Americans are becoming more frugal and less concerned with status items. In fact, 55% of consumers said that they make aspirational purchases, like buying designer items or expensive status symbols, less often now than they did just five years ago. And according to a report from NPD Group, the idea of aspirational brands is currently undergoing a major shift. Where consumers once were willing to stretch their budgets to make purchases based on status or style, many are now more concerned with practicality and saving money. So is it still a good strategy for certain businesses to use that aspirational or status angle when trying to sell goods that are relatively pricey? Or is that idea no longer relevant with today’s consumers? We asked 1,000 respondents about their shopping preferences and their thoughts on aspirational purchases.
In Ask Your Target Market’s latest online survey, 15% of respondents said that they usually make aspirational purchases, such as designer items or other splurges, a few times per month. 16% said they do so a few times every three months. 33% said they make aspirational purchases a few times per year. 15% do so a few times every five years. 13% said they make aspirational purchases less often than once every five years. And just 8% said they don’t ever make aspirational purchases.
According to Personality Radar, those who make aspirational purchases regularly are affluent, stylish and tech-savvy consumers. But those who make such purchases only on occasion are more likely to be home and family oriented consumers who simply splurge on a few items here and there, while keeping the rest of their purchases more practical. In addition, Amazon was named as the most popular store for people making aspirational purchases. But Macy’s, Nordstrom, Coach, Target, Nike, Apple and Walmart were also popular among those respondents.
There are also many different categories where people might choose to make aspirational purchases. 56% of respondents said that they’d be willing to pay a bit extra to buy from a good brand when it comes to their tech purchases. 54% would pay a bit more for designer clothing and accessories. 38% look for quality home items. 37% said that they’ve made aspirational vehicle purchases. And 35% have bought jewelry as their aspirational purchases.
More generally, price and quality seem to be the most important determining factors for retail consumers. 49% of shoppers ranked price as the most important factor when considering retail purchases. 35% said that quality is most important to them. 5% said they care most about style and aesthetics. 4% look for useful features. Just 3% said they care most about brand name. 2% care more about the brand’s actual reputation. And 2% value convenience in their purchases.
Additionally, 62% of respondents said that they consider themselves to be at least somewhat frugal. And 55% said they make aspirational purchases less often now than they did five years ago. However, 78% said that they are still sometimes willing to pay a bit more for items that they consider to be of high quality. 67% are willing to pay a bit more for products that are from good brands. And just 29% said that they would be willing to pay a bit more for items that would be seen as impressive by others.
Experiences vs. Goods
Another potential factor in the waning popularity of aspirational purchases may just be the growing popularity of travel and other experiences. In fact, 72% of respondents said that if they had to choose between buying expensive retail goods or experiences, they’d choose the experiences. Just 15% said that they’d purchase the retail items. And 14% were unsure. In addition, 41% of respondents said that they spend more on travel and experiences now than they did five years ago.
Aspirational purchases do seem to be getting a bit less relevant for a lot of consumers. But there is still a (small) market for brands that want to push those types of items. So for strictly luxury brands that only target the most affluent consumers who can afford to make aspirational purchases regularly, the status quo may still appeal to them. But for the brands that want to appeal to a wider audience who make aspirational purchases less frequently, calling attention to quality and your actual brand reputation could be a more effective tactic than simply positioning your items as status symbols. In addition, the waning popularity of aspirational purchases is only one factor. There also seems to be a shift in what consumers seem to think of as a status symbol. Instead of things like designer handbags and clothing items or even vehicles, tech items have now become popular in the world of aspirational purchases. So tech brands could also do well to position their items as a sort of useful splurge for consumers to make when they have the spare cash a few times per year or so.
You can view the complete survey results in the widget below and be sure to click “Open Full Report” to take advantage of all the chart and filter options.
What do you want to know? If you need some consumer insights on a particular topic, let us know in the comments below and we’ll consider it for an upcoming survey post.
Results were collected on April 30 via AYTM’s online survey panel.