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2016 was another banner year for Connected Consumers, who saw a number of new technologies emerge in a variety of categories across the marketplace. Virtually every industry is adapting to a customer base that is becoming increasingly connected, changing the way they have conversations and relationships with brands. But new connected products and services do not come without their challenges, which typically revolve around user experience and consumer awareness.
Connected consumers of today are changing the existing value system and harnessing technology to reinvent themselves, their lives and their communities. And the three key drivers of these changes are freedom, acceleration and intimacy. It is obvious that trends in technology are growing and expanding rapidly… so, how can you maximize the opportunities that Connected Consumers offer?
In the smart home category, there’s no shortage of offerings available, but the adoption of smart home products has been pedestrian thus far. Our global study indicates that the appeal is there, but the benefits need to be more clearly communicated to consumers, who lack familiarity with the smart home category. To find success, product developers must understand the varying needs in specific markets and communicate how smart home technology can seamlessly enhance the lives of consumers.
The travel and hospitality industry is getting smarter. Invisible analytics, wearables, virtual reality and other technologies are revolutionizing the way that people research, shop for and experience travel. From smart hotels to sporting events and music festivals, the connected traveler is able to unlock the world as they go, providing travel brands with new ways to engage them. But disruptive competition and an overcrowded marketplace remain common roadblocks. In the quest for customer loyalty, the companies that take a holistic view of each step of the purchase journey will be successful in understanding and anticipating market developments.
In the Future of Retail, shopping isn’t all digital. Connected Consumers still embrace the role of the store, shopping as much for an experience as for a product. But online shopping offers another dimension, where Connected Consumers can compare prices and don’t have to wait in line to make a purchase. Successful retailers will combine the positive facets from both channels, streamlining online shopping while also delivering on the promise of the in-store experience.
While retailers experiment with omnichannel shopping, fashion and lifestyle brands are experiencing a revolution of their own. Whether a pure online player, a local hero or a traditional fashion retail chain, it is vital to understand how consumers are changing in order to anticipate and prepare for the next season and beyond. New paths to purchase have opened the door for competition, expanding the fight for customer loyalty to new frontiers. Making sure your brand can be found and amplifying it with social media are ways to take control of the shopper’s purchase journey, but don’t forget the crucial role of the store.
Financial services are another category being revolutionized by Connected Consumers. From mobile payments to digital banking, Connected Consumers demand that their financial institutions are proactive and transparent. Connected devices will play a key role in the future of payments, but players in the market must establish and communicate the importance of data security to build trust before adoption truly takes off.
Broadcast and print media has gone digital too, changing the way that Connected Consumers experience content and the devices they experience it on. Media measurement is now more complicated than ever, with cross-device usage varying between markets and sociodemographics. Programmatic advertising allows brands to deliver messages that resonate by building a single customer view that puts individual consumers at the center of marketing.
From brick and mortar stores to online shopping, and from inside the home to travels abroad, connected devices are changing the way that we see and interact with the world. However, for innovation to truly thrive, Connected Consumers must be put at the heart of the connected revolution.
What every brand needs to know
With more than a third (38%) of consumers globally concerned about having enough money to “live right” and pay the bills, and almost the same proportion (37%) worried about inflation and higher prices, it’s perhaps not surprising that saving money is a top priority for many shoppers.1
However, our FutureBuy 20162 study shows that this is particularly true for those who shop online compared to in-store (52% vs. 26%). If we look closer still, we see that searching for the best price online is common practice regardless of age group. It seems we’re all “smart shopping”, from Millennials to Baby Boomers.
Recent economic uncertainties have changed consumers’ definition of value. They’re reassessing and redefining what products and services justify a premium. Our most recent Roper Report study, which covers 27 countries, shows that almost a quarter (23%) of consumers would pay more for a product that makes their life easier, for example. But value is also associated with the actual process of shopping. By being shrewd, shoppers can obtain the best deal for a product. There is value in getting a deal, but there is also value in feeling like a savvy or “smart” shopper.
Our FutureBuy 2016 study shows that consumers are shopping smarter, with an increasing number of them indicating that they are checking store circulars for deals/coupons, comparing the prices of stores, and researching products online more than they did a year ago.
A growing number of consumers are also using the internet to find and purchase products more than they did a year ago. Online channels bring transparency to the shopping experience, which could explain this trend. With a choice of online and offline shopping channels, almost two thirds (63%) of consumers indicate that they are learning how to shop more efficiently than before. And a similar proportion (62%) feel more in control than ever before when choosing the best products to buy.
