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How Can Smart Marketers Win Over Today’s Tech-Empowered Shoppers?

by Alison Chaltas , 03.10.2012

When the economy plummeted in 2008, our research started to show massive changes in shopper attitudes – increasing importance placed on price, with a hunger for bargains and saving strategies.  No surprise there. 

What’s interesting, though, is that the economic recovery has not caused a return to old attitudes and habits. People had searched for and found strategies to modify their shopping and spending; they didn’t just clip more coupons – they opened doors on new worlds of information, and they haven’t looked back.

To these newly empowered “extreme shoppers,” shopping isn’t just about going to get what you need.  It is competitive -- trying to get a better deal than the one that Target or Coca-Cola wants them to get, and save money for their families. Their state of mind is not “woe  is me – I’m struggling to pay the bills”; they feel optimistic and excited by their ability to make a difference.

A big enabler of these new behaviors is mobile technology. Almost 80% of these new, extreme shoppers told us that technology and mobile are changing shopping behavior now.

Smart phone ownership recently topped 50% of consumers in the U.S., and tablets doubled over the 2011 holiday season – a rise that continues unabated. About one-quarter of the general population is using a mobile phone to help them shop, and about 10% are using a tablet.

Not surprisingly, younger consumers are major drivers of this trend – especially the 25 to 34 year olds.  These people have just entered the work force, so they have both economic means and technological savvy.

So how can retailers and brands befriend this informed, take-no-prisoners population, which is short on brand loyalty and wary of hype? Here is a kind of manifesto, revealing what extreme shoppers would say to marketers if they could. Their “demands” constitute a roadmap for making tech empowerment and savvy shopping work for your brands.

1. Know me

A host of data about consumers is now available, and (most) extreme shoppers expect you to use it. They are smart enough to know that their moves on the Internet, their purchases using loyalty cards, is being tracked – and they want to benefit from that tacit exchange of data for shopping advantage.

2.    Engage me

The digital realm provides a host of opportunities for engaging the empowered shopper. Make it worth their while to “like” your brand, to send you updates on their location via GPS. Another key element of engagement can be co-creation; the percent of XXXX who said they would be more loyal to a brand or retailer that lets them shape or give input in what they buy has more than tripled over the last year.

3.    Make it easy for me

Convenience isn’t just about “What are your hours and where are you located?”  It’s about, “Can I find what I want? Is you store logical, easy, and relaxed? Those are things that make it easy for me.

4. Tell it to me straight

More than ever, the shopper is smarter than you. Shoppers can find out the facts faster than you can spin them; so do what you say you’re going to do, and don’t overpromise.  Technology is the great equalizer in this department.

5. Make me feel smart

Extreme shoppers want to feel smart. They are using their phones to gather information, and helping them will win points for your brand. Make them feel confident they are doing the right things for themselves and their families.

6.    Less is more

Our shopping research shows over and over again – across categories – that better design and better communication can sell more product. Consumers need retailers and manufacturers to help them cut through the clutter; be part of the solution, not the problem, by simplifying your offerings and your messaging.

7.   Keep it fresh

In a world where many retailers have 1000‘s of stores, keeping it fresh is a challenge. This is another area where digital and mobile can really help us bring new life to the shopping experience. You can do this around products, merchandising, signage, service ideas -- create competition and engage shoppers.

The takeaway is simple: Mobile is changing everything in shopper marketing. The possibilities are remarkable, but also a huge challenge. Think about what makes sense for your brand, and focus on executing a couple of things well – instead of trying to be a star on every platform,

Alison Chaltas is EVP of GfK Shopper & Retail Strategy; contact her at alison.chaltas@gfk.com. Rob Barrish is SVP, GfK Technology; contact him at rob.barrish@gfk.com.