Just this morning we saw yet another article speculating about the staying power of online shopping, in this instance, grocery shopping.
Of course, it's not just media pundits who are looking for answers to this question about online versus in-store shopping. Retailers are living with this issue, and they have to make decisions.
Add technology? Remodel? Hire employees with new or different skills? Whether? What? When? All with major strategic and financial implications.
How can a retailer best make "customer driven decisions?" By using the concept of Lifestages.
Lifestages recognize that our shopping behaviors are driven more by our "stage of life" than by demographics. That is, parents of pre-schoolers (a Lifestage) tend to have the same shopping needs for their households, whether the parents themselves are 18 or 38 years old (demographics).
Here are the major Lifestages that impact shopping behaviors:
Now, use data available online or from your public library to see how Lifestages apply to your local market. And be prepared for some surprises!
Next, of these Lifestage groups, which two (maybe three) have historically been the most important customer groups for your stores?
Think about it. Don't worry about being precise; we're talking Big Picture here. Maybe involve some of your key staff people too, to get their ideas.
Finally, where is the opportunity? That is, YOUR opportunity?
Don't be distracted by the "conventional wisdom" of "emerging growth markets." What are the opportunities in your particular markets?
👀 To get started, here's an important idea: in addition to all the personal customer data you might be capturing, try adding a Lifestage code into your POS system, so you can track sales results by Lifestages. This is far more useful for your strategic financial decisions than all that "granular data."
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to the future of online shopping. Each Lifestage will have different reasons to embrace it (or not.)
Knowing more about the Lifestages of your customers will enable you to make decisions with much more confidence.
* We can't predict the grocery future. Shira Ovide, The New York Times; 4.18.22.
For retailers there are two very strong trends happening now through the Holiday Season. And they are remarkably divergent.
The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly gained the respect of the general public.
Surveys continue to show that, while folks are eager to be able to resume moving about, they do not expect to resume their pre-pandemic discretionary shopping and dining activities anytime soon. They are awaiting effective treatments or, even better, a vaccine.
Main Street restauranteurs and retailers understand that, according to survey results reported April 27.* In fact, these owners anticipate it could take another eight months – that is, most of the year – for consumer demand to reach the so-called "New Normal."
You've no doubt seen the headlines. "Retail sales slumped in December."
Sounds pretty grim, doesn't it? Did all those foreboding warnings of supply chain issues, inventory shortages, etcetera actually come true?
Your results are likely to be consistent with these patterns.
Since Labor Day in the US is the first Monday in September, this year it happens as late as possible. Labor Day will not be celebrated until next Monday, September 7.
Most years, most folks would be perfectly happy to have August stretched out even longer. Ahh, those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer, right?
And so, meanwhile, we regard Consumer Confidence as THE key indicator of consumer spending. Just last week, the Conference Board reported that Consumer confidence is at a six year low*. Ouch!
But, was that a surprise to retailers? Not really. Most retailers are well along in coping with these challenges.
As we introduced previously, the New Normal for retailers is already here. It is a new "retail clock."
Of course, it is not just retailers who have been affected; the shoppers also have been adapting. But whereas retailers think in terms of seasons (weeks and months), the shoppers are adjusting their patterns at the daily and weekly level.
Still less than $1 a day! 👀