The transparency of online shopping has generated two phenomena and further challenges to retailers’ pricing strategies: showrooming (the act of checking out a product in a physical store and then buying it online from a different retailer) and webrooming (the act of checking out a product online and then buying it in-store). Although these previously growing trends (showrooming and webrooming) have stabilized in the past year, they are here to stay. One quarter of all respondents practice showrooming in their journey whilst equal number of respondents (ca. 25%) webroom.
The impact of these trends on consumers’ shopping habits marks the death knell of dynamic pricing strategies, whereby near identical products are sold to different consumers at different prices. Today’s consumers, as we’ve identified, are price savvy. 61% (up from 58% in 2015) indicate that it’s important to them that the price of an item is the same whether they buy it online or in-store. Although some shoppers are prepared to pay more for convenience and to accept price differentials between channels on this basis, we don’t believe this will be the case in the future. And with the ability to air their dissatisfaction with a retailer via social media just a few clicks away for today’s Connected Consumer, woe betide any retailer who ignores such shifts in shoppers’ attitudes.
The picture painted by these findings makes clear the enormous challenges to retailers’ pricing strategies brought about by the convergence of offline and online shopping. The transparency created by the online shopping channel means that consumers simply won’t accept paying a different price for the same product based on where they buy it. Pricing intelligence is currently used more often by retailers to ensure competitiveness and it is proving effective, but it will never replace a well-thought-through pricing strategy and positioning. Indeed, with the rise of “smart shopping” we could see a new retail battleground emerging soon.
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1GfK Roper Reports Worldwide Market Brief: Germany, 2015; 27 countries
2GfK FutureBuy 2016, an online survey with 20,000 consumers 18+ in 20 countries across key categories (FMCG, services, consumer durables, automotive, toys, apparel, home improvement, home and garden, furniture etc.)
The world of consumer technology has steadily moved toward an ecosystem model over the last few years; whereby a single manufacturer has created an interconnected set of devices touching upon several facets of a consumer’s life, from communication to entertainment to housework.
For manufacturers of these devices, the stakes are higher than they’ve ever been. If a manufacturer is able to lock in a consumer with one device, for example a smartphone, they have the potential to influence a myriad of future purchases, from wearables, TVs, and laptops, to big-ticket items, like home appliances, home automation systems, and even vehicles.
The further you dive into a particular device ecosystem, the harder it is to switch to something else. For example, if someone purchases an Android phone and later finds themselves in the market for a smartwatch, they’ll logically opt for an Android Wear watch. Once it’s time to purchase a new car, they might then decide on a car with Android Auto to get the most out of the connected features of both their phone and car. Then when it’s a year later and it’s time to upgrade to the latest and greatest smartphone, the most logical route is to get another Android phone since it’s guaranteed to still be compatible with their watch and car.
This is why it is so important to have a well thought out and engaging device to grab users’ attention and lock them in early.
The phrase from a few years ago was “killer app” to describe that one great app that encouraged people to buy a given smartphone. In the age of the device ecosystem, it’s the “killer device” – that one perfect device that draws people in and (hopefully) generates the loyalty needed to keep users coming back to the same manufacturer for all of their other devices.
Creating that killer device is no easy feat and is often the end-result of lots of planning and hitting the market at just the right time. Part of this planning though is ensuring that the device is not only easy to use but fun to use, and this is where user testing becomes so important. Because the difference between a good user experience and a great user experience can mean the difference between a consumer buying a manufacturer’s product once and moving on and a consumer buying a product and becoming locked in as a customer for life.
Ryan Carney is a Senior Lead UX Specialist at GfK. To share your thoughts, please email Ryan.Carney@gfk.com.
Read more about our User Experience solutions
Latest research from GfK into the UK’s OTT viewing habits has revealed surprisingly low audience numbers on mobile devices. It seems that watching subscription video content on Netflix, Amazon and Now TV is, for now, most definitely an in-home entertainment experience.
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In a world increasingly active online, more and more questions arise to define the ‘digitally savvy’ population. We know Millennials, those reaching adulthood around the year 2000, have been born into a digital world, but are they more engaged with e-commerce brands?
Using Millennials as a target group has been criticized, as marketers broadly categorize individuals at different life stages, with different interests and attitudes. However, this cohort of digital natives have already shown differentiating behavior in terms of social media usage, gaming and life priorities including health, marriage, having children or buying a house. For all the myths, Millennials are one of the largest consumer groups in history, they have an affinity with technology and are about to reach their prime working and spending years (Goldman Sachs).
