Practical Purchases Survey: Consumers' Definition of Practical Varies

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Posted Dec 16, 2016

The recession had a major impact on how American families spend money. But while the economy has made some progress in recent years, people are still shopping differently than they did before the recession. According to Consumer Reports, consumers are focused more on practical purchases than other items. So what types of items do American families see as practical? We asked over 800 respondents about their buying habits and their thoughts on practical purchases.

practical purchases

Buying Habits

In Ask Your Target Market’s latest survey, 15% of respondents said they only ever make purchases that they consider to be practical. 57% said that they make practical purchases most of the time. 19% do so about half the time. 4% said they rarely ever purchase items they consider to be practical. And 5% never do. Of course, the recession likely has had some kind of impact on the way people make buying decisions. In fact, 48% of respondents said that they make practical purchases more often now than they did ten years ago. Just 10% said they purchase practical items less often now. And 39% said they make practical purchases just as often as they used to.

Practical Purchases

Consumers’ definition of what is practical might also vary. 86% of respondents said they consider grocery items to be practical purchases. 68% consider clothing to be practical. 60% think that housewares are practical. 23% consider tech items to be practical. 21% think that books can be practical purchases. 16% consider entertainment purchases to be practical. And 9% think that toys are practical purchases. Respondents named Walmart as the most popular destination for making practical purchases. But others also mentioned Amazon, Target, dollar stores, Home Depot and Kroger as some of their favorite practical stores.

Impractical Purchases

On the other end of the spectrum, 10% of respondents said they’ve purchased impractical items in the past day. 20% have made impractical purchases in the past week. Another 20% have within the past month. 15% have in the past three months. 11% have in the past year. 15% said that they last purchased something they consider to be impractical over a year ago. And 10% said they never purchase impractical items. Walmart and Amazon were also popular destinations for impractical purchases. And respondents who make impractical purchases also named Target, eBay, Best Buy and dollar stores as popular destinations.

Key Takeaways

Consumers do seem to be more likely to take practicality into account when making their purchases than they used to. But since definitions of practicality can vary among consumers, brands can potentially use that to their advantage. Demonstrating the practical value of things like housewares and even tech items could potentially lead to more consumers considering those items to be worth buying. In addition, consumers tend to go to many of the same stores for practical and impractical purchases. However, they do seem slightly more likely to purchase practical items in stores like Walmart and Target, whereas online stores like Amazon and eBay were a bit more popular with consumers who bought impractical items. 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.Photo Credit: Walmart Shopper Selects Frozen Food Items from the New Display Case by Walmart under CC BY 2.0What 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 December 10-16 via AYTM’s online survey panel.

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