Dissecting The Shopping Experience: Consumers Are Not Defined By Format

July 16, 2018By Industry Intuition, Views

by Dave Wendland, CommunityVoice for Forbes Agency Council, as appeared on Forbes.com June 13, 2018

I recently had the privilege of presenting to an international audience of consumer packaged goods (CPG) distributors from over 35 countries. My discussion focused on the changing retail landscape and how to effectively navigate today’s consumer shopping experience.

As I prepared for this event I was struck by the global similarities facing today’s retail supply chain. I’m going to share four such factors and end by characterizing five emerging shopper trends that will cause all stakeholders to rethink their strategy.

Four factors that are global in nature:

 Mergers and acquisition acceleration
 The effects of e-commerce
 Personalization and relevance
 Consumer empowerment

Merger Mania
Within the past three years, the value of worldwide acquisitions has totaled more than $4.74 trillion. And the sizes of the deals are not getting smaller — if anything, the big are getting aggressively bolder. Notables within retail health care, where our company devotes considerable time, have included: Walgreens and Boots Alliance; Loblaw and Shoppers Drug Mart; Ahold and Delhaize; Sainsbury’s and Argos; Walmart and Jet.com; Walgreens and Rite Aid; Amazon and Whole Foods; Amazon and Souq.com; Albertsons and Rite Aid; and CVS Health and Aetna, to name only a few.Walmart has been surgical in recent acquisitions shoring up notable areas of need while reinforcing its commitment to remain connected to its shopper base. There has also been significant M&A activity across the manufacturer side as conventional companies seek to expand their footprint in the natural and “better for you” race.

Connected Retail
Another factor that has fueled global disruption has been e-commerce and “anytime, anywhere” access. When looking through the retailer’s lens, omnichannel strategies are top of mind (I’m personally not a fan of omnichannel definitions that isolate or silo e-commerce separately from other transactional platforms). The same is true from the other side of the equation as once purely e-commerce players are finding a need to have a physical presence through storefronts.

According to a Kantar Worldpanel report, global fast-moving consumer goods grew 26% in 2016. And according to survey findingsby KPMG International, “Consumers in Asia, North America, and Western Europe are most likely to shop online, while per capita online purchases in Eastern Europe and Russia, Latin America, and the Middle East and Africa are less frequent.” However, it is abundantly evident across the globe that consumers are more comfortable with e-commerce purchases.

Getting Personal
One report revealed that more than seven in 10 consumers expect a personalized experience with the brands they interact with. As a result, according to Unilever’s Chief Marketing and Communications Officer Keith Weed, brands must be able “to both anticipate and assist consumers with their needs. This means being relevant, tailored, and personal — a huge shift from when brands … tended to be built for the masses.”

Despite recent privacy concerns stemming from revelations about Facebook’s use of and access to personal data, consumers increasingly seek an experience that caters to individual needs and aligns with personal preferences, budget parameters and core values. The idea of carefully curated solutions is on the rise.

Consumers In Charge
Access to information has never before been so ever-present, and shoppers are seeking knowledge before, during and after a purchase. Reviews have quickly emerged as consumers’ most-sought advice.
CPG brands and the retailers that sell them must seek new ways to reach, influence and communicate with consumers. And, while important to connect, the information must be relevant, current and meaningful. Whether on package, shelf, websites, text messages or voice-activated advice, consumers are demanding relevant information that helps them remain in charge of their purchase behavior.

Shopper Trends
The global market has changed dramatically. The rate of change is moving at incredible speed and what may have been a preferred approach yesterday may be outmoded today. These changes have been further emphasized by emerging shopper trends.
Here’s a brief summary of five trends that I believe are growing as consumer behavior drivers and will, therefore, require additional adjustments by manufacturers and retailers alike.

Accountability: Consumers are more personally empowered and accountable than ever. It is self-awareness that is positioning well-informed shoppers to step up accountability for their individual decisions and actions.

Guidance: When working with CPG clients, emphasize the importance of making product information and knowledge available to consumers on- and off-package.

Transparency: Consumers thirst for knowledge about what they are buying. Understanding where a product originates, how it is manufactured and what its honest ingredient profile represents matters.

Guidance: Telling brand stories and sharing the heritage of a product should become necessities and rise to the top of the brand development checklist.

Sustainability: Protecting the Earth or creating a product that replenishes precious natural resources is desired by a growing number of consumers.

Guidance: Encourage brand teams to collaborate more meaningfully on product attributes and associated marketing campaigns to spotlight the company’s commitment to corporate responsibility.

Responsibility: Aligning with and supporting companies that give back to communities and prioritize social responsibility has become a value-driven criterion for many.

Guidance: Cause marketing should not be viewed as a “nice to have.” Authenticity in giving back can make a difference in a consumer’s purchase intent.

Individuality: Delivering an experiential solution that appears custom-made for a particular consumer (ethnicity, attitude, demography, values, lifestyle, budget, etc.) will shape future product characteristics, retailer loyalty and general messaging. There’s even the potential for products to align with an individual’s DNA such as precision medicine and pharmacogenetics.

Guidance: Successful brands no longer treat consumers as a demography but rather speak one-to-one with users. Ensure brand clients are deliberate in defining their target market.

It’s important to recognize that shoppers are not defined by formats, categories or specific products. Therefore, brand marketers must adapt strategies by addressing the five trends above. They must also respond to global factors that shape today’s decisions: M&A acceleration, connected retail, personalization and consumer empowerment.