Consumer behavior, it is a-changin’

By: - Reporter / @neltayao
/ 05:04 AM July 12, 2019

Time-poor, and, therefore, dependent on “mobile-led, frictionless retail strategies,” which still have a human touch—meet today’s “high-velocity” consumers who are driving the retail industry’s evolution at a supersonic pace, says a recent report by global trend forecasting agency WGSN.

“The High-Velocity Consumer,” penned by WGSN Insight senior editor Petah Marian, discusses six key changes in consumer behavior, as influenced by macro shifts happening in society, technology, industry, environment, politics and creativity, based on their own research.


Handheld revolution

It comes as no surprise that the first consumer behavior trend on the report’s list is called The Handheld Retail Revolution.


Citing data from YouGov, 44 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds are now more comfortable speaking to new people through social media, messaging apps and other online platforms rather than in person; only 37 percent said otherwise.

This seems to be a generational thing, as the same research found that two-thirds of those ages 55 and older prefer to speak to people they didn’t know face-to-face.

Looking at shopping habits, the report says consumers do retail research online, and therefore, have more or less made a purchasing decision even before entering a store.

This gives retailers an opportunity to blend offline and online by incorporating “self-service” features in their stores to give customers more control over their transactions (think self-service checkouts).

Under this trend, WGSN still emphasizes the importance of human connection, and how, despite all the tech available, it is important that consumers have access to human assistance when necessary.

Retailers, the report says, need to ensure that as they automate, they also do not set aside their employees who may be affected by such change.

WGSN suggests that displaced staff be retrained for new roles to help them evolve their careers.


Feel factor

The feel factor is the second trend identified in the report, and it emphasizes how retailers’ human connection is a key differentiator among today’s consumers. Citing multinational professional services network PricewaterhouseCoopers’ 2018 Future of Customer Experience Survey, the report says that while 82 percent of US and 74 percent of non-US consumers want more human interaction, 59 percent of them feel that companies have lost touch with the human element of customer experience.

“There seems to have been too much focus on creating personalized experiences and not enough on creating personal [ones],” the report says.

To address this, WGSN suggests these key actions for retailers: 1) Put humanity at the center of your store strategy; 2) Extend customer-centricity beyond what they say they want, to develop strategies that tap into how they want to feel; and 3) Come up with strategies that bring together technology and humanity to create a unique store experience.


“Trustenomics” is next on the trends list, as trust, the report says, is an important purchase driver. And for one’s business to be trusted by consumers, it must, first and foremost, be an agent of positive change.

Another study cited in the report says that 90 percent of consumers consider “operating in a way that protects and benefits society and environment” to be a responsible business practice.

Engage, too, your communities, especially in times of crisis. The report makes an example of Cape Town in Africa, where, during a drought in 2018, brands such as Coca-Cola and Unilever redeveloped products and manufacturing processes to cope with the calamity.

Coca-Cola reduced the amount of water used in its production by 30 percent, while Unilever created dry shampoo and waterless surface cleaners.

Climate concerns

Speaking of the environment, the fourth trend, climate concerns, focuses on consumers’ climate anxiety and desire to limit, or reverse, the damage done by humans to the planet.

Such mind-set means retailers also need to implement new strategies to address this distress.

But doing so is a complicated task, the report says—based on a research by Kantar TNS, which surveyed over 1,200 people in the United Kingdom. The study found that while 63 percent are concerned about reducing the amount of packaging that they buy, they aren’t keen on taking the lead to ensure that this actually happens. In that survey, those ages 16 to 24 said they wanted government to lead (36 percent), while 22 percent said they wanted manufacturers to do so, and consumers, only 13 percent. Forty-eight percent of older people (65 years old and above), pointed to manufacturers as the one who should be leading the reduction of disposable packaging; 23 percent chose consumers; and 10 percent said government.

So what’s a business to do? The report suggests to look into resale. US brand Eileen Fisher accepts old garments from consumers and in return gives them $5 of in-store credit. This has resulted in the creation of the Tiny Factory, which has 21,000 square feet dedicated to sorting, storing, selling and remaking reused Eileen Fisher garments. Fifty-five percent of the garments are then repaired and sold at a reduced price, while the rest were turned into new garments. That line is called Renew, and according to the report, accounts for $3 million of the company’s $450-million annual sales.

The long generation

The fifth trend, the long generation, focuses on how older consumers—who have more spending power than younger ones—mostly feel underserved by brands. Digital tech presents a solution, the report says, as many of today’s seniors are already smartphone users. WGSN recommends that brands keep this demographic in mind when designing mobile solutions.

Old days of ownership

Finally, the last trend, the old days of ownership, discusses how retailers should focus on not just selling stuff, but experiences as well. According to the report, businesses should sell four things: their expertise (consumers want to learn for learnings’ sake, and would therefore be highly interested in, say, the manufacturing process of their favorite products), community (events that bring like-minded consumers together), well-being (experiences that focus on consumers’ holistic wellness) and shared values (engage consumers through events that tackle social issues relevant to them.

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TAGS: consumer behavior, The High-Velocity Consumer, WGSN
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