Each year InternetRetailing UK releases a list of the top e-commerce and cross-channel retailers. We have taken the top 50 brands and added them to our GfK Crossmedia Visualizer platform to see how behavior varies among different age groups.
When looking at the UK online population during the first half of 2016, reach is the highest among the over 45’s, particularly females. This questions the extent to which larger e-commerce and cross-channel retailers have moved their marketing focus towards the Millennial demographic, querying the untapped purchasing potential of this target group. However, although reach amongst Millennials is lower, when looking at the average duration of time spent on these sites those in the young Millennial age group (16-24) over-index significantly. This reflects that although larger retailers don’t reach as high a proportion of Millennials compared to other age groups, those they do reach are more engaged for a much longer duration.
This higher level of engagement is particularly noticeable for retailers in the areas of Fashion, Personal Care/Cosmetics and Animals/Pets.
Although young Millennials (16-24) spend more time visiting these sites, they do so less frequently. Younger Millennials therefore may seem difficult to reach, but with engaging content should stay on site for a much greater duration of time.
No demographic group is homogeneous, yet we still find distinct differences for young Millennials compared to other age groups. When looking at the top 20 retail sites that over-index for a Millennial target group compared to the average reach for the total UK online population, sites related to Fashion and Education have much greater reach for young Millennials (16-24). Combined these industries account for 80% of the top 20 sites.
In comparison, more mature Millennials (25-34) are attracted to a wider variety of e-commerce sites, visiting more general retailers including department stores and multi-content pure play brands. Mature Millennials also shop more for other people including children, engaged with sites relating to Mother/Baby and Toys. This pattern also follows for Millennial retail sites with the greatest level of engagement.
Young Millennials are the only demographic where the top 20 sites in terms of engagement are mutually exclusive to all other age groups. This implies that Millennials are primarily engaged with brands that directly target their age cohort, including Topshop, Forever21 and Student Beans.
When looking at the top 20 e-commerce retailers with the greatest Millennial reach and engagement we have found that sites are directly targeted at this specific demographic. Therefore if retailers want to target Millennials they will generate significantly greater levels of engagement with relevant, targeted content.
However, this is only the case for younger Millennials. We have found key differences in the e-commerce activity of young Millennials (16-24) and more mature Millennials (25-34). Younger Millennials spend a significantly greater amount of time per month visiting the top 50 retailers according to InternetRetailing UK. This is primarily due to Fashion, a key e-commerce industry appealing to young Millennials with brands providing targeted content. This demonstrates an opportunity for e-commerce brands to increase awareness and purchase intent, as the first digitally native demographic reaches its prime.
Deep drills into the UK’s top e-commerce and cross-channel retailers is just a starting point when getting familiar with your audience’s cross-media and cross-device usage. The above case study on Millennial e-commerce behavior is fully based on data provided by the GfK Crossmedia Visualizer. This cutting edge tool offers up to date, clear and deep insights into all relevant indicators of online usage across different devices (PC, smartphone and tablet). Moreover the internet usage data from this platform is linked to unique users’ consumer profiles, including all relevant socio-demographic data and further profiling attributes such as media usage, TV consumption and lifestyle data.
Amy Warwick is a digital senior research executive at GfK. For more information or to share your thoughts, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Tech companies are constantly releasing their latest product “innovations” as they attempt to find the growth that the sector craves. From new versions of tablets and smartphones to kitchen appliances, these aren’t the game-changing innovations that will halt market stagnation and prevent decline. Where is the growth in the tech sector going to come from?
Innovation, in the true sense of the word, means finding new and different ways to solve customers’ problems. Genuine growth in the technology sector can only be achieved this way. If the prevailing approach of evolution rather than revolution persists, many of the companies that are around today will no longer exist in the next ten years. It’s not just me who thinks this. John Chambers, former CEO of CISCO, agrees: “If you don’t reinvent yourself; change your organization structure; if you don’t talk about speed of innovation, you’re going to get disrupted. And it’ll be a brutal disruption – the majority of companies will not exist in a meaningful way in 10 to 15 years from now.”
Technology is a competitive and disruptive industry. We’ve seen startups with the backing and funds threaten established players with ground-breaking innovations that change consumers’ lives for the better. They are meeting a need. Today’s Connected Consumers and B2B customers are more demanding, better educated and less forgiving than ever before. They’re hungry for genuinely new technology. And they are increasingly adept at identifying – and ignoring – slightly updated versions of technology they already have. This approach simply can’t generate the kind of sustainable growth that technology companies all over the world are trying to achieve. Put simply, product innovation is getting harder in this sector.
