Who are Today’s Shoppers and What do They Want?

by Tina Manzer

“Consumers don’t care about your last mile problem or your Bezos-eats-your-lunch problem. They don’t lose sleep over the retail apocalypse,” wrote David Mattin in a report this July from TrendWatching. “However, their expectations for you never stand still. They want greater convenience, better value, excitement, meaning, status, relevance, authenticity, social connections and more.”

But rather than talk about the obvious retail trends that will meet those demands in 2019 and beyond, like automated stores or “the march of offline to online brands,” the report discussed tactical trends, “trends you can use; trends that can fuel your next winning product, service, campaign, experience, platform, business model and more.” Here are a just a few.

“Deep Retail”

“In the retail universe of 2018, data is gravity,” says Mattin. “It’s the fundamental force that draws retailers and consumers together. Deep retail is about discerning consumers’ deepest preferences via new forms of data.”

Consumers with smartphones have been generating data for years – “likes,” searches, purchases, views and more. Retailers have studied that data to understand their customers better; consumers have learned to expect that they will use it to offer more personalized products and services.

What’s more, as new forms of data collection appear – emotional data, eye tracking and DNA, for instance – consumers expect that retailers will use those, too, all for the purpose of giving customers exactly what they want and need. “The cost of sequencing an entire human genome has fallen below $1,000,” notes the report. “Face recognition is now how people use their iPhones. Walmart has filed a patent for tech that will detect the emotional state of shoppers as they walk around the store. Yes, there are widespread privacy concerns, but never discount a consumer’s ability to want two things at once.”

“Culture Club”

Culture Club is about how stores treat their employees. It will become an increasingly important part of the way consumers perceive stores. “Are you about speed, convenience and low prices or are you about an amazing, immersive, human experience?” asks Mattin.

Stores that plan to “automate their staff away” may be able to redeem themselves by building a Culture Club. He offers Amazon’s Career Choice initiative as an example. The online giant pays up to $12,000 for an employee on hourly wages to study for new jobs in in-demand professions such has healthcare and IT.

Stores on the “amazing experience” side of the equation – the ones that compete on creativity, curation, human connection, and other experiential examples – have to build a Culture Club to ensure that they can retain and cultivate the staff needed to provide all that. (Employee turnover in the retail industry is 5 percent per month, reports Bloomberg.)

“Plenty of consumers will continue to prioritize low cost over everything else, including worker welfare,” says the report, “but in our current environment, we are seeing rising numbers of consumers who see ethical choices as a key status play.”

Augmented Commerce (aka “A-Commerce”)

By now, the hunting, negotiating, purchasing, delivery arrangements, etc. of shopping have become automated. “Consider the host of ‘we do the thinking for you’ subscription services: razors, cars music, food, and more,” says Mattin. “The subscription e-commerce market in the U.S. has grown more than 100 percent a year over the past five years,” says management consulting firm McKinsey & Company.”

Some consumers, called “prosumers,” love it. These leading influencers and market drivers (along with half of the millennial generation!), would like their refrigerators to automatically order needed items, according to research by Havas, a global advertising and communications services group. One-third is looking forward to “anticipatory shipping” – receiving products companies think they want without having to place an order.

“You don’t need technology to meet expectations,” writes Mattin. “Your flesh-and-blood staff may be great at recognizing when and where a shopper might need advice or want one of your products.”

“Practical Post Demographics”

“Inclusive marketing is no longer enough,” states the report. “Time to reimagine everything you do around true diversity.”

TrendWatching has talked about the post-demographic world for a while now. It’s where consumers are freer than ever to create and celebrate the identities they choose – identities that go beyond what traditional demographics defined in the past. As a result, there is a demand for changing everything stores offer, from products and services to physical spaces and engagement processes. The goal is to cater to everyone, including groups that have been marginalized in the past, like the LGBTQ community, “plus-sized” people, and members of certain racial groups.

“For far too long now, we – business, society, all of us – have overlooked marginalized groups when we think about human needs and wants. What about the needs of older consumers? What about those with disabilities?” asks Mattin. He cites data from market research firm Age of Majority that reveals that 86 percent of marketers overestimate how much consumers under the age of 35 spend, while 72 percent underestimate how much consumers 55 and older spend.

The proof of post-consumer demographics is in the pudding – consider the success of this year’s movie “Black Panther,” the third highest-grossing movie of all time in the U.S.

“Making a change and applying some practical post-demographers is a way to offer something of value to many – maybe even millions more – people,” Mattin concludes.

“5 Trends Reshaping the Future of Retail: 2019 and Beyond” was a quarterly report from TrendWatching, a market research firm with offices in London, Singapore, New York, Amsterdam, Sao Paolo and Lagos. To sign up for free enewsletters, visit trendwatching.com. David Mattin is the firm’s global head of trends and insights. A sought-after keynote speaker and widely published journalist, he speaks regularly at high-profile conferences around the world.

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