The modern day consumer is digitally literate, socially empowered, information rich and almost always limited in time. Consequently, consumers expect the world at their fingertips. A recent survey found that 89% of consumers expect to be able to get what they want, whenever they want, highlighting the importance of the service economy in the digitised world.
Technology is rapidly evolving to close the expectations gap between businesses and consumers. Consumers have traditionally voted with their feet and wallets but now have the power to influence not only what they buy, but also what others buy, via social networks and digital devices.
It is vital for businesses to keep up with societal trends in order to keep pace with more demanding customers. Here are four trends that are transforming consumer behaviour in 2016:
Tapping into the modern consumer’s need to create an emotional or egotistical connection with a brand, many businesses are reinventing the retail experience as a place of community cultivating and relationship building. Stores are beginning to offer value beyond retail commerce by serving as community hubs, appealing to consumers seeking real-world connections in a predominantly digital era.
OCS Retail Support specialise in store development and have discussed how retailers can use surroundings to influence customer behaviour. For instance, consumers are more willing to spend money in a higher-end location, such as one that serves as more than just a shop.
A number of well-known brands have experimented with creating a retail community. For instance, Ted Baker’s Shoreditch store has a built-in barbershop and incorporates virtual reality that visitors can use to play games with each other. Furthermore, Mercedes-Benz have an onsite spa at their Burlington location, while Urban Outfitters are building a retail village complete with garden centre, restaurants and boutique hotel in Philadelphia.
Fuelled by society’s obsession with social media and celebrity culture, consumer behaviour is being heavily influenced by the narcissism epidemic of the 21st century. To validate self-image, conceited individuals prioritise symbolic value over utilitarian value, distinguish themselves via materialistic possessions and have an inexhaustible need for reassurance.
To satisfy the egomania of the modern consumer, mirrors are being optimised for digital use in a variety of public spaces. Businesses can exploit narcissism to encourage purchases and bring financial gain, while customers can use built-in interactive features to gain reassurance and enhance their retail experience.
Creative production agency REWIND have created a motivational mirror that gives personalized compliments to IKEA customers, while Neiman Marcus have introduced a “Memory Mirror” that enables the customer to digitally compare outfits and send those images to friends via email and social media. Both mirrors sustain the consumer’s need for reassurance, therefore the consumer is more likely to purchase a product from the store.
Driven by the rapid adoption of mobile technology and the streamlining of everyday tasks via smartphone apps, the modern consumer expects convenience and immediacy when using a service. Furthermore, 40% of people prefer to use self-service than receiving a service from somebody else.
Customers are now able to skip waiting times by ordering ahead using innovative apps. The emergence of fast-lane apps satisfies the modern consumer’s desire to save time wherever possible, while also adding an element of exclusivity.
The NoWait app allows diners to reserve a table without having to wait at the restaurant. Arriving customers provide the restaurant host with their mobile number and are then notified by text message when their table is ready. This gives the customer the freedom to leave the restaurant while they wait.
Sportswear giant Adidas has also ventured into the world of digitised queuing with an app that allows customers to reserve limited edition footwear. Before the product’s release, users will receive a push notification, alerting them when reservations are open. They can then select a size, choose a nearby store and receive a confirmation and pickup window.
In the Western world, food delivery is huge. Close to £30 billion is spent each year on takeaway meals in the UK, while one in four Americans order food online at least once a week. Moving beyond food delivery, consumers are now seeking cost-effective ways to curate custom meals.
Services that bring 5-star dining services into the comfort of people’s homes are becoming increasingly mainstream. These services offer customised appeal and allow consumers to enjoy the extravagance of fine dining at a fraction of the cost, all while maintaining the familiarity and comfort of ordering a takeaway.
Subscription services like Chef’s Plate deliver gourmet ingredients and recipes to a subscriber’s home. The subscriber is able to prepare a healthy homemade meal using the provided instructions without having to go out and buy the ingredients themselves.
In Asia, the Hao Chushi app allows users to hire the services of a professional chef. The app has a Tinder-like swiping function where users can browse different chefs who specialise in different cuisines. Once selected, the chef comes to the user’s house and prepares them a meal.
The emergence of app-driven peer-to-peer services available on demand, such as Hao Chushi, extend to the luxury end of the spectrum. These high-end amenities were previously restricted to affluent consumers, but convenient and instant digital access is allowing the average consumer to access personalised and more luxurious services.