The New Shopping-as-life Model Has a Broad Competitive Perspective
As we enter the 21st century, the nature of shopping and the role it plays in life has changed dramatically. Shopping is about much more than feeding and clothing the family, it is about who we are, how we live, and how we spend our time. It is no longer about shopping versus life. It is about shopping as life. In fact, shopping has become so integrated into everyday life that consumers do it almost without thinking as they juggle family, work, and social activity.
How then do we manage this shopping life? We do it by being more efficient, smarter about our choices, and by blending shopping seamlessly into our lives, sometimes as a practical function and sometimes as entertainment, adventure, and emotional reward. We are shopping more at the outlets of choice and for more product categories.
In the last four years, consumers have doubled the number of outlets they shop during their weekly shopping trips. However, they are not making more shopping trips, they are shopping more stores on each trip. The increase in outlets and categories shopped is partly due to the range of new, convenient, and affordable shopping options.
However, this increase in shopping is also driven by the level of shopping confidence and experience exhibited by female shoppers who willingly and eagerly shop everywhere.
Consumers have changed their weekly shopping matrix, overlaying the traditional supermarket with the increasingly accessible, discount-oriented mass merchandiser and the local convenience store. While three out of four American women still shop the local supermarket weekly, one-out-of two now shops a mass merchandiser once a week and one-in-five shops a drug store weekly. We now see the interrelationship between convenience and price. Retailers can no longer trade one for the other. Consumers demand both. If it is not conveniently located, reliable, and easy to shop, if the prices are not right, consumers will not integrate the outlet into their weekly shopping matrix.
One-in-two consumers of all ages shop at a mass merchandiser weekly (more than double five years ago). Mass merchandisers have affected supermarkets and caused declines in all outlets that compete with them.
Six Consumer and Retail Mega-Trends
- The Walmart-ing of America. This trend is not about mass merchandisers as a whole, it is about Walmart. Walmart has redefined the American consumers’ shopping experience and expectations. Stunningly, four-out-of-10 American female consumers now shop Walmart weekly. Walmart has become the benchmark against which American consumers evaluate not just the functional aspects of shopping (price, convenience, selection, service) but also the emotional experience of shopping. Not only is it the outlet consumers rate as the best place to get the lowest prices but also the place they look for what’s new.
- The new value equation. Consumers now demand the functional aspects of convenience, price, selection and service as basic requirements of any and all retail outlets-be they discount-oriented national chains, catalogues, department stores or e-commerce sites. No longer can an outlet define itself by a singular functional dimension, such as low price, convenience or service. Today, all consumers demand convenience, good prices, selection (always in stock) as basic minimums wherever they shop. Now consumers view shopping as part necessity and part adventure, part pragmatism and part emotion. A retailer can no longer survive unless it satisfies consumers on both functional and emotional issues.
- Retailers on the rise. Mass merchandisers are clearly leading the way as the outlet of choice. Not only do nine-out-of-10 primary shoppers of all ages and income levels shop a mass merchandiser quarterly but also one-out-of two shop there weekly! Mass merchandisers reflected the largest increases in consumers shopping for all the core categories they carry, with the exception of clothing. Mass merchandisers are now the primary outlet for all major beauty care categories, skin care, hair care, and cosmetics, overtaking department stores and drug stores, and second only to department stores in fragrance. As the big get bigger, the opportunity for the more concise, more personal, more specialized retailer grows. More consumers are shopping specialty stores in areas that did not even exist 10 years ago—in beauty care, hair care, skin care, fragrance, and cosmetics.
- Retailers at risk. Retailers that fail to offer more than price or convenience or service are struggling to survive. Drug stores have become convenience store—places where Americans fill their prescriptions and pick up a container of milk. Seven of every ten consumers still fill their prescriptions at the drug store; however, the margins on the prescriptions have declined significantly in this era of managed care. Since 1996, the percentage of consumers shopping department stores has declined in all core categories with the exception of clothing. Most department stores focus on attracting younger consumers. However, they are not doing it as effectively as the specialty stores. The result? Older consumers with more disposable income are disenfranchised, and younger consumers are not compelled to make the department store their primary fashion outlet. The warehouse club is no longer the adventurous shopping outing. Other retailers have learned how to compete on selection and price. The result: the percentage of consumers who shop a warehouse club declined significantly. Supermarkets beware. Mass merchandisers have moved ahead of supermarkets as the outlet more consumers use.
- The demographic divide. While everyone is shopping more, younger consumers, 18 to 34 years of age, are driving the increases. Consumers 55 to 70 are shopping more selectively. This creates a demographic divide in retailing that has major implications, especially since consumers over 50 now represent 38 percent of the U.S. adult population and have 55 percent of the disposable income. When retailers and manufacturers concentrate on youth to the exclusion of older shoppers, older consumers stop shopping. They only replenish their basics. They spend their discretionary funds on investments, travel, computers, and their gardens, eating out—not on clothes, accessories, beauty products, home decorating products, or entertainment.
- The truth about E-commerce. The outlook is clear: e-commerce will play an important role in retailing. However, today’s reality is that only 10 percent of primary female shoppers use the Internet as regular shopping alternative. E-tailing will have an impact on where consumers shop. The growth over the last two years has been dramatic. In 2000, 10 percent of respondents said they had shopped on-line in the last three months, up from five. The fact that one-in-four upper income women have embraced this new shopping outlet is an indicator of its potential.
How to Survive and Prosper the Consumer Megatrends
How can a company profitably capture the consumers’ attention and hold it when at every moment, on every corner, at every event there is an enticement to shop and spend. It is not just about opening more stores. It is not only about adding entertainment. It is not solely about offering e-commerce. What it is about is integrating a brand into the consumers’ life and embracing their lifestyle so that the outlet or product is indelibly inscribed in the consumers’ shopping life. Here are six keys for success:
- Expand the landscape. It is no longer enough to present a singular concept in a singular landscape and assume it will satisfy your target customers and maintain their loyalty. Ensure that the real estate or the assumption that your target customer will shop there regardless because what you offer is so compelling does not limit the concept.
- Increase share of consumer’s mind and life. Create multiple reasons for consumers to think of you for more. Once the consumer “buys” into the initial concept, they are encouraged to embrace you as part of their life and community—and thus buy more. By creating multiple layers of value, it is harder for a competing outlet to entice customers away.
- Any way the customer wants it. Enable consumers to shop when, where and how they want since consumers can readily find somewhere else to shop. For consumers to keep coming back they need more than random access; they need to be assured they can count on you whenever they need you.
- Retail branding. Loyalty is built when consumers see and believe that the company reflects and satisfies both the practical and emotional tenor of their life, that it mirrors their attitudes and their sense of community, that it clearly resonates, “this outlet is like me and for me.” By creating a format—be it web site or store—with such affinity to a consumer’s life, it ensures that the consumer will stay true and loyal in spite of the shopping alternatives.
- Heighten the emotional quotient. Pragmatism and functionality are merely the foundations of customer loyalty. Every company must provide convenient, easy-to-shop outlets, with a mix of merchandise always in stock at fair prices. What keeps customers coming back is the emotional bond they form with the outlet or brand. This is not solely about entertainment or novelty. It is about the trust and affinity customers feel a company offers them.
- Recognize its global. The model against which you must evaluate your opportunities is global.
To build loyalty you need to establish a clear functional and emotionally satisfying matrix Study the trends and apply the six keys.