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Shopper Trends|February 19, 2020

What does ‘Change Now’ Mean? 5 Shopping Shifts to Watch

Forget merchandise, Forget promotions. Forget ads. Being a part of change today means accepting that shoppers expect retail to play a fundamentally different role in their lives. And they expect it Now.

Our How America Shops® report, “Change Now,” is a real-time example of how much faster change is occurring now.

The controversies surrounding climate change, healthcare and income inequality are keeping these topics in front of people every day. As a result, consumers are more aware of the need to do good – whether that’s contributing to preserving the earth, helping those less fortunate or keeping themselves healthy – and the way they do good is through the stores they shop and the brands they buy. 

In addition to clean hair, we want shampoos that promise a cleaner planet. We want to buy clothes that are made by companies that pay employees a living wage, we want outlets to recycle and upcycle.

Not only have shoppers dramatically evolved in terms of how they want to shop, but who they are is changing as well. Connecting with them requires embracing their philosophies – toward choice, sustainability, wellness.

What Change Now Means, in 5 Areas

What was once fringe is now the mainstream. Here are the five places to start changing now.

  1. Retail is a wellness provider. MedTail is the new Retail Shoppers’ expectations are that retail play a role in their “well care” – physically, emotionally, mentally and socially – has helped build an industry we call MedTail. It’s the infusion of medical treatments, from flu shots to oral surgery, within the floor plans of retail. The transformation is evident in chains such as CVS and Walmart, and medical retail may be the salvation of traditional shopping malls.
  2. Consumer segments are blending. Gender fluidity and cross-category curiosity is inspiring shoppers to explore brands and products they traditionally ignored, or avoided. Now, 48% of men get beauty treatments for self-care, our “Change Now” report reveals, and 16% buy cosmetics in the store and online. Older women, meanwhile, are shopping the junior aisle because they know they can rock a pair of skinny jeans.
  3. Cleaner aisles mean SKUing green. Shoppers are championing the green movement down to the product level and asking questions that are forcing brands to rethink their formulas and packages. Do over-the-counter cough syrups really need artificial coloring? Do cosmetics have to have so much packaging? (“No,” answers Package Free, Glossier and others.) Clean extends to every category, as 66% of shoppers agree they will choose higher-priced products that have removed harmful ingredients.
  4. The resurrection of apparel. The consumer’s cleaner conscience extends to clothes and the materials used to make them. Upcycled fashion and second-hand clothing are rapidly displacing disposable fast-fashion as shoppers consider the worldly costs of their style whims. Both Macy’s and J.C. Penney have integrated spaces within their apparel departments for the online fashion resale company ThredUp, and used-clothing chains like Buffalo Exchange are growing – it is in 20 states.
  5. Shoppers have found a retail workaround. Direct-to-consumer brands such as Brandless, BarkBox and Wayfair have taught shoppers to go directly to manufacturers for the goods they want. Major brands are responding with their own D2C strategies. Nike pulled its shoes from Amazon in favor of a direct-to-consumer model. Rodan & Fields is a top direct-to-shopper skincare line, and Procter & Gamble, maker of Tide and Pampers, has launched a studio dedicated to developing direct-to-consumer products, such as the estrogen-free menopause line Kindra.

Forget Tactics. Change Now Means Looking Within and Being Transparent

Retailers and brands that want to remain relevant with shoppers have to stop looking and acting like they did a couple yeas ago. Shopping today means more than filling the cart, it means fulfilling an obligation.

With every responsibility to which shoppers adhere, retailers and brands will be expected to do the same. Stop trying to catch up with change; instead, play an active role in change now. That’s the right strategy. Because shoppers are not waiting.


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