Carol Wong-Li
Carol Wong-Li is Associate Director, Lifestyles and Leisure for Mintel. Carol researches and writes reports on the Canadian lifestyle and leisure industries.

Getting the best value will always be a priority for consumers. The marketplace is saturated with deals and discounts catering to the value-minded consumer, making it harder for retailers to differentiate themselves in the eyes of consumers who may be growing increasingly expectant of discounts. However, the quest for value doesn’t necessarily mean consumers are always looking for the lowest price. As Mintel’s 2018 North America Consumer Trend ‘The Value Equation’ discusses, budget-minded  consumers are weighing a variety of value factors for each purchase decision. Value means different things to different segments – where the lowest price is considered to be of value to one consumer, better quality regardless of price is considered to be of value to another.

So, how do Canadians and Americans compare when it comes to engaging in ‘budget shopping’ behaviour?

Pre-shopping vs in-the-moment deal seekers

In terms of budgeting actions, our research shows a notable difference between front-end/pre-shopping actions and those that happen while shopping. Americans tend to collect discounts before they begin shopping (on- or offline); meanwhile, Canadians are less inclined toward deal-seeking behaviours such as clipping coupons, searching for promotion codes, or using apps to find coupons. Instead, Canadians rely more on their knowledge of what retailers are charging and are ready and willing to take advantage of deals when they are in stores.

Indeed, Mintel’s report on Canadian budget shoppers shows that consumers are responsive to deals found while they shop, with Canadians more likely to buy sale items or larger purchases during shopping trips compared to Americans. For retailers operating in Canada, this highlights the importance of well-placed signage that promotes savings as a way to drive purchases – perhaps more so than when catering to an American audience. Given this, it is likely that technological advances such as digital signs or smart labels are likely to go further when engaging Canadian consumers.

Lower price vs quality

Canadian consumers’ inclination to wait and find deals when they engage in the act of shopping suggests they are less likely to take risks when it comes to making the choice between buying lower costs versus paying more for one’s preferred brand. This takes us back to the question of quality. Mintel research shows that Canadians have a heightened tendency to wait for their desired favourite brands to go on sale rather than taking the risk on quality and trade in to buy a generic brand each time they shop. This suggests that for Canadians, the willingness to take the risk of buying an unfamiliar brand is outweighed by considerations of quality.

This is not to say, however, that private labels are not of interest to Canadians. On the contrary, nearly all Canadian consumers report buying private label brands at least some of the time, especially younger consumers. Moreover, Loblaw’s President’s Choice label stands out as a best-in-class example of consumers trusting a private label as much as they do national brands such as McCain and Maple Leaf, according to Mintel’s Canadian report on consumer attitudes toward private label food and drink. With quality such a high consideration, in-store signage may again play a contributing role in generating purchase. Given that brand cachet may hold a little more weight amongst Canadian consumers, legacy brands may find that signage information touting quality and proving why higher price points are worthwhile may also resonate more strongly with Canadian consumers.

Carol Wong-Li is a Senior Lifestyle and Leisure Analyst at Mintel, researching and writing reports on the Canadian lifestyle and leisure industries. She incorporates her background in advertising and brand tracking to deliver actionable insights. Carol holds a Master of Arts in Sociology, specializing in Canadian Ethnic Relations from the University of Calgary.