Expo Riva Schuh & Gardabags were back online last 2 December with in-depth articles dedicated to the world of footwear and leather goods. Protagonist in this session was the Redefining Off-Price theme, led by Jacqueline Wong, trend expert of WGSN, who outlined 5 consumer profiles that characterise the new post-pandemic consumer approach, and the related tactics to be adopted to respond to these new needs. The suggested strategies focused on packaging, delivery methods and innovative retail models such as the evolution of subscription services.
What drives consumer behaviours after the pandemic? The global health crisis, the resulting economic crisis and the ongoing sustainability problems and changes in lifestyles have given rise to new ways of thinking and purchasing attitudes. In many cases, consumers today are driven by frugality and economic convenience, because attention to shopping has increased also as a result of the online shopping growth. When shopping, consumers are also increasingly attentive to aspects such as speed, flexibility, convenience and the possibility of returning goods. Sustainability is also increasingly at the centre of purchasing decisions, as is digitisation, because consumers are increasingly looking for digital solutions capable of making the shopping experience easier and more accessible. From these key concepts that guide the so-called ‘New normal’, 5 distinct consumer profiles emerge.
1 – Affordability advocates
Concerned by the economic effects of the pandemic and by anxiety towards the future, these consumers consider saving a priority and are looking for shopping alternatives that are as affordable as possible and with the best value for money solution, as well as being particularly attentive to discounts, promotions and deals, bulk purchases, products by subscription and long life of the items purchased. These consumers browse the internet in search of the best offer for the type of product they are looking for. An example of a brand that has addressed specific initiatives to these types of consumers is H&M with the Singular Society service, which makes a number of essential items available at affordable prices in exchange for a monthly or annual subscription. The fast fashion giant has also created a showroom in Stockholm, where items on display are available at very affordable prices.
Key strategies: value-added proposals (eg pay 1 get 2, discounts, free gifts); free or complementary shipping services to promote loyalty; convey value beyond the transaction (offer repairs, care services, etc.); use data and analysis for a scouting strategy; learn from the past, analyse how consumers have reacted to situations of economic crisis in order to structure a more resilient supply chain.
2 – Mission-based shoppers
These consumers are looking for fast and agile shopping experiences – both online and in store – for whom the shopping journey is carefully planned. They use apps like Zoolert or NowInStock to check the availability of the product they are interested in and are ready to go to the store as soon as it is available. Stock availability, purchase speed and ease of use are crucial factors. Examples of retailers who have focused on these types of shoppers are Saks, which has transformed its website to make it more responsive to their requests through filters such as ‘available now’ or ‘pre-order’, or Wallmart, which has simplified its shopping experience at the point of sale.
Key strategies: technology capable of speeding up the purchase and customising the offer; implementation of in-stock tools and inventory platforms; prefer stores with reduced dimensions that can save consumer time and make shopping more agile; implement directed navigation, which helps consumers to directly end where the desired product is.
3 – On-demanders
These consumers are accustomed to the Amazon model online shopping and are particularly sensitive to factors such as speed, convenience, flexibility, ease of return, possibility of parcel tracking. They have high expectations on digital channels in terms of easy navigation, speed in finding the desired product, tracking. An example of a retailer who has addressed this type of consumer is M&S with the Click and Collect model, as is Sotheby’s, which entered e-commerce for the first time by making its luxury products accessible for immediate purchase.
Key-strategies: improve the checkout experience; experience headless commerce (eg Shopify); bring products geographically closer to consumers with well-supplied local micro centres; rethink physical stores as places for packing and picking up orders placed online; make the online experience fluid and agile.
4 – Eco-warriors
These consumers are more attentive to the impact of their purchases on the environment, in particular in terms of packaging and shipping. In fact, they try to minimise waste and prefer more ecological packaging and shipping methods such as the reduced use of plastic packaging, the preference for paper, the use of recycled plastic, more local deliveries, combined shipments of multiple products, or carbon neutral shipping. They are also willing to pay more for greater sustainable solutions. An example is The Box, created to rethink shipping methods, a smart shipping box with a digital address display that can be reused for over 1000 shipments before being refurbished and then recycled.
Key strategies: new packaging options with plants or fungus-derived packaging; make charitable donations to the environment; educate consumers on recycling and encourage them with clear packing information; discourage over-consumption to promote the ‘Buy less, buy better’ campaign.
5 – Value-driven shoppers
These consumers are more attentive to the value of what they buy in terms of sustainable, ethical and socially responsible behaviour of the brand, and are also willing to pay more for products that meet these criteria. Examples of brands that cater to these types of consumers are American Eagle, which donates part of the proceeds to support the homeless through a QR code, and Shona Joy, which works with partners such as SurfAid to help the most deprived areas of the world. Key strategies: offer charitable donations; make it easy to buy responsibly through, for example, cruelty-free or biodegradable or recyclable filters; communicate the responsible actions of the brand in a clear and authentic way and create a shareable message; provide tangible evidence of social and environmental commitment, for example through the publication of Sustainability reports.