Anyone who has any doubts about how fast technology is changing the way people interact for both business and pleasure should take a look at the statistics, says social theorist and consumerism expert John Gerzema.
Speaking at the Retail Council of Canada's recent Store 2012 conference in Toronto, Gerzema kicked off the event with his analysis of what he calls "the brave new consumer world." There are now some 900 million active Facebook accounts worldwide, he pointed out, meaning there are now more people on Facebook than there are car owners. In addition, added Gerzema, there are now about 190 million "tweets" posted worldwide on Twitter every day, "and both Facebook and Twitter didn't even exist less than a decade ago."
Statistics like these should be of particular concern for retailers, said Gerzema, because just as much social interaction has migrated to digital channels, consumer interaction, with brands and retailers, is right behind. The mobile web economy alone, he said will double by 2016. "All the things we've learned to do as consumers—shop for brands, compare options, compare prices, order products, make purchases—have jumped to digital," Gerzema explained.
The author of the best-selling books The Brand Bubble (named one of Amazon.com's best business books of 2008) and Spend Shift (named one of Fast Company magazine's best business books of 2010), Gerzema laid out five consumer trends to watch—and prepare—for in this brave new consumer world.
Currency gets current – The days of pure price shopping, when consumers were willing to wait in long lines at big box stores to get the best deals, are long gone, said Gerzema. Today, many consumers are seeking value in other things, like customer service, convenience, time saved and products that last.
Cinderellanomics – Forced to cut back during the drawn-out recession, many consumers have changed the definition of what they think they need, Gerzema said. Today, consumers want less, and are more willing to rent instead of buying. "Now we have more of a barter, borrow, save economy where people just dip into luxury." (Check out PROFIT's article on recommerce as a business opportunity.)
Think outside the big box – The virtual retail revolution is making retailers rethink the big-box credo of "Stack it high and let it fly." "If you are just focusing on price and volume sales, your brand will suffer," said Gerzema. "It has to be about something else."