Tired of being tricked by retailer run-arounds, consumers are taking back control of their shopping experience. They're wising up to sales that aren't really sales, deal-a-day offers that last for weeks, and excessive email marketing. But these are just a few consumer-driven trends popping up recently; here are 12 more to be aware of, especially during the upcoming holiday season.
1. Required Discounts
Thanks to sales overload during the recession, shoppers have come to expect product mark-downs of at least 30 percent or they won't bite. They're also wary of fake sales, in which merchants falsely boost the original price only to almost immediately discount the product.
2. Reselling Deal-a-day Coupons
The cheap-living vouchers found a second life when buyers realized they couldn't use or didn't really want a deal and tried to sell them. That soon led to a trend in which buyers sell their Living Social or Groupon voucher to a third party at a small profit. This secondary market is just getting started, but resellers have already found their niches on such websites as Craigslist, eBay, Lifesta or DealsGoRound.
3. Cashless Payments
Despite ugly new fees on debit and credit cards, American consumers still don't carry much cash. They even get antsy when fellow shoppers pay with checks. It's a swipe-and-go world and soon even that will be passé. Smartphone technology has advanced to the point in Japan where shoppers commonly pony up with payment chips. Will this be another way to get around banks' extra charges?
4. Swapping: the New Shopping
E-swapping is all the rage, driven by the frugal and green movements. Consumers can exchange books, clothing, even homes, at such sites as BookMooch, Listia and Home Exchange. Most websites operate on a cashless basis, using a points system with which members can buy, sell and trade.
Social marketing is so huge it's become a fact of life for younger shoppers. They're seemingly compelled to share their most recent purchase, meal or massage on Facebook and Twitter. "Haul vloggers" also became a huge phenomenon last year when teenagers began regularly sharing their shopping "hauls" via You Tube.
6. Membership Privileges
Check almost any merchant website and there's a place to register for email notifications. Consumers want the coupons, savings and special offers provided in these emails, but they don't want inboxes crammed with promotional material. As a result, many have created separate email accounts for these promotions, to enter sweepstakes and receive daily deal offers.
7. Renting Instead of Buying
Possession isn't always 9/10ths of the law. Consumers sometimes feel it's better to rent a product than to buy it outright. REI, for example, allows sporting and outdoor equipment rentals, either for short-term use or to check out a sport before going whole hog. Similarly, fashionistas can rent designer handbags, jewelery and more at BagBorrowOrSteal.com for a fraction of the three-figure purchase price.
8. Hunger for the Latest and Greatest
A friend signs his emails with the notation "Sent from my iPhone 6." Naturally, there is no iPhone 6, but you gotta admit he's way ahead of the curve. There's a definite audience for such tech geeks' second-hand electronics; just don't leave your SIM card in the phone you're selling.
9. Saving With Apps
Few actually plan an entire shopping venture -- unless they're extreme couponers. Even when shoppers set out to buy specific products, they can get waylaid by something else that catches their attention. Gift cards, smartphone shopping, mobile coupon apps and other services make it easy to save, even when buying on impulse. Check out PCWorld.com's "15 Shopping Apps That Can Save You Big Bucks" for consumer favorites.
10. Fly-over Trendiness
In what some consider the horse-and-buggy days, it took years for a trend to hit the fly-over states (aka "not the coasts"). Thanks to online shopping, shoppers can buy new fashions as soon as they hit the September Vogue issue.
11. Green Superiority
Locavores and greenies are forces of nature with which merchants must reckon. These all-natural consumers disdain products and companies with a large carbon footprint; and woe to the merchant or service that doesn't cater to these desires. The advantage here is that the twin movements are bringing down the cost of environmentally intelligent and locally produced products.
12. Exteme Charitable Buying
Just like the greenies and locavores, some won't buy from companies unless they give back to their community or donate a percentage of their earnings to charity. And no faking allowed! Greenwashing is even worse than doing nothing at all. The winners, naturally, are all those non-profits and public organizations.