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13 characteristics of new consumers

A more responsible and less materialistic society

  • Key4Communications

"Nothing will ever be the same again." This sentence is from The new consumer: profound changes and business opportunities, a research by the Creafutur foundation. Indeed, in those regions that are leaving the crisis behind, as in the case of Germany and the Nordic countries, citizens are not returning to the previous consumption situation.

In fact, the study identifies three types of countries, each identified with a colour. "The Yellow World" is mainly formed by emerging countries, whose middle and upper classes are consuming as much as European and Northamerican countries did before the crisis started.

"The Red World", dominant in Spain, the US, the UK, and France, is currently going through the crisis. Businesses have to face "a long period of low or very low propensity to consumption", and also distrust for brands and companies.

The third is "The Blue World": these countries are emerging from the crisis and choose to consume responsibly, as people are more concerned about factors such as sustainability, personal development and solidarity.

According to the research, "sooner or later" we will end up being part of this blue world. Which are the main characteristics of these societies?

1. Consumers are more rational. They consider all aspects of the purchase and use the internet to find information and compare prices, looking for a better value.

2. This value is becoming more important, particularly in regard to durability: there is a rejection of the so-called planned obsolescence and people believe that products should last much longer.

3. Consumers place their personal development before other materialist considerations, and claim consumer education for children and young people.

4. In fact, Guillermo Ricarte, General Director at Creafutur, recalls a phrase that came often among US respondents: "People said to be happier with less." This means that we are pointing to a postmaterialistic phase in which the consumer "has realized that he was living with an excess of material things, and that these goals are not as important as he thought."

5. The rise of smartphones will contribute to and increase in online searches.

6. Moreover, technology is a growing industry, and its consumers show behaviours previously seen in other areas (such as automotive and fashion), such as impulse buying and a decided preference for certain brands and products.

7. The online channel won't cannibalize traditional commerce. Rather, consumers value traditional retail for the shopping experience and the offered service. Also, there are many possibles synergies between these two channels, for example in regard to the possibility of in-store pick-up of  purchased online itmes (as Amazon and 7-Eleven do, for example).

8. Consumers want to combine growth with sustainability and environmental awareness.

9. Local products are also increasingly important, both because proximity is positive for the environment (less transport involved) and because of the the appeal of benefiting local producers and distributors.

10. There are new business models based on selling second-hand goods, on exchanging them (for example, homes for the holidays), and on rental and leasing vs. selling and property (for example, for cars). These new business models must lead to a new and stronger relationship between the manufacturer and the retailer, Ricarte explains.

11. All companies must apply a responsible and sustainable business model. Bank are required to care "for client savings and the financing of companies,” for example.

12. Marketing has to take into account the figure of the consumer citizen, and must be a "low intensity" marketing. Communication becomes less aggressive and "goes beyond the product," says Ricarte, who adds that "brands want to understand what do their customers care about," a strategy "that the consumer values."

13. In fact, consumers want brands to be more "transparent and relevant", to show more dialogue and less seduction.

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