June 12, 2009, 12:00 AM

Consumers’ caution could dampen summer spending, Performics says

Many web shoppers plan to spend less than usual in areas like home improvement and summer vacations, a new survey says. Web ad copy should stress value, and multichannel retailers should make sure they’re visible in local search listings, the study says.

Online consumers spent less on Mother’s Day this year, and their caution could put a damper on spending through Labor Day, based on results of a May survey of web shoppers by search marketing firm Performics.

The survey found 40% spent less on Mother’s Day than usual, 8% more and 53% the same amount. And many consumers plan to spend conservatively this summer. 33% say they will spend less on summer vacations versus 6% who expect to spend more, and 19% say they canceled vacations because of the economy. 46% say they will spend less on home improvements versus 11% planning to spend more. The results are based on a survey May 12-13 of 300 consumers who had made online purchases in the previous six months.

“From a low-key Mother’s Day to cutbacks on summer travel and home improvement, it’s clear consumers continue to tighten their belts and be more selective with their spending,” says Michael Kahn, senior vice president of marketing at Performics. “Advertisers across the board, especially in highly affected segments like travel and home improvement, must acknowledge these behaviors and find creative ways to engage their audience and stay competitive.”

One way to do that is to focus search campaign keywords and ad copy on items consumers view as essentials, Kahn says. And, recognizing that more consumers will be staying closer to home this summer, he says multichannel retailers should make sure that search engines’ local listings, such as Yahoo Local and Google Maps, have correct store information, hours, locations and products offered.

The May survey was the second in Performics’ planned monthly poll of online shoppers to track their confidence and spending plans. Consumers in the May survey were more pessimistic than they were in April, with 29% saying their household economic situation is improving or they expect it to improve this year versus 40% in April.

“With only two months of data, we think it is probably still too early to draw conclusions on broad trends,” Kahn says. He says it’s likely that the responses vary with the latest economic news, such as unemployment reports and the rise and fall of the stock market.

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