So how exactly do you go about being innovative? The most important requirement arguably is to let go of the obsession with the product. For the longer you focus on the technology, the less likely you are to invent something that is genuinely innovative. The real route to innovation lies with the end customer. It is only by focusing on your target audience – whether domestic or business – that you will be able to create technology that is genuinely new, necessary, relevant and desirable.
We’re not just considering product innovation in this discussion. It’s worth remembering that innovation comes in many forms. You can innovate the experience, position or re-position a brand, optimize existing portfolios and invent new brand strategies, identify and target new markets, business models, channels and customers.
I believe there are three key elements to successful innovation:
Whether it’s for consumers or businesses, how you communicate your innovation is crucial. You must anticipate the different factors that enable adoption. An emotional connection with your innovation is every bit as important as the product itself, perhaps even more so. Get this right and you’ll have the “eureka” moment you’ve been waiting for. Get it wrong and your latest innovation won’t make it further than the early adopters and a review in the specialist press.
If there’s one thing that I would like the technology industry to remember it is this: customers, customers, customers. Whether you target the B2C or B2B market, if we’re more passionate about the technology than we are about the end users who will – or won’t – use it, then John Chambers’ doom-laden prediction may come true. I am more optimistic. I believe that together we can create the radical departures needed to reinvigorate the global technology sector. We can find genuine innovation that will lead to the growth we yearn for. But only if we can put the end customer – not the technology – at the heart of the creative process.
Karl Pfister-Kraxner is the Global Head of Technology at GfK. For more information or to share your thoughts, please email email@example.com.
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With the election season now behind us, Americans can now set their sights onto a new season (with perhaps the same level of uncertainty – for marketers, brands and companies at least): holiday shopping. This year the National Retail Federation expects holiday sales to reach $630.5 billion. Additionally, online sales are expected to increase to as much as $105 billion. While we all wait for Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the rest of the shopping season to arrive, here are a few prominent trends – both old and new – that companies need to keep top of mind.
One of the first things that might come to mind for holiday shoppers is deals and sales. With good measure too – GfK Consumer Life data shows that about eight in ten Americans get “really satisfied, even excited, when they get a really good deal”. And the timeframes for these deals are only getting longer to help companies stay close to the consumer – Amazon already launched holiday deals on November 1 as part of its Black Friday Deals Store. We as consumers cannot get away from the ‘value’ we get out of a product based on the price we pay for it. Whether it’s through coupons or just plain visually seeing a ‘price-slash’, sales and deals will certainly have to be a mainstay to draw holiday shoppers in.
Innovative shopping experiences continue to emerge as consumers want the ‘best of both worlds’ from both online and in-store. Nearly eight in ten Americans agree the worst part of shopping in stores is “having to deal with crowds and long lines” (hello, Black Friday…). Yet nearly an equal number agree that “it’s fun to browse in stores to see what’s new”. Along the same lines, three in four believe they can find “a variety of items online that are hard to find in stores”. But most consumers also feel that they “don’t like shopping online because they can’t see, touch, or try on things before buying”.
Where are the opportunities then? It seems as though consumers really can’t decide which channel they prefer – so a hybrid of both is an emerging solution that will continue to penetrate. Successful companies and marketers will combine positive facets from both channels to play into consumer tendencies. For example, Boston-based retailer Wayfair is implementing virtual reality headsets as a new way for consumers to browse and buy products virtually in the comfort of their own home; it also allows users to drop a virtual product into any room to see how it fits.
While consumers will continue to go to standard e-tailers for their online shopping, look for them to further streamline. More than seven in ten (72%) Americans are “always looking for ways to simplify my life”. Since online shopping itself incorporates streamlining more so than in-store shopping (as noted above under ‘convergence’), how can companies further simplify for the consumer? More and more, it really is turning into a speed & efficiency game. Take Instagram’s newest rollout, for example – aligning product links between social apps and retailer sites can be far more efficient than finding a product of interest on a standalone site, only to have to “re-find” it again on a separate site.
While ‘more of the same’ still exists with holiday shopping (see: sales & deals), innovations in both the online and in-store shopping areas are continuously emerging. The smart company and marketer will still leverage deal-based promotions to target the basic inclinations of the holiday shopper, while balancing the ‘good’ from both online & in-store outlets. New and innovative ways that appeal to their needs around simplification & efficiency of the shopping process will also generate success this season and beyond.
Mihir Bhatt is a Senior Consultant on the Consumer Life team at GfK. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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