The needs of consumers remain the same as they have ever been but the expectations of how businesses meet those needs have changed. This was the line that Henry Tucker of The Futures Company and Steve Mader of Kantar Retail were keen to stress at this morning's launch of their new report: "The Future Shopper".
Despite all the technological change of recent years, technology should confine itself to a supporting role in shopping – it is more important to focus on consumer attitudes. In this respect, a new age for shoppers is here, brought about as people worldwide have come to accept that the economic pressures first caused by the financial crisis are likely to stay for longer than previously expected. It's made consumers concerned about their own financial prospects and suspicious and distrustful of businesses.
That said, younger generations – the digital dependants – are growing up only knowing a life that contains the internet and expect a seamless experience between their digital and physical environments. Digital has disrupted the traditional view of the purchase funnel, as retailers and brands no longer hold the first connection with shoppers. Instead, The Futures Company has proposed the "Purchase Fish" that depicts how consumers approach shopping for products now:
Tucker highlighted four trends that will be the biggest drivers of change in shopper behaviour. Consumers are in search of:
- value – although they have always looked for value, the downturn has given people social permission to seek this out even more
- assurance – people are more risk averse and have less margin for error
- mental space – people are avoiding complexity and are looking for control over how they spend their time
- quality – as discounting has grown, consumers no longer believe that they have to choose between value and quality and are looking for both at the same time
For retailers to respond to these desires, Mader exhorted them to become "CLEVer" – to excel in at least one, and preferably more, of these areas:
- reinvent convenience – such as make stores smaller and more local, or engage shoppers across both physical and digital channels
- redefine loyalty – recognise that loyalty is an outcome of good strategy, not a strategy in itself
- re-imagine experience – wow shoppers by making a visit to the store more compelling than the website and remove barriers to purchase
- reposition value – make shoppers feel they made the "smart" decision by purchasing in-store
"The Future Shopper: How changing shopper attitudes and technology are re-shaping retail" is available to download from warc.com.