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Key Findings September / October 2011

Parents’ Online Spending Habits Mobile Shopping Technology, Small but Growing Emerging Majority Business Ownership Rising
Americans Falling Out of the Middle Class Health Insurance Costs Rise Sharply Public Transit
Popular Car Colors Genetically Modified Foods Not Yet Labeled in U.S. Hospital Energy Management
Continued Popularity of Social Media Dominated by Facebook Hispanic Population Life Expectancy Share of Energy Use by Appliances and Electronics Increase
Measuring Customer Engagement Websites Need Improvements
Social Media and Brands B2C and B2B Marketing Priorities

Parents’ Online Spending Habits

Recent research shows that Dad spends more than Mom for download music, games or movies from the Internet. See the chart below for details.

Male parents are also online with their children for more hours each week than moms. Among parents who own any type of online device, dads spent 4.5 hours on the Internet with their children, compared with 2.9 hours for moms.

A 2010 Yahoo! survey showed that fathers, versus childless men, make more purchase decisions in categories such as consumer packaged goods, personal care and apparel. However, 66% of dads say they felt ignored by child and baby product advertising and 57% felt alienated by those advertisements – even though 80% were either primary or shared decision-makers about such products.

Type of Online Content Paid for by U.S. Mom and Dad Internet Users, February 2011 (% of respondents)
Parents' Online Spending Habits | sauarage research Sept. Oct. 2011 key findings | market research

Americans Falling Out of the Middle Class

According to the Pew Economic Mobility Project, 28% of people who grew up in the U.S. middle class eventually fell down the income ladder. The report was created from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth study, which looked at teenagers in 1979 and returned to review their economic status between 2004 and 2006.

While 21% of white men wind up falling out of the middle class (defined as making between the 30th and 70th percentile of the American income distribution), a much larger percentage (38%) of black men who grew up in the middle class slid down the ladder.

Men who are divorced, widowed or separated are 13% more likely to drop out of the middle class than are married men, and men who have never married are 6% to 10% more likely to fall than married men.

The report also shows that white, black and Hispanic women are equally likely to drop out of the middle class. Compared with married women, women who are divorced, widowed or separated are between 31% and 36% more likely to fall down the economic ladder. Never-married women are 16% to 19% more likely to fall than married women.

Popular Car Colors

White is the most popular vehicle color in the world, followed by black and silver, according to the car-paint supplier PPG Industries.

In North America, white came in first, making up 20% of the 2011-model-year cars. Silver was second at 19%, followed by black (18%), gray (15%), red and blue (tied at 9%), naturals such as brown, tan and gold (7%), green (2%) and other colors (1%).

Results varied in Europe and Asia, though both continents had the same three color choices on top.

PPG also reported that 48% of car buyers make choices based on color, and 31% are willing to pay extra for a vehicle that expresses their personality through color.

Continued Popularity of Social Media Dominated by Facebook

According to Nielsen, social media now accounts for 22.5% of the time that Americans spend online, compared with 9.8% for online games and 7.6% for e-mail.

Facebook is Americans’ most used social media brand, spending 53.5 billion minutes on from computers at home and work during May 2011. This is up 6% from 50.6 billion minutes in May 2010. Other popular social media sites include Blogger (723.8 million minutes); Tumblr (623.5 million minutes); Twitter (565.2 million minutes); and LinkedIn (325.7 million minutes).

Facebook reaches 70% of active Internet users in the U.S.; 62% of Facebook visitors are female.

Measuring Customer Engagement

Successful marketing goes beyond making the sale; it’s a much longer and involved process called customer engagement. Customer engagement includes the interactions, experiences and context that create and nurture enduring, profitable customer relationships.

Leading Metrics Used by U.S. Marketing Executives to Assess Customer Engagement, April 2010 (% of respondents)


Social Media and Brands

A majority of Americans (86%) have interacted with a company or brand online. Some 38% use social networks to do so, 16% use message boards, and 13% use blogs. This is compared to 62% who use websites and 62% who use email. The most common reason consumers are enticed to follow a company or brand via social media is to access incentives such as coupons, discounts and free products or services (77%).

Social media users follow an average of five companies or brands on Facebook and Twitter. One-third (33%) do not follow any, and 8% follow 10 or more.

