CONSUMERS CRAVE CONTROL IN SHOPPING

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NEW YORK-Marketers need to give savvy consumers more control over the buying process and re-establish trust, a new survey for USA Weekend finds.

The study, conducted by Yankelovich Partners, Norwalk, Conn., found 85% of the 1,000 consumers surveyed nationally agreed with the statement "Unless I speak out and make my views known, no one will look out for my interests."

Examples of pro-active consumer behavior: 43% have called a business in the last year to complain; 27% have called a company to express satisfaction. Twenty-six percent have written businesses to complain, while 23% have written letters of praise.

In a sign consumers are seeking more control over the shopping experience, 65% have ordered a product from a catalog in the past year; 44% have ordered by phone or mail a product they saw in an advertisement. Twenty-seven percent say they at some time have purchased a product from an infomerical, and 18% have shopped via a home shopping channel.

Among the most popular transactions conducted via fax, mail, phone or computer are hotel reservations; clothing purchases; travel, tour and vacation information; and book and music purchases.

Researchers divided the group surveyed into five categories:

Networkers: Representing 23% of the total, this group is primarily made up of highly educated, upscale, white-collar male professionals. Close to half own home computers. They rank highest as readers of newspapers and magazines, and lowest as users of TV. They will gladly do their own research rather than be brand loyal, and are largely unmoved by product guarantees.

Neo-Bytes: Like Networkers, they account for 23% of the total, but are the youngest group, with a third under the age of 30. Neo-Bytes tend to let others discover new practices, then join in once concepts are part of the mainstream. While they describe themselves as impulsive and open to new ideas, they also are risk averse. They have the highest radio and TV consumption rate and are less likely to read newspapers or magazines. They rely on advertising and browsing for information about products they buy rather than specific research and are not seen as brand loyal.

Disconnected: This group, at 22%, is the lowest user of media and is unlikely to buy via telephone, mail or infomercial. They are the least educated, most likely to be retired or blue-collar workers and most likely to view themselves as old-fashioned, religious and followers. They are a bit more brand loyal than Networkers, probably out of inertia more than advertising, which isn't of much importance to them. They are not easily influenced to trying new products.

Retro-Actives: The oldest segment, with one in four retired, this group represents 17% of the survey. Members also were the least affluent and were predominantly white and female. They like discounts and freebies, but are brand loyal. They look to others as well as to advertising to help them make purchase decisions. While they aren't likely to own a home computer, they are comfortable shopping by phone or mail.

Interfacers: This group, accounting for 15% of the total, is stressed out and seeking new ways to gain control. They are the most brand loyal because of the status involved. Interfacers are the most likely to care about a product's environmental friendliness. They believe advertising provides valuable buying information they might not have time to gather on their own; while they enjoy ordering from infomercials, this group of heavy electronic media users also likes the face-to-face act of shopping in stores.

The 1,000 consumers in the study were interviewed by phone in May as part of a Yankelovich Monitor panel of 16,000 consumers. Margin of error was plus or minus 3 percentage points.

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