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Report: From Exhausted Parents to Eager Activists, Modern Shoppers are More Diverse Than Ever

The past two years have been chaotic for the average person, which has impacted just what they’re looking for when they shop. Work from home has been normalized and inflation is an ongoing concern, and 21% of consumers believe life will never return to “normal,” according to Resonate’s State of the Consumer 2022 report. And as people’s lives have shifted, entire demographics’ shopping habits have changed too.

“There is a very real lens that we have to apply to consumers that is really impacting the way that they’re behaving and the decisions that they’re making,” said Ericka Podesta McCoy, Chief Marketing Officer at Resonate in an interview with Retail TouchPoints, adding that “it predisposes them to behave or react a certain way.”

Shoppers can still be divided into some broad groups, such as parents, social media users and socially-conscious shoppers, but these labels are just the surface of their identities. The study dove into greater detail about each group, uncovering details about their deeper preferences:

  • Exhausted Consumers: These shoppers are full-time workers with young children who are overwhelmed by the challenge of balancing work, their social life and parenting — so ease their journey with personalization and time-saving services;
  • Influenced Consumers: These customers are the most likely to look for advice on social media, so retailers need to meet such shoppers on their preferred platform — and understand why they also have price on their mind; and
  • Activist Consumers: These are the shoppers who truly prioritize corporate responsibility and are willing to pay more to buy from companies that have green policies and treat employees fairly, but retailers also need to be aware of their interest in DTC brands in particular.

Pro tip: don’t assume Influenced and Activist Consumers are necessarily younger consumers; each group has “members” within older generations.

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Convenience and Personalization are Vital for Exhausted Consumers

It’s no surprise that time-strapped parents value efficiency, which has led to an interesting habit: they are 44% more likely than the average consumer to buy items online but make any returns in-store. They have the least time to shop and also the least time to replace an incorrect order, and since they’re looking for efficiency those return trips are a perfect opportunity to help them grab something else they may need.

Many retailers are already experts at turning in-store returns into new purchasing opportunities, but for Exhausted Consumers in particular the journey can start even before they leave their homes. For instance, offering the ability to combine a return with a BOPIS transaction, such as with Target’s curbside return program, can be a sales driver.

“There’s a benefit to bringing it back to the store because you have that immediate sense of ‘I’m getting my money back,’” said Podesta McCoy. “Even the offers leading up to it are important. You have the opportunity to send a message like, ‘Great, you’re going to return it back in the store. We can have these items ready for you.’ You have to think about the journey that that customer is on and then the places where you can naturally put an opportunity to upsell.”

Exhausted Consumers still find time for media consumption, making them 14% more likely to follow a brand on social media than the average consumer. They’re also always on the lookout for ideas, which may contribute to them being 22% more likely to download a retailer’s app. Retailers who use these channels to push personalized messages that can help with their decision-making can both influence purchases and build loyalty with helpful suggestions, even through potentially disruptive channels like SMS.

“If the text is personalized and tailored and it gives them the ability to take quick action, that’s going to be perceived as less disruptive and you will get higher points for convenience,” said Podesta McCoy. “Really, they’re just saying ‘Make it easy for me. I don’t want to have to think about another thing. I don’t want to have to stress about another thing.’ Even if you’re interrupting, if a brand is centering themselves around how they can make this tailored and personalized it will be welcomed.”

Social Media is a Big Channel, and Influenced Consumers Have Diverse Preferences

Influenced Consumers are the ultimate social media power users, particularly when it comes to fashion, where they are 59% more likely to consider influencers as a source of information they use before making purchases. However, this is a broad group of consumers ranged across a large number of platforms, so retailers need to understand their specific “slice” of this segment when choosing an influencer partner.

“When you think about who you want to target, or whoever you think your personas are, it’s important to look in terms of, ‘What channels are they typically in?’” said Podesta McCoy. “Logically, you can move through saying ‘This is an important channel for me to be in,’ and then narrow down to how you’re going to get there, but you have to follow the process by getting a holistic view of the person. You can’t just assume that if you have somebody who is Gen Z, you should only be on Snapchat and that they’re only going to follow Snapchat influencers. You actually have to look at what their media consumption is and what social media platforms they’re going to be on.”

A less obvious aspect of Influenced Consumers is their interest in deals. More than one-third (34%) of the group has discretionary income under $20,000, and nearly four out of five cite best prices as their number one retailer selection trait. They also are 13% more likely to use coupons. With this in mind, retailers need to consider every aspect of any influencer’s brand, including social status.

Additionally, think about what would influence these shoppers to make a snap purchase based off a social media offering. A $5,000 Gucci purse is probably off the table, but a more affordable accessory may be a great product to use for influencer outreach.

Activist Consumers Support Many Causes, but not Everyone Cares About All of Them

Many Activist Consumers are all about social justice: they are 105% more likely to purchase from a brand that supports Black Lives Matter and 151% more likely to shop at retailers that are woman- or minority-owned. They also care about the world around them, making the group 164% more likely to stand with companies that reduce energy use.

What may be less immediately obvious is that this group is 80% more likely to shop from DTC brands that will ship directly to their homes. This provides a perfect opportunity to appeal to shoppers interested in sustainability.

“I think there are opportunities to absolutely call attention to the things that you are doing,” said Podesta McCoy. “If you’ve reduced packaging or if you’re using a shipping method that’s more efficient, you can display it either on the box or in the communication. You can offer delivery options that are more sustainable and let people consolidate orders. All of that communication is really important because consumers are seeing it and registering it.”

Retailers looking to reach this group also need to recognize that there is no single issue that appeals to every Activist Consumer. Many may care about social justice and sustainability in equal measures, but others may focus on one or the other, or even focus on specific aspects of either, such as preferring Black-owned brands or products made with sustainably produced materials. Retailers need to understand the group they’re appealing to and act accordingly — a lesson that applies to all three categories.

“At the end of the day, none of your homogenous, persona-based terms really apply,” said Podesta McCoy. “You really need to understand people as individuals. You can’t just say ‘Hispanic people’ or ‘suburban moms’ or any of those things — those starting points are wrong. When you think about the Influenced Consumer or the Activist Consumer, people just automatically assume these are younger generations, but the connection between brand values and your own personal values is democratized across generations.”

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