Mobile Shopping Technology, Small but Growing

Mobile purchases are growing faster than online sales, which are increasing about 10% percent per year. Total mobile commerce is expected to reach $6 billion this year, or 2% percent of overall e-commerce sales. By 2016, it could reach $31 billion.

Some 82 million smart phones are in use in the U.S. (one-third of people age 13 and older own one) and that number is expected to double by 2015. More and more smart phone users are using mobile applications: The average user spends 81 minutes a day using mobile apps.

Today, users spend most of their time playing games, checking social networks, taking videos, accessing maps, and getting sports scores, according to digital research firm comScore. Shopping currently ranks at number 13, engaged in by fewer than 7% of mobile users.

The biggest problems are buyers’ tedious chore of typing payment information into the small devices along with security worries over inputting their credit card numbers into their phones. In addition, fewer than one-third of retailers recently polled say they have a fully implemented a mobile strategy. Sales are difficult to come by when shoppers are required to zoom in and out of a site not yet oriented to the mobile screen.

Health Insurance Costs Rise Sharply

A study by the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that the average annual premium for family coverage through an employer is $15,073 in 2011, an increase of 9% over the previous year. While the demand for health care appears to be growing relatively slowly, insurers and benefit consultants say prices for medical care continue to rise as prescription drug makers and hospitals charge more.

Over all, the cost of family coverage has about doubled since 2001, when premiums averaged $7,061, compared with only a 34% gain in wages over the same period.

The annual growth in premiums, according to the survey, had slowed in recent years to 5%, rising just 3% in 2010, in part due to the recession. After several years of double-digit increases, the moderate rise was a welcome change of pace.

Genetically Modified Foods Not Yet Labeled in U.S.

An estimated 80% of processed foods sold in the U.S. contain genetically modified organisms. However, GMO foods are not labeled as such even though 93% of Americans support mandatory labeling.

More than 40 countries around the world require labeling of foods that contain GMOs including Australia, Brazil, the European Union, Japan, Russian and China.

About one-third of Americans (35%) believe that GMO foods are safe to eat, with 52% saying they are unsafe, and an additional 13% saying they are unsure about them.

The following chart shows the disparity in image between GMO and organic foods. While only 5% of Americans say they’d be more likely to purchase a food labeled as genetically modified, 52% say they’d be more likely to purchase food that is labeled as having been raised organically.

Organic vs. GMO Foods

Source: poll, June 2011

Hispanic Population Life Expectancy

The U.S. Hispanic population had the lowest median age (27.4 years) compared to other racial/ethnic groups in 2006 (the most recent data available). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this group will also live longer than other Americans as shown below.

Average Life Expectancy for American Men and Women, by Race/Ethnicity, 2010

 Websites Need Improvements

One goal of marketers is to effectively convert website visitors into buying prospects. However, 84% of U.S. B2B marketers say their ability to generate new sales leads using their website needs moderate to strong improvement. Other desired website improvements are listed in the following chart.

Ways Their Company Website Can Be Improved According to U.S. B2B Marketing and IT Professionals, May 2011 (% of respondents)


B2C and B2B Marketing Priorities

According to Focus Research, business-to-consumer (B2C) marketers are more likely to concentrate on improving client understanding and retention this year than their business-to-business (B2B) counterparts, who are placing a higher importance on filling the sales pipeline with leads.

The following chart shows the differences and similarities between B2B and B2C marketers’ efforts.

Highest Strategic Priorities of B2B and B2C Marketing Professionals Worldwide, May 2011 (% of respondents)

Emerging Majority Business Ownership Rising

There were 5.8 million emerging majority-owned businesses in 2007, the most recent year for which data is available. The number of emerging majority-owned businesses grew 45.6% between 2002 and 2007, compared an 18% increase in the number of U.S. businesses overall. Most of these emerging majority-owned businesses (5.0 million) did not have any employees besides the owner. The 0.8 million businesses with employees had a total of 5.9 million workers.

Public Transit

Some 69% of Americans say there are times when public transportation is more convenient than driving. The biggest motivators for using public transit are:

  • High gas prices (29%)
  • Convenience (29%)
  • Avoiding traffic (10%)
  • Environmental concerns (8%)
  • Relaxing while traveling or getting things done (7%)
  • Safer (4%)
  • Because other people are using public transportation (1%)

Almost one-half (46%) of those with public transportation in their area say that local, state, and federal governments spend too little on public transportation, compared to only 11% who think government spending is too high.

