Lee Eisenberg: The American Psyche in Two Acts

Lee Eisenberg, now an EVP at Chico’s, has authored two books: The Number and Shoptimism. He provided a unique and compelling perspective on the impact of the recession on consumers and shopping in a keynote address at Shopper Insights in Action 2010 sponsored by IIR US.

He breaks the attitude of shoppers into two “acts”.  Act 1 is pre-recession and characterized by a “What, Me Save?” attitude. Consumer’s attitude toward saving fell into 4 characterizations: procrastinators (who put off saving), pluckers (who pulled their savings number out of the air), plotters (who constantly work on understanding their savings number but to the exclusion of enjoyment), and probers (who avoid thinking of saving and are “allergic” to math).

But the economic issues leading to the recession (e.g., housing bubble bursting) created an Act 2 for consumers. It is characterized by the attitude of “What, Me Spend?” and marked by a return to the  frugal, thrifty behaviors that we’ve all seen. [Interestingly, he speculated about a re-balancing in the works where attributes of both “acts” combine into a behavior characterized by “conspicuous conservation”.]

Lee provided 10 great takeaways:

The American consumer will keep buying, but with…

  1. a keener understanding of needs vs. wants
  2. much greater caution
  3. more thought to planning and saving
  4. less reliance on credit
  5. an emphasis on trust
  6. an eye on simplicity and convenience
  7. growing reliance on friends and “friends”
  8. greater visibility into price
  9. greater appreciation of “small is beautiful”
  10. and as substantially different creatures

Lee Eisenberg provided a very thoughtful, qualitative view of the impact of the recession on consumers and gave insightful takeaways that can be leveraged into strategies for marketing to shoppers today. Nice job, Lee.