Recessionary shoppers: convenience over experience?
For the past several years, retailers have seen two types of customers.
The first are those who, after living through a number of recessions, have determined they must protect their money at all costs.
They are experts on value, seeking deals, discounts and saving; they are coupon clippers.
The second have also weathered a number of economic slumps, but they see life as short and because money can disappear in the blink of an eye, time is more valuable than frugality.
That group is focused on convenience, and the motivation behind their spending money is to save time.
Both groups are important to retailers, and many shoppers today have traits of both types of consumers: They want to spend thoughtfully, not frivolously, and they are focused on efficiency.
Retailers that can demonstrate value for products or services that make customer lives easier or more fulfilling will therefore attract more loyal customers.
Value: the “Right” price or the “lowest” price?
People always want a good value.
It’s not only those living on fixed incomes or those living on minimum wage but also professionals who are bargain hunters.
Off-price stores such as Nordstrom’s Rack and Saks Off Fifth boast customers from every economic strata—proof that savvy shopping does not discriminate.
However, the “right” price does not have to be the “lowest” price.
A strong value proposition that focuses on the benefits of the product or service may help nudge a cost-conscious customer to spring for the purchase now, rather than wait a few weeks or even months.
When value is coupled with the idea that a purchase could make one’s life easier, retailers have a winning strategy.
For example, buying a $400 robotic vacuum cleaner is less expensive than hiring a housekeeper, and also frees up time to spend time in a more pleasurable way.
In 2017, a study from the University of British Columbia not only found that people who bought time-saving products were happier, but that the findings were the same despite the respondent’s socioeconomic standing.
“The benefits of buying time aren’t just for wealthy people,” said UBC psychology professor and the study’s senior author Elizabeth Dunn, in a release about the research. “We thought the effects might only hold up for people with quite a bit of disposable income, but to our surprise, we found the same effects across the income spectrum.”
Outsourcing the work of getting products
Convenience really matters. Many people are looking for something that simplifies their busy lives while delivering a positive experience.
A 2019 report from Deloitte found that customers want to “outsource” the work of getting products.
Their focus has turned from focusing on the act of purchasing products to the act of using them.
Retailers that understand how to curate the “just right” selection of products will have a competitive advantage. For those stores, enabling convenience is baked into their foundation.
Other retailers, however, might find offer convenience more difficult.
From experience to efficiency
Many shops have invested in providing an entire experience around the act of shopping.
If these stores’ customers no longer consider the store the destination in and of itself and prefer a more efficient shopping experience, they will have to reassess the way they do business.
Convenience must be woven into the fabric of the retailer to provide a cohesive, integrated shopping experience, rather than a tacked-on, haphazard one, or, worse, one that is viewed as not genuine. Most importantly, retailers should view convenience as constantly evolving: People’s tastes change rapidly and what may be considered convenient today may tomorrow seem as dated as ornament beards.
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