Americans rank reduced congestion (28%) as the most valuable aspect of public transportation, followed by saves money (24%), protects the environment (13%), reduces stress (11%), supports the economy (9%), reduces dependence on foreign oil (9%), reduces travel time (4%), and other (3%).

Hospital Energy Management

A 2011 survey of U.S. hospitals (2011 Hospital Energy Management Survey) shows that a majority of organizations are not yet taking basic recommended steps such as performing regular energy audits, creating a strategic master energy plan, using commissioning of existing buildings or following the Green Guide for Health Care to monitor baseline energy performance. Below is a summary of survey findings:

  1. Acute care hospitals are one of the biggest energy users, resulting in health care ranking second behind the food-service industry in total energy consumed per square foot among commercial buildings, according to the Department of Energy.
  2. Most main hospital buildings – including those of 69% of the survey respondents – still are more than 20 years old. (The performance of energy-consuming systems degrades by as much as 30% in the first few years of operation, per the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers.)
  3. About 28% said they perform an energy audit in their acute care hospital at least annually, while another 25% said they do theirs every two to three years, results that were much like the 2006 survey. (Experts say the exact time between audits isn’t as important as doing them regularly and following up on the recommendations.)
  4. Some 43% saw annual energy costs rise from the previous year, with the most common response (30%) being an increase of between one and five percent. However almost as many (40%) reported lower costs, likely derived from a combination of energy efficiency efforts and a reduction in rates in some areas.
  5. At least 25% set an energy budget and performance targets, and monitor them annually (38%), and participate in Energy Star (29%, up from 14% in 2006).
  6. Energy reduction strategies by at least 75% included preventive maintenance, light-emitting diode exit signs, and electronic ballast and energy-efficient lamps. Other efforts were buying Energy Star-certified products (55%), upgrading building control systems (53%) or implementing energy conservation programs (49%).
  7. Energy saving strategies incorporated into health care renovation projects included using higher-efficiency HVAC equipment (51%) and retrocommissioning and/or reduced-lighting power density and occupancy controls (30%).
  8. Two-thirds (66%) participate in a demand-response program, committing to run their emergency generators to alleviate load/stress on the grid.
  9. Other energy-management strategies included HVAC/air handling improvements (37%), lighting system improvements (24%) and water heater, steam or heat recovery (13%).

Share of Energy Use by Appliances and Electronics Increases

Over the past three decades, the share of residential electricity used by appliances and electronics in U.S. homes almost doubled from 17% to 31%, rising from 1.77 quadrillion Btu (quads) to 3.25 quads. This rise has occurred while Federal energy efficiency standards were enacted on every major appliance, overall household energy consumption actually decreased from 10.58 quads to 10.55 quads, and energy use per household dropped 31%.

  • The gains in appliance efficiencies were offset by a number of factors including:
  • The number of U.S. households grew by 34.5 million from 1978 to 2009.
  • Improved living standards resulted in more households buying and using major appliances.
  • The share of households that have central air conditioning nearly tripled, from 23% in 1978 to 61% in 2009.
  • The saturation, or percent of households with an appliance, of clothes washers increased from 74% to 82%
  • The saturation of dishwashers increased from 35% to 59%
  • In 1978, personal computers were expensive and not typically used by U.S. households. By 2009, 76% of U.S. homes had at least one computer and 35% had multiple computers.
  • Most households had only one television in 1978. By 2009, the average household had 2.5 televisions.
  • DVD players and Digital Video Recorders (DVR) did not exist in 1978. In 2009, 79% of homes had a DVD player, and 43% had a DVR. In addition, almost one-third of all households had at least four electronic devices, such as cell phones, plugged in and charging at home.

Source:  U.S. Energy Information Administration


  • When Americans go on vacation, most would rather see a sunset than a sunrise (66%), try new food than stick to their regular fare (66%), allow for spontaneity than stick to a structured schedule (60%), and get up early instead of sleeping in (55%).
  • Most Americans think that these activities should be banned while driving: send a text (88%); read a text (80%); make a phone call without using a hands-free device (71%); and search for directions (63%).
  • Almost 63% of restaurant goers think it is rude for diners to talk, text and tweet on their cell phones while at the table. However 83% say it is okay to take photos of food and friends.

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