People are complicated.

We’re all defined and motivated by a unique cocktail of wants, needs, hopes, fears, and intentions. Full stop.

Notice I didn’t say behaviors. That’s because behavior is mostly a backward-looking indicator, a manifestation of the above. Sure, some behavior – like buying a house – is crudely predictive of my likelihood to buy new furniture. That’s easy. But what kind of furniture? 

Data analysis today, whether on Madison Avenue or Wall Street, over-indexes heavily toward the behavioral, mostly because the sources are massive and objective, whilst attitudinal data is traditionally small-scale and speckled with respondent bias – people frequently say they’ll do things they won’t or overstate a feeling in the moment. 

With enough data though, those biases are telling. The emotions behind our statements and actions can often say more than the act itself. It’s even more interesting when those emotions are unconscious.  

Did you know there’s been an unexpected surge in several online retail verticals lately, with a corresponding decline in physical store shopping, particularly in cities? Behavioral data tells us that. But do you know why? It’s because of growing concerns about crime and violence. Does it make sense? Yes. Is it strongly predictive well in advance of the behavior? Also, yes. 

In related news, we recently trained a machine to predict YoY changes in monthly new car sales. It looks like this:

It’s not because we simply ask people if they plan to buy a car. That doesn’t work (see: respondent bias). It takes a tapestry of 35 questions about myriad feelings and attitudes, asked thousands of times daily. We’ve done the same thing for sales of new homes, gasoline, electronics, clothes, cosmetics, breakfast cereal, and – yes – furniture. We’ll have a dozen more of those in a month. None of it’s simple.   

The predictions aren’t the cool part. Lots of firms can do similar stuff, and there are a hundred Rolls Royce SUVs in the Financial District to prove it. The innovation is understanding the mix of human wants, needs, hopes, fears, and intentions that form the predictions. The ‘what’ has become table stakes. The ‘why’ is the next frontier. 

Turns out it takes 4 billion+ survey responses over 10 years and 5M or more a day to get it right. When I started this company 15 years ago, I never imagined it would take so much time and firepower to reach this destination. 

Yet here we are. 

And here’s what we’re seeing:

Consumer confidence continued its uphill slog. Our Economic Sentiment Index had its third consecutive positive reading this week, regaining nearly all of the declines we saw between February and early April. The six-month outlook for the U.S. economy was the shining star, surging 3.5 points, followed by improved optimism for the housing market. Remember, this particular Index doesn’t mean people are thrilled – only hopeful things will get better.   

Wealthy Americans are losing trust in banks, fast. While the First Republic Bank collapse didn’t have the same broad effect on consumer sentiment as SVB did before it, wealthier folks are a different story. Trust in banks among U.S. adults with over $250,000 in liquid assets fell by nearly 50% between mid-April and early-May. Notably, however, they’re not the group most likely to say they’re considering moving money from their current banks – that title goes to the $10k-$100k in liquid assets group. Overall, intent to shift deposits between banks among the general population hit a high mark of 14% the week of May 7. They won’t all do it (see again: respondent bias), but plenty will.   

Melatonin is way more prevalent than I realized. In our 3 Things to Know this week, we looked at the dramatic partisan differences between concerns over a government shutdown and concerns over the federal deficit. We also gauged concerns about the First Republic Bank fiasco, which were as expected. What wasn’t expected (at least by me) was the extent to which recent revelations about mislabeled melatonin gummies would freak people out. Over half of Americans are worried about the potential side effects of OTC vitamins and supplements. And over one-third of U.S. households have at least one person who takes melatonin, including over 50% (!) of households with school-aged kids. 

Moms are nowhere near recovered from the COVID-era childcare crisis. Fifty-one percent of working U.S. mothers who left the workforce to care for their children during the pandemic have yet to return – which certainly isn’t helping our underemployment problem or, more importantly, the gender inequities in our country. For moms who made it back to the workforce (or stayed the whole time), remote work seems to be a huge help. Meanwhile, women are 29% more likely than men to say childcare issues have impacted their career, not to mention moms with full-time childcare report significantly higher job satisfaction. 

An increasing number of Americans believe brands should stay away from social issues, but they’ll still align with the ones they agree with. A majority of U.S. adults on both sides of the political aisle want companies to stay out of the political fray – with a whopping 93% of Republicans agreeing, compared to 55% of Dems and 78% of Independents. The numbers are tighter when it comes to people saying they’d boycott brands that support causes they oppose (84% of Rs, 77% of Ds, and 74% of Is). And they’re identical (at least between Rs and Ds) when it comes to supporting brands that share their values. It’s a high-stakes game. Just ask Bud Light. 

Moms just want to be with their families for Mother’s Day. Spending time with their children and partner is by far the #1 choice (49%) for moms this Sunday, followed distantly by going out for a meal (20%). That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also get mom a gift too – especially something handmade by the kids. You should do all of it.

More awesome discoveries from the InsightStore:

  • The new Twitter knockoff, Bluesky, could actually work, once more current Twitter users know it exists;
  • Chick-fil-A is the top QSR among Gen Z and McDonald’s is very close behind;
  • Managing living expenses is still the number one cause of financial stress but saving for the future (as a stressor) increased the most since last year;
  • Frequent food delivery app users are way more likely to be gluten-free, think about moving out-of-state, and three other notable factoids;
  • Elon Musk’s decision to step down as Twitter’s CEO is a popular move.

The Most Popular Questions This Week

Answer Key: Depends how old the kid is, but hell yeah; Definitely not; Old AF; No; Better, for sure.

Hoping you’re well.