Getting a Fix on the Consumer Attitude-Behavior Kaleidoscope

By Brown, Andrew J. | American Banker, November 13, 1985 | Go to article overview

Getting a Fix on the Consumer Attitude-Behavior Kaleidoscope


Brown, Andrew J., American Banker


In the following remarks delivered on Oct. 1 at the Homestead Conference of the Savings Banks Association of New York State, Andrew J. Brown, president and chief operating officer of Opinion Research Corp., notes that finding out what a customer values, although an increasingly tougher task, is a key to success.

At Opinion Research Corp., we conduct roughly 500 surveys a year, many of them relating to financial services issues.

In some of our recent work, we have found that consumers are watching with interest as banks and other financial institutions expand their services in the area of credit cards, debit cards, and automated teller machines.

We have found that consumers are even starting to become aware of the involvement by some banks in new, sophisticated, point-of-sale direct debit systems. The public is well aware of the fact that a number of banks across the country have folded in recent years.

Many people are familiar with the deposit insurance crisis that faced thrifts in Ohio and Maryland earlier this year, and some consumers are starting to express concern about such bank calamities. They know that there has been a rash of bank mergers and acquisitions and they know that many thrifts currently are being acquired by commercial banks.

Consumers know that there is a move toward interstate and national banking (and they generally support the idea) and they are beginning to note -- with a mixture of glee, enthusiasm, and skepticism -- the entrance into traditional banking areas of such newscomers as Sears, Roebuck and Co., General Motors, and other large corporations.

I would like to share with you what we, as researchers, are coming to learn about the changing attitudes and behavior patterns of consumers, particularly as these attitudes relate to financial services issues. My comments are based primarily on surveys that Opinion Research Corp. has conducted, but also on some polls that other researchers have carried out and published.

Before I cite specific survey findings dealing with banking issues, I would like to make some general observations regarding related research findings in the work of ORC during the past few years. We have found that consumers in the 1980s are making significant changes in the way they think and act. They continue to spend when they feel confident, and they continue to keep the nation out of recession with their spending and their seemingly insatiable demand for credit.

Focusing on Value

And yet, at the same time, the consumer today is focusing less on price and more on value. There is a willingness to pay more for a demonstrably superior product or service. Increasingly, consumers have come to understand that quality, reliability, and durability can make a more expensive product or service actually cheaper in the long run.

In addition, we find that consumers are becoming increasingly protective of their free time. They consistently refuse to engage in routine or wasteful activities. To create additional free time, consumers are searching constantly for time savers, such as fast foods, take-home meals, catalog shopping, and convenience banking. In all of these, we see the consumer's willingness to pay more to "buy time."

Thus, the modern consumer is faced with a dilemma -- value versus time. Willingress to pay for value is admirable, but the pursuit of value takes time. It requires research and the effort to shop around. This predicament is indicative of the situation facing the seasoned shopper in our complex modern society.

Coupled with this increased price-value sensitivity, we find an emerging sophistication on the part of consumers today. They juggle brand loyalty, generic products, convenience, and need in an effort to achieve a more effective use of time and money.

What this all means for those of you in banking is that your existing and potential customers, more and more, are putting convenience and value ahead of price and beginning more effectively to weigh long-term loyalty and commitment to a given supplier of goods and services -- their local bank -- against the possible gains they might achieve with a competitor's products and services. …

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