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3 Trends Shaping Consumer Shopping Behavior


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As US retail sales data start to show the effects of recent economic turbulence, brands and retailers are digging deep on ways they can stay relevant in shoppers’ wallets.

VISIONS 2022, a report released last week by Future Commerce cites eight key trends shaping consumer behavior and culture. Future Commerce also surveyed 1000 US consumers to understand how key themes manifest within the consumer mindset. Here are three of them, and how they relate to retail brands.

Trend 1: The homogenization of experiences.

“But for all its power, eCom has become boring. Homogeneus. Samey-samey. Decision fatigue beget a sort of prix-fixe menu for buying things online that has led to everything looking and feeling identical.” -VISIONS 2022

Due in part to the proliferation of software solutions for large and small retailers, there is an established playbook for how a website looks, feels, and functions.


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This is especially true for retail marketplaces. Being so far ahead of the competition, Amazon’s
AMZN
site experience has become de-facto for competing retailers. But simply following the direction of the incumbent market leader can lead to a generation of tired, homogenized experiences.

Consumers performing a side-by-side comparison of Target
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Amazon and Net-A-Porter found no significant difference in perceived user-friendliness or distinctiveness of look & feel.

Solutions like Mirakl and Marketplacer offer an incredible value proposition: to turn any online retailer into a third-party marketplace. The downside is essentially a copy-and-paste interface that forces manufacturers and retailers to compete on product selection and price alone. Between these B2B marketplace solutions and mass-market website builders like Shopify, it is not uncommon to see online stores starting to look increasingly familiar.

64% of consumers agree that its rare to come across a website that feels unique or has unexpected functionality. Brands and retailers looking to burst out of this mold have an opportunity to capture the imagination and curiosity of consumers who are ready for new and innovative online experiences – to browse, discover, and be inspired.

Trend 2.The Sacraments of Commerce

“Much has been written about the secularization of the modern age. But what if our religious rituals are manifestations of human needs; truths that our souls long to discover? A brand’s ultimate desire? That we find identity, community, meaning, and collective purpose.” -VISIONS 2022

According to Future Commerce research, 44% of consumers are becoming more superstitious, or more open to ideas that cannot be rooted in logic or reason.

Accordingly, brands and retailers are trying to fill a spiritual gap. Popular beauty brands like Glossier are referred to as having “cult followings”. Indeed Glossier founder Emily Weiss said in an on-stage interview that the brand took its growth cues from how world religions have scaled.

One a lighter note, 89% of consumers say they’ve started — and maintained — some new rituals since the pandemic began in 2020. Framing what would previously be considered a mundane experience of washing one’s face in the morning has morphed over time into “ skincare rituals” and “night-time routines,” among a broader cultural movement around self-care.

Trend 3. Our Robot Future

“Insights and creative derived from AI may become sympathetically influential — we may begin to feedback data to AI that are a result of decisions made by prior AI-influenced insight. This feedback loop may create challenges for decision-makers in brands.” -VISIONS 2022

We live in an era of convenience that many of our predecessors wouldn’t be able to imagine: voice assistants, 15-minute grocery delivery, and self-driving cars. Artificial intelligence is the engine behind these innovations. But how much of a self-fulfilling prophecy are brands delivering to consumers?

As one research participant said, “I bought a toilet seat on Amazon and now it thinks I have an insatiable desire for more toilet seats.”

Future Commerce data say that 43% of consumers have changed their digital behaviors in some way to avoid data collection or algorithm changes.

What does this mean for brands? The bar for convenience is continually lifted and proven non-negotiable. Amazon’s value proposition of free, 2-day shipping set an uncomfortable bar many years ago, but is now table-stakes for any online store. But there are limits to our our robot future. Consumers are more wary of immediate effects – like algorithmic suggestions that are off – as well as longer-term impacts on privacy and safety.

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