TW Survey: Quarter of consumers polled say last big buy was leisure travel

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Following is the 10th in a 12-part consumer survey series, sponsored by Travel Weekly, designed to gauge consumer behaviors and preferences affecting the agency community. It is titled Consumer Purchase Options and Response to Advertising. Subsequent studies will appear monthly.

Also in this section:
Plog analysis: Less expensive ad tactics more appealing to travel consumers
Chart: Advertising angles
Methodology
How agents can use this data
Read the entire survey

SECAUCUS, N.J. -- Consumers ranked leisure travel products third on a list of recent purchases totaling $1,000 or more -- following home improvements and electronic items, Travel Weekly's consumer survey found.

The ranking places travel ahead of household appliance and luxury item purchases.

Survey respondents were asked to place their last major purchase in one of five categories.

A plurality, 31%, said their last major purchase was for home improvements, followed by 29% of respondents who named electronic items such as computers and TVs.

Twenty-six percent said their last purchase of more than $1,000 was for a travel vacation.

Purchases of household appliances and luxury items lag far behind, with 11% and 3% of respondents, respectively, having recently spent $1,000 or more on those products.

When presented with a hypothetical situation of receiving $3,000 to spend in one category, the majority of respondents, 44%, said they would spend the money on a vacation, followed by 34% who said they would pay for a home improvement.

Fourteen percent indicated they would buy an electronic item, 3% said an appliance and 1% said a luxury item.

Four percent were not sure how they would spend $3,000.

In addition to the type of products recently purchased, the survey addressed how different types of advertising influence the buying decision.

In-store displays and newspaper advertising ranked highest as influential factors for those considering home improvements (24%), appliances (41%) and electronics (25%) -- but not for travel products.

Just 4% of respondents considering a travel purchase said they were influenced by in-store displays, and 12% said they were influenced by newspaper ads.

No single advertising method was overwhelmingly influential when it came to travel purchases.

The most important was direct-mail advertising, but it was cited by only 15% of respondents as the key advertising influence for travel purchases, followed closely by Internet advertising (13%).

Ten percent cited television ads and 8% cited magazine ads as influential factors in their decision to buy leisure travel.

Just 3% said radio ads were an influential factor in deciding to buy leisure travel.

Forty-two percent of respondents said they were not influenced by any medium to purchase leisure travel.

In fact, using total figures, 36% of consumers overall said their most recent purchase of $1,000 or more -- in any category -- was not influenced by any advertising method.

Consumers were asked the length of time they spent considering their last major purchase, from the time they initially thought of it to the conclusion of the sale.

The majority, 41%, of those who bought leisure travel products said it took them less than three months to decide.

Thirty-six percent said it took between six months and less than one year to decide to purchase their leisure travel product.

Those percentages most closely mirrored the decision-making process for electronic items.

And, perhaps owing to the urgency of a particular household need, 58% of respondents said that their decision to purchase an appliance was made within three months.

The survey also asked consumers to identify the main reasons for making their most recent purchase selection valued at $1,000 or more.

The majority of those who bought home improvements, household appliances and electronics said they did so based on need.

Among those who purchased a leisure travel product, 54% cited having fun as the top reason.

Other findings follow:

  • According to the survey, there are some geographical differences in buying patterns.

    Consumers in the Northeast (38%) and in the West (35%) are more likely to buy vacations than they are to make major purchases in the other categories.

  • Older people are more likely than younger ones to have made travel their last major purchase. For those 65 and over (32%) and those 45 to 64 (28%) it is the most common recent major purchase.

    Among people 18 to 45, home improvements (37%) are more common followed by electronic items (30%).

  • One in 10 respondents said they had given up another purchase in favor of taking a leisure trip. Of those who did, 42% delayed a home improvement to take a vacation.

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    Less expensive ad tactics more appealing to travel consumers

    By Stanley Plog

    SECAUCUS, N.J. -- The 10th article in this monthly research series reinforces some basic ideas about how to develop a successful, growing travel agency business.

    I get two primary messages from the findings.

    First, travel maintains a strong competitive position in most households.

    For the last major purchase over $1,000, it places third, behind home improvements and electronic/home entertainment expenditures.

    But, if you look at spending by age category, it is in a virtual tie for the top spot in the 45-to-64 category.

    And, it captures the No. 1 position in the 65-and-over age group.

    Most of you will serve these empty nesters for the next 15 or 20 years or so because of the huge influx of baby boomers moving into that age cycle.

    They started the travel boom when they were in their late teens, and they will continue it in the future. That's good news for just about everyone.

    Second, travel decisions are influenced by less expensive forms of advertising, the kind that most travel agencies can afford and should be using anyway.

    Maintain a good mailing list of current clients and potential clients and contact them regularly about new offers from travel vendors.

    And get these vendors to cooperate with you on the cost of the mail-outs.

    If you use their collateral materials, you'll find a lot of willing takers.

    Also, there is no question that you need to be on the Internet. I have been preaching this message to travel agencies for a long time.

    The fact that travel has the shortest purchase decision lead time (about six-and-a-half months) indicates that it still is largely an impulse buy.

    You can influence purchase decisions more than you may have imagined.

    Although you face the severe impact of the multiple commission caps and cuts from airlines, this study points out that you can influence your clients and prospects to take more trips.

    Your emphasis, obviously, should be on high-commission items -- cruises, tours and packages. As the Nike commercial says, "Just do it!"

    It's in your hands.

    Stanley Plog is chairman and chief executive officer of Plog Research, with offices in Los Angeles and East Brunswick, N.J.

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    Methodology: Measuring options and ad influence

    SECAUCUS, N.J. -- Travel Weekly's Consumer Purchase Options and Response to Advertising study was conducted by Plog Research.

    It is the 10th in a 12-part series of monthly consumer surveys on issues affecting travel agents. The study sought to:

  • Identify from five categories the respondents' two most recent purchases over $1,000.
  • Calculate which advertising media consumers believe influenced their purchase decision.
  • Measure the amount of time the purchase was considered before it was made.
  • Record alternative purchase choices.
  • Measure consumer purchase preference when presented with a hypothetical situation in which they are given $3,000 to spend.

    Three hundred consumers were interviewed. Geographic quotas were impose to ensure regional representation.

    The average age of respondents was 51, and average annual household income was $89,000. Sixty-six percent of respondents were women and 34% were men.

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    How agents can use this data

    Agents can obtain copies of press releases for this and previous TW surveys. They can insert their own contact information and agency profiles when distributing the releases. Releases can be obtained by e-mailing [email protected].

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    Read the survey in its entirety

    Click the link below to view the study in its entirety. (NOTE: This feature requires that you have the latest browser software and/or the latest version of Acrobat Reader installed. The free reader is downloadable from Adobe's Web site.)

    Survey: Consumer Purchase Options and Response to Advertising

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