20 April 2006
When the cost of living is rising faster than salaries can keep pace with, the world’s consumers are fairly unanimous about what they’d cut back on to avoid blowing their budget. Out-of-home entertainment, spending on new clothes and upgrading technology are the top three belt-tightening measures of consumers worldwide, according to an online survey by ACNielsen, the world’s leading market research and information company. The survey, conducted in November 2005, polled over 23,500 respondents – regular Internet users – in 42 markets.
Just over half the respondents claimed they would cut down on out of home entertainment (57%) and spend less on new clothes (53%) to stay within their budgets, with nearly half (48%) also saying they would delay upgrading technology to tighten their belts.
In Taiwan, when the living cost is increasing but the salaries keep the same, Out-of-home entertainment (64%), upgrading technology (61%) and Takeaways (48%) are the top three belt-tightening measures of Taiwanese consumers. The Taiwanese consumers were the most likely to postpone their upgrading technology to stay within their budget (see Table 1).
Across the five regions surveyed, consumer priorities varied, most notably in North America. While out of home entertainment was the first thing consumers would cut down on in Latin America (61%), Asia Pacific (58%) and Europe (54%), in North America, the first thing to go for 70 percent of Canadians and 66 percent of Americans would be the take-away meal, ahead of out-of-home entertainment, which ranked second. Moreover, North Americans cited ‘trying to save on gas and electricity’ as their third preferred cost-saving measure (see Table 2).
Cross-referencing these belt-tightening measures with an earlier ACNielsen survey about how consumers spend spare cash once essential living expenses have been take care of, it is clear to see that Europeans are strongly determined not to give up their quality of life, with holidays and home improvements high on their priority spending list and among the least likely expenses to be cut when the going gets tough. Similarly, people in Asia Pacific are pretty determined to stick to their holiday plans and Latin Americans are addicted to upgrading to new technologies.
“To a degree, belt-tightening strategies are a reflection of lifestyles in each region, and the potential for where the biggest saving can be made,” said Jennifer Tsai, Executive Director of Consumer Research, ACNielsen Taiwan. “It also reflects priorities – where consumers will look first to cut back, and also where they are not prepared to make concessions. Clearly for most consumers, out of home entertainment is an area of discretionary spending and where savings can be readily made. Similarly, not upgrading your mobile phone or laptop with the latest version, or making do with last season’s colours, isn’t going to kill you, if you have to go without.”
Stay home and entertain yourself? Compared to a global average of 57 percent, Thais (73%), South Africans (71%), the French and Hong Kongers (70%) were most likely to stay home when the going gets tough.
Make do with last season’s fashion? Compared to a global average of 53 percent, more than two thirds of Brazilians (70%), the Italians (66%) and Irish (66%) would cut back on the latest fashion. Sweden, however, has the most loyal followers of fashion, who aren’t prepared to give up new clothes.
Settle for the current version of their PC, mobile phone? Against a global average of 48 percent, nearly two thirds of Filipinos, Taiwanese and Thais (61%) would delay upgrading their personal technology. Indeed, six of the 10 markets most likely to cut back on technology upgrades hailed from Asia Pacific. The Germans were least likely to make this kind of saving, and the Japanese, renowned for their high technology adoption, were third least likely to delay an upgrade to the next best thing.
Spare your waistline along with your cash? Most likely to cut down on takeaways were the Canadians (70%), followed by South Africans (68%), Australians and Mexicans (67%). Least likely to cut down on takeaways were the Hong Kongers, where only 17 percent said they would take this action. The takeaway may be regarded by Hong Kongers as one of life’s essentials, rather than a discretionary purchase -- a recent ACNielsen study, LifeChoices, found that in Hong Kong as well as a number of other Asian markets, many no longer cook at home, preferring to outsource all their catering needs.
Turn out the lights to save on energy bills? Most likely to cut back on energy sources are Filipinos (69%), Mexicans (64%) and Americans (61%). Least likely to turn down the heating or the lights were the Russians, Finns (11%) and Swedish (12%), where perhaps the long nights and need for warmth override the need to cut costs.
Put off replacing major household items – is the cost savings strategy most preferred by the Dutch (54%), South Africans and Finns (51%) whereas Swedish seemed to be the biggest fan of it in good and bad times.
A switch to cheaper grocery brands was the strategy most preferred by over half of the French, Portuguese, Austrians and Dutch. In fact, seven of the markets most likely to switch to cheaper brands hailed from Europe – an indicator of the strength of Private Label in this region. Least likely to switch to cheaper brands are Indians (10%), Koreans (13%) and Arabs (10%).
Cut down on mobile phone use was most likely to be the option for South Africans, Brazilians and Mexicans. Swedes (10%), Hong Kongers (12%) and Danes (14%) were least likely to opt for this belt-tightening strategy.
Forego the annual vacation was one way to save for Brazilians, Austrians and Singaporeans, while at the other end of the scale, the least likely to cut out an annual vacation were the Swedes. In fact, all four Nordic countries ranked in the bottom 10 least likely to cut out their annual vacation, in company with the Malaysians, Chinese and Kiwis.
Use their vehicle less? Americans Canadians and Australians were most likely to opt for public transport or shanks pony, while only 10 percent of Hong Kongers thought this a worthwhile strategy – and very possibly a reflection of the low car ownership in this market
Use coupons more often – Americans, French and Belgians aren’t into saving but will take advantage of coupons to save on grocery bills.
The ACNielsen Online Survey, the largest twice-yearly global survey of its kind, is designed to provide an understanding of consumer attitudes and opinions on a variety of topical issues. The most recent wave of the survey took place in November 2005 and polled over 23,500 consumers – regular Internet users – in 42 markets in Europe, North and Latin America, Asia-Pacific region, Africa (Republic of South Africa) and the Middle East (UAE).
ACNielsen, a VNU business, is the world's leading marketing information provider. Offering services in more than 100 countries, the unit provides measurement and analysis of marketplace dynamics and consumer attitudes and behavior. Clients rely on ACNielsen's market research, proprietary products, analytical tools and professional service to understand competitive performance, to uncover new opportunities and to raise the profitability of their marketing and sales campaigns. To learn more, visit www.acnielsen.com.
Back to Top