Q&A with Amy Pacheco VP, Marketplace Intelligence, Havas Media Group


DISQO’s Holiday Shopping Report, produced in partnership with Havas Media Group, uses recently collected data to understand consumer attitudes and choices as they head into the homestretch of the holiday season. 

The report confirms that consumers are generally “trading down” in their purchase given inflation and economic uncertainty, but it also sheds light on the areas consumers are willing to splurge, details the nuance of consumers choice in key categories, and shows how attitudes and intent are bifurcated by income.

We sat down with one of the report’s co-authors, Amy Pacheco, VP Marketplace Intelligence at Havas Media Group to discuss the study and an early look at research her team conducted focusing on how consumers are navigating uncertainty and what that means for the brands.

Q:       Amy, tell us a little bit about yourself, your role at Havas Media Group, and the work that the Marketplace Intelligence team does.

A:     I’ve been part of the Havas team for over 15 years, most recently as a charter member of the Marketplace Intelligence practice, designed to drive Havas’ thought leadership and ensure clients receive actionable intelligence on partners, platforms, and audiences.

Our areas of focus include cultural trends, the competitive landscape, and brand ecosystems.  We look to identify opportunities to influence decision-making, leveraging custom research like this project and all available data and resources to inform both clients and internal teams with insightful content that drives strategic execution.

Q:      Havas Media Group (HMG) and DISQO have jointly published a Holiday Shopping Report that focuses on consumer attitudes and choices heading into the holiday season. What do you think are the most interesting takeaways for brands and agencies?

A:    The shift in consumer choices leading into Holiday are important for marketers and brands to track, in a post-pandemic and inflationary season. Among the most salient takeaways are the discretionary items where shoppers are trading down vs. areas maintaining audiences. 

Budgeting is paramount across categories with the majority unlikely to spend on premium purchases, and aside from gift giving, are making cuts across the board. This really highlights the imperative for brand-building media strategy and directed investment to resuscitate meaningful consumer relationships. Purposeful approach is critical to engage audiences in relevant ways.

Q:       What led HMG and DISQO to work together on this project?

A:    HMG Analytics works closely with DISQO to help brands connect media activity to impacts on brand health metrics and lower funnel outcomes.

We’ve seen opportunities to expand our partnership into other projects and this partnership with our Intelligence team was a timely occasion to interface with DISQO, who have proven their commitment to data quality and transparency and leverage their offerings to answer business questions that matter to clients now.

Q:   You recently released “The Resilience Playbook” which is based on in-depth consumer research you conducted to understand the impacts of inflation on consumer attitudes towards brands and spending. What has stood out to you the most as you look at the change in the first wave of data collected in July and the second wave collected in November?

A:       One of the biggest realizations was the stabilization of consumer outlook as the initial “sticker shock” of rising prices has faded. It’s not that consumers feel that they are in a better position than they were prior to inflation, even though less reported being worse off month over month from October to November, but that things felt worse to consumers. With time has come a level of almost expectation. They have accepted, even if begrudgingly, the reality of spending more for less. 

 Q:       I’m particularly interested in your findings about the attitudes and choices of consumers in different economic strata. It maps at a high level to what we found in our joint holiday study, but you were able to dig deeper.  Tell me how “Heartland Families” and “Conscious Affluent” are thinking about brand loyalty and spending?
A:       When we look at the Affluent audience, we quickly see that just because they have the ability to spend, it doesn’t mean they will. Wave over wave, Affluents generally show more loyalty than other cohorts, but the overall percent that would still purchase their typical brand when faced with a 5% cost increase is less than half. They’re in a better position to manage increased expenses, and feel less anxious about it, but they won’t spend more just because they can. They’re not immune to inflationary concerns and paying attention. That said, their world is still full of choice.

Diving into loyalty, we see the strongest connections to financial brands, which could be an indication of interest in renegotiating offerings and creating better options for their money management now. They’re also showing increased loyalty at Travel which speaks to their interest and ability to live in the moment and invest in brands that curate fun and unusual experiences.  

Heartland Families are very much coping and hoping. They are managing money more carefully, and even though they say they feel more anxious, they also are the most optimistic audience, saying they’re happy most of the time and think the world is trending in the right direction. When it comes to shopping, they certainly have preferences, but they’re shrewd and strategic, and loyalty shifts for value.

This audience is less loyal to financial brands as they may be looking to consolidate debt, reduce credit card expenditure, or shop around for better interest rates, while they show increasing loyalty towards apparel or dining - brands that are uplifting and improve their mood, and we see them cutting back in other places to pool resources towards those areas. 

Q:    Based on the work you’ve done, what advice do you have for brands who are navigating consumer sentiment during this very uncertain time, a period you describe as a “poly crisis.”

A:    Every brand wants to know what they need to be doing now. The “Polycrisis,” driven by the pandemic, inflationary pressures, and geopolitical unrest, have all contributed to rampant uncertainty. And consumer relationships with brands across categories have been put to the test.

In July, 60% of consumers said that brands should support consumers during challenging times and in November that number plummeted to just 38%. Coupled with that, we also learned that consumers are split right down the middle with almost exactly half who believe that while a company’s ethics matter, price and value are more important right now. It’s not that consumers are actually expecting brands to do less, but they no longer have many, if any, expectations from brands. Perhaps there was an emotional window in summer, as we saw a lot more indication of a desire for companies to do more, to show their support, and rewarding of companies who put purpose above profits. That’s really dropped now as we move into holiday. It shows us how in a moment of crisis, there is an opening for brands, and that disruption can equal opportunity.

So it’s an opportunity for brands to embrace shifting behavior. Declining loyalty and price discounting was predictable, but those indicators only take brands so far, and understanding sentiment and how your customer experiences these moments is critical.  

Q:       I know we’ve just scratched the surface of this resilience research. How can people find out more?

A:     To learn more, reach out to the team at havas.market.intelligence.na@havas.com

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