The Shopper Insights in Action Conference held in Chicago July 11-14, provided a wealth of information on retailers, shoppers and overall consumer trends. Additionally, a focus of many sessions included fundamental strategies for retailer and manufacturer collaboration. Major recurring themes that emerged throughout the event included shifts in consumers’ mindsets, the customer is in control and the growth of mobile commerce.
The Post Recession Shopper
An intriguing session on the “Post-Recession Shopper” discussed changing consumer behavior. As a result of the recession, consumers are shifting their shopping behavior in many ways. Many consumers changed the stores that they shopped at, opting for lower priced retailers and channels. Others maintained loyalty to some of their preferred retailers, but cut back on spending and number of trips; resulting in lower value per trip. Consumers are now more comfortable with finding deals, using coupons and seeking out the best price. They purchase both national and private label brands, whichever provides the most value to them. Consumers who were disillusioned by the recession are now moving on and accepting some of their possibly permanent shifts in behavior. The definition of value is also shifting. Historically, value to consumers meant quality and options. During the recession the definition of value became focused solely on price, while coming out of the recession, value means consumers getting what they want at the best price possible. Retailers can react by offering increased customized shopping experiences and marketing, particularly as channel blurring continues. Consumers continue to seek unique and meaningful experiences and are using more and more touch points to make purchase decisions. Though America remains a culture of consumerism, it is expected that a shift to cautious consumption will occur. American shoppers will now place a greater emphasis on needs vs. wants, convenience and simplicity; with less reliance on credit and more reliance on friends.
Retailers Re-brand to Stay Relevant
Executives from Duane Reade, a Walgreens Company, and JC Penney both discussed recent re-branding programs and current growth strategies. Duane Reade narrowed their focus to amplify and highlight their key differences among competitors. This was achieved through new logo and store design, improved private brand offerings and a compelling advertising campaign. JC Penney spoke about revamping their online and offline presence as well as the implementation of new initiatives such as MNG by Mango boutiques within stores and further expansion of Sephora at JC Penney to more locations. in addition, the company launched a new tag line, “New Look, New Day, Who Knew” which highlights these new initiatives as well as a focus on fashion. The company is elevating its style through new product lines in apparel and accessories. Their focus on fashion and increased digital presence is designed to appeal to younger consumers.
Today’s consumer is in control. They know what they want and many will go to any length to find the best value. Others simply desire products that help meet the needs of their ever changing lifestyles. Mobile shopping is growing as on-the-go consumers seek convenient purchasing options and appreciate the speed of mobile transactions. Retailers can benefit from this, as targeted marketing can easily be tailored to loyal mobile shoppers. While in store, consumers who pre-plan purchases want to get what they want quickly. Too often consumers are bombarded with too many messages creating confusion and delaying purchases. Manufacturers can benefit from this by creating simplistic packaging of products, using easily identifiable colours, making it more efficient for consumers to find products. Retailers and manufacturers should work together to satisfy consumers’ needs. Manufacturers can provide insights on products while retailers can provide insights on the bigger picture – overall store experience and shopping trip behavior.
The Future of Retail
The retail landscape is changing, due largely in part to economic shifts, the growth of internet retailing and more recently, mobile commerce. Though mobile commerce is still in its infancy, it is expected to grow significantly with the help of American’s adoption of smart phones. Retailers will place a greater emphasis on a multi-channel approach. Online retail will provide an avenue for expanded product assortments and serve as a place for consumers to research and pre-plan shopping trips. Social media and location based applications will help retailers provide unique, targeted offers to drive consumers into stores. Once in store, consumers will seek superior service, a simplified shopping experience – both in number of products available and ease of locating those items. As a result of retail consolidation, many traditional shopping malls are seeing a makeover. Westfield Corporation has expanded their network of tenants to include non-traditional mall tenants such as drugstores, supermarkets, mass merchandisers, day spas, day care centres and more. Now more than ever consumers are more concerned with the authenticity of products. They are more sophisticated and are making smart choices. They desire to know where products come from, what they are made of and how they can improve their lives. Overall, the shopper of the future wants a simplified, customized and meaningful shopping experience with a focus on value.