Impact & Expertise

Press Releases

  • May 14, 2012
  • Consumers Intensify Their Vow to 'Save More, Spend Less'

  • Economic Grief and Frustration with Government Have Reached Record Levels in the West, According to BCG’s Latest Global Consumer Sentiment Survey

BOSTON, May 14, 2012—The vast majority of U.S. and European consumers say they are feeling insecure, anxious, and strapped for cash. Their concerns in many markets are higher than a year ago and the highest they've been in a decade, according to a new global survey by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG).

Among the key findings from BCG's eleventh annual Consumer Sentiment Survey, conducted in April and covering more than 15,000 consumers in 16 countries:

  • Consumers blame the government for the crisis

  • Feelings of financial insecurity are high and getting higher in most markets

  • Pessimism about the speed of economic recovery is rampant

  • One in four people, on average, in the U.S. and Europe is worried about losing his or her job

  • Few believe their children will live a better life—except in China

  • Values such as saving money and staying healthy have skyrocketed over the past two years, while the willingness to splurge for luxury has plunged

  • China is a relative bright spot, with consumers feeling more optimistic about the future than their Western counterparts

(For an analysis of responses by country, see accompanying exhibits.)

“If you take the world from the perspective of the middle-class citizen in the U.S. and Western Europe, we are still lurching from crisis to crisis," said Michael J. Silverstein, a BCG senior partner and the author of influential books on consumer behavior, including  Trading Up, Treasure Hunt, and Women Want More."Americans, in particular, are anxious about their future, their jobs, and their lack of savings. ”

Respondents in Europe cited continuing turmoil and government failure to deal with root causes as major concerns. “But conditions vary from region to region,” explained Catherine Roche, a BCG partner who has overseen the survey for the past five years. "Respondents in Germany and Switzerland were relatively positive about spending and least likely to change their behavior as a result of the crisis, whereas respondents in Greece, Italy, and Spain said they are being forced to change their spending habits drastically."

It’s a different story in China, however. “Chinese consumers have optimism, energy, and ambition. They say their world will be bright over the next decade,” said Silverstein, a BCG Fellow who is coauthoring a book on emerging-market consumers, due out in the fall.

“China and India’s globalizing economies are paving the way for millions of formerly poor consumers to enter the middle class. Carefully designed luxury products that reflect rising status will take a disproportionate share of income.”

BCG singles out a number of strategies that will be key for competing in this new reality. These include:

  • Build products with technical, functional, and emotional benefits. "Consumers will give up their hard-earned discretionary dollars for products that deliver. The roaring sales of iPhones are one of the best examples," noted Silverstein.

  • Anticipate a sentiment hangover. "Even as the worldwide recession slowly winds down, consumers whose trust and income growth are threatened will continue to spend very cautiously for some time to come," predicted Roche, who helps direct BCG's Center for Customer and Consumer Insight .

To request a summary of the survey findings or an interview with one of the partners involved, please contact Eric Gregoire at +1 617 850 3783 or gregoire.eric@bcg.com.

The findings will be incorporated into future BCG publications at www.bcgperspectives.com.

Survey Methodology

BCG conducted its 11th annual Consumer Sentiment Survey in April of 2012. The survey was deployed in the following 16 countries: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, India, Japan, Mexico, Russia, the U.S., and seven European nations—France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, and the U.K. BCG reached out to at least 1,400 consumers in every country and up to 2,500 in India. More than 15,000 consumers responded in total.

click to enlarge click to enlarge
   
click to enlarge click to enlarge
   
click to enlarge click to enlarge
   
click to enlarge

About bcgperspectives.com

Bcgperspectives.com features the latest thinking from BCG experts as well as from CEOs, academics, and other leaders. It covers issues at the top of senior management’s agenda. It also provides unprecedented access to BCG’s extensive archive of thought leadership stretching back 50 years to the days of Bruce Henderson, the firm’s founder and one of the architects of modern management consulting. All of our content—including videos, podcasts, commentaries, and reports—can be accessed by PC, mobile, iPad, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

About The Boston Consulting Group

The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) is a global management consulting firm and the world's leading advisor on business strategy. We partner with clients from the private, public, and not-for-profit sectors in all regions to identify their highest-value opportunities, address their most critical challenges, and transform their enterprises. Our customized approach combines deep insight into the dynamics of companies and markets with close collaboration at all levels of the client organization. This ensures that our clients achieve sustainable competitive advantage, build more capable organizations, and secure lasting results. Founded in 1963, BCG is a private company with 81 offices in 45 countries.

Recent Releases

  • September 22, 2014 Capital Markets Reward Divestitures with Higher Valuations view full release
  • September 17, 2014 Three-Quarters of Chinese Car Owners Plan to Switch Brands, Boston Consulting Group Research Finds view full release
  • September 17, 2014 Banks’ Payments Businesses Are Facing New and Tall Challenges view full release
  • September 16, 2014 Working Mother Names BCG One of Its “100 Best Companies” for the Seventh Time view full release
  • September 11, 2014 BCG Takes Top Spot in Consulting Magazine’s Best Firms to Work For Survey view full release
  • September 11, 2014 BCG Global Challengers: Bigger and More Ambitious Than Ever view full release
  • September 09, 2014 Insurers Must Make Technology a Strategic Priority to Meet Consumers’ Digital Expectations view full release
  • September 03, 2014 BCG Receives Award for Pro Bono Work with Save the Children view full release
  • September 03, 2014 Rise of the Machines: BCG Projects $67 Billion Market for Robots by 2025 view full release
  • August 28, 2014 Consumer Packaged Goods Companies Must Plan for a Digital Future view full release

Accelerating Out of the Great Recession

Accelerating Out of the Great RecessionThis book details what high-performing companies must do to seize advantage in a slow-growth environment. more

BCG Offices

Globe BCG has more than 80 offices around the world. Learn about our global presence.
Go

Social Impact

We are compelled to utilize our expertise to work with humanitarian organizations that impact local communities and the world at large. More