Back in 2014, the parody news site The Onion ran an article with the headline, “Woman a Leading Authority on What Shouldn’t be in Poor People’s Grocery Carts.” Depending on my mood, I find this either hilariously sad or sadly hilarious. In it, a judgmental “authority” disapprovingly notices that a “poor” person’s grocery cart contains a brand-name cereal and remarks, “Apparently, the generic kind isn’t fancy enough for her.” The point of the piece is to satirize the unempathetic pronouncements of a certain stratum of the population toward another. But the misinformed assumptions that flavor this account are not too far from the way some marketers look at low-income consumers. (If they look at them at all.)
At 200% of the U.S. poverty line and below, “low income” is not wholly synonymous with impoverished, indigent or even poor. And they don’t see themselves that way, either. Only 9% of low-income consumers told us they identify as “poor” (Gartner Consumer Values and Lifestyle Survey, October 2018). Instead, like most of the U.S. population, they identify predominantly as “middle-class.” (See “How to Market to the Middle-Class Mindset” — subscription required.)
Self-identification is one thing, but low-income consumers’ behaviors are also in line with those of the general population. For example, low-income consumers, while price-sensitive, aren’t solely price-driven. In rates similar to those of the rest of the population, low-income consumers are just as often seeking time savings and the “sanity savings” of relaxing and unwinding. So, yes, price is important to these consumers, but that is not the only way for your brand to win with them.
For more on the low-income U.S. consumer, including how they may represent surprising missed opportunities in various tech channels, including smartphone penetration and mobile purchasing, take a gander at “Marketing Best Practices: Winning With Low-Income U.S. Consumers” (subscription required).