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Quality and overall value, rather than price, are the driving forces behind consumer purchase decisions in the current economy, according to (pdf) a multi-country survey of shoppers by Euro RSCG Worldwide, which also found that recession consumers are putting a higher premium on customer service.

The quantitative survey discovered that, compared with February 2008, 25% more consumers polled this year report that they buy based on quality, not price.

Increasingly skeptical consumers also believe that real value is something they need to discover themselves, with 70% of respondents report being “consumed” with getting the best value for their purchases, the study found. According to RSCG Worldwide, this indicates more consumers are looking online or shopping during off-peak hours more often to find quality goods and services for a better price.

Customer Service More Important

Customer service also appears to be playing a larger role in the current economy. According to the study, more than 80% of respondents want companies to show a human face. Going beyond price, a majority of consumers report that top-notch customer service (67%) and trust in a company (58%) factor into their purchase decisions, while fewer consumers emphasize the importance of a company’s commitment to making a difference (38%).

Research also revealed that consumers are increasingly interested in researching brands, and sharing opinions and information online. Some 78% of respondents think the internet is a very important part of the shopping experience, even when purchases are not made online.

Not surprisingly, the survey found that almost three-fourths of consumers feel anxious in the current economy, and more than 50% believe the crisis will get worse. Most consumer anxiety is future-focused, with financial pressure built around the desire to have money to retire, keep up with the cost of living, reduce debt and provide children with college educations.

“Despite what many marketers and retailers may think, it’s not all about price – consumers find value in feeling smart about purchase decisions and investing in brands they trust,” said Andrew Benett, co-CEO of Euro RSCG New York and global chief strategy officer of Euro RSCG Worldwide. “The key [for marketers] is to break through consumer anxiety and reassure customers that they are making intelligent purchase decisions for themselves, their families and the community at large.”

About the study: The Value Study is based on a quantitative survey of hundreds of consumers in the US, UK and France, a semiotic analysis of marketing codes, and shop-a-long ethnographies to uncover? emerging codes and trends shaping how value is being defined now and in the future.

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