.  So there’s a limit to the charity they’ll connect to their food shopping.

This resistance emerges if people don’t feel as strongly about a particular cause, or if they think a store or brand inflates prices in order to deliver the support it messages about. For example, 10.9% say it depends on the causes. Another 15.8% say it depends on the prices.  And 26.9% say it depends on both causes and prices.

What if prices rose to allow for donations? That would be fine for 56.7% of U.S. adults surveyed, as long as the price difference was no more than 2%.  However, it would be OK with only 10.1% of consumers if the price difference swelled to as much as 5%.  For a full one-third of respondents (33.2%), the amount of price difference wouldn’t matter.

Related, if charitable support was keyed to a retailer’s private label sales, and those prices rose, 62.3% of consumers say they’d still buy their usual amount of store brand items. About one-quarter of consumers (25.3%) say they would buy less, and 12.4% say they would actually buy more.

Will a “causes” strategy help a supermarket pull consumers from wider geographic areas?  Not for most consumers, the survey findings show.  A majority (53.9%) says it won’t travel any farther to shop in a food store that supports causes.  However, 24.2% say they would travel up to a mile or two longer, 16.1% say they would travel up to five miles more, and 5.7% say they would travel up to 10 miles farther to support a support a supermarket that supports causes.

Which causes are uppermost in consumers’ minds today? Their Top Five (respondents could name multiple responses) are:  relieving hunger (54.8%), relieving child hunger (39.9%), education (30.8%), supporting people in disaster-stricken areas (28.5%), and the environment (23.2%).