Embracing Change

Identify the unique dynamics of consumers will allow bakeries to market products appropriately and connect with shoppers authentically.

While 2000 didn't bring us the end of the Internet predicted by Y2K, technology has transformed dramatically in the intervening years. America has gone from the earliest smartphones to roughly three-quarters of consumers owning a smartphone. And technology isn't the only thing that's changed. The composition of the country is shifting: 92 percent of the total growth in U.S. population from 2000 to 2014 came from multicultural groups. With these changes, American lifestyles and consumer habits have also evolved.

“The world has changed and continues to evolve, permanently forcing companies to adjust even their most abiding assumptions of how they do business,” says Monica Gil, ‎senior vice president and general manager, multicultural growth and strategy at Nielsen, addressing a panel on the changing American consumer at this year’s Consumer 360 conference in Washington, D.C..

“The challenge to marketers now is to think about their own organizations, ask themselves how ready their internal organizations are to reflect this change," Gil elaborates. "Identifying the complex dynamics and rapid pace of the changing consumer will allow marketers to apply multi-dimensional thinking and to think differently about their marketing approaches, as well as connecting authentically with shoppers and viewers.”

In the rapidly changing digital environment in which we live, the new American consumer is both connected and distracted. Americans on average own four digital devices: 78 percent own smartphones and nearly 50 percent own tablets. We continue watching TV and listening to the radio, but at the same time, we interact on social media, stream videos or music: 85 percent of US consumers use a mobile device while watching TV.

As another key point, multicultural consumers are the growth engine of the future in the United States. Hispanics, African-Americans, Asian-Americans and all other multicultural consumers already make up 38 percent of the US population, with Census projections showing that multicultural populations will become a numeric majority by 2044.

Multicultural shoppers will likely be the key to the future, not just because of their numbers, youth and economic clout, but because their unprecedented influence on the attitudes and consumption habits of non-multicultural consumers is upending outdated assumptions and enlarging and expanding the multicultural market opportunity. But reaching these consumers could become more challenging, as the lines between different groups are blurring—one in five newlyweds marry across racial and ethnic lines.

Families are changing and are less traditional than ever before. Women are the sole breadwinners in 40 percent of US households with children, controlling $4.3 trillion of US spending. And nearly half of households are multi-generational.

And according to Nielsen's Global Health & Wellness Survey, for first time, the main concern for US consumers after the economy is health. However, half of the world think's they're overweight. As a result, sales of produce and health and wellness-oriented categories are growing stronger than center store sales. The way we eat is permanently changing: 47 percent of consumers snack as a meal replacement, and Americans spend more at restaurants and bars than grocery stores.

Interactive technology

Technology must be used in way that is natural for a consumer to interact with. It is also important to consider how the technology is being used to enhance a story, rather than be the story itself.

Interactive displays tend to be eye-catching, and the best displays usually have a “wow” factor that stops the shopper. By interacting with a display, an opportunity for interacting with the brand and retailer is created, which keeps both at the forefront of the customer’s mind. And, by interacting with the brand, customers are provided with a specific experience that allows retailers to build a relationship with the customer while increasing sales. When the interactive display in question is a digital touchscreen, retailers can provide customers with information in an appealing manner that doesn’t feel overwhelming.

According to design research, 70 percent of customers think that digital signage is entertaining, and one-third of customers who view this type of interactive display make a purchase. For retailers, it’s important to meet customer expectations of shopping as an experience.

Interactive displays tend to be seen as more “fun” by consumers than traditional static displays. Further, one of the most versatile point-of-sale solutions available is interactive digital touchscreens. Retailers can immediately and frequently change any screen’s content with remote content management. Because of the benefits that they provide, interactive displays of all kinds have the power to transform shopping from an errand to an experience.

Customer-Centric

A new study reveals nearly two thirds of US retailers are getting ready to put a customer-centric strategy in place within the next two years to ensure that the consumer is the focal point, and nearly half, 43 percent, want the strategy established within a year or less. The study, which was conducted by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, notes that more than a good number of such initiatives hit big stumbles and fail to create a meaningful impact.

The study, "Making Customer-Centric Strategies Take Hold," sponsored by customer-experience strategy leader Strativity Group, polled 315 business leaders and states 75 percent are hoping to have the strategy moving forward by 2017. "Many customer-centric strategies fail during execution because they were designed for the boardroom not for the customer-facing employee," says Strativity president Lior Arussy. "It is time to bridge the executive-employee gap with an integrated approach, linking strategy and vision, organizational alignment, change management, employee training and empowerment, with measurements."

As part of the study Strativity offers five tips to launch and accelerate a "customer-centric" strategy:

  • Create a meaningful, human cause.
  • Integrate initiatives into a holistic program.
  • Design strategies for employee performance.
  • Align processes with metrics to accelerate.
  • Set the standard at "exceptional" in everything.