GlobalWebIndex, a supplier of audience insights to the global marketing industry, has shared the findings of its extensive research into the trends that will shape consumer behaviour throughout 2020.
Against a backdrop of economic shocks, from the US-China trade war to the German economy’s weak performance in recent quarters, one of the most surprising findings of the report is the strength of consumer confidence that endures. Consumer confidence has now come full cycle and rests at an all-time high since it fell in 2009 as a result of the economic crash.
In fact, 59 per cent of global internet users think their personal finances will improve in the next 6 months. However, fewer believe the same of their own country’s economy highlighting a growing feeling among consumers that all is not what it seems in the wider world.
Video audiences hit ‘replay’
Perhaps the most visible ‘nostalgia play’ to land in 2020 will be the rise of new, personalised nostalgic suggestions in online streaming as Disney, HBO and BBC / ITV all add new services to an already hotly competitive landscape. Almost 4 in 10 consumers in the U.S. and UK said they’d be willing to pay more for a content streaming service if they knew that exclusive, older content would be added.
Often this is rooted in a trend of consumers feeling most nostalgic about the decade in which they grew up, but that’s not always the case.
Faux nostalgia, or “fauxstalgia”, is characterised by a yearning for something in the past that consumers never directly experienced themselves, and Generation Z is particularly fond of this. They were the biggest users of Pokemon Go (48 per cent), jumping on the craze of which they never got to be a part when the game first launched in the ‘90s. Brands and marketers can, therefore, create cross-generational nostalgia through the same content.
Rediscovering a day at the shops
Much has been said about the high street in recent years, but 73 per cent of online consumers in the UK and U.S. still prefer to shop for clothes in-store. The fact that this figure doesn’t fall below the 70 per cent mark even for our youngest respondents – the digitally-native Gen Z aged 16-22 – illustrates that old-fashioned, offline shopping has a truly cross-demographic appeal.
2020 will likely see the redefinition of the physical retail space into something far more future-proof and leisurely. Features like bars, spa centres and bakeries may navigate their way into stores – already change is currently being led by the likes of Primark and Samsung in the UK and Nordstrom in the US. For younger shoppers, these are the perfect hangout spots, showing that in reality, so long as brands remain relevant to consumer expectations, the online/offline divide actually disappears. It’s only a matter of time until smaller businesses follow suit.
Heart of social interaction rejuvenated by gaming
Social media could also be on course for a watershed moment in 2020. In the UK and U.S., the third most common frustration with social media is the lack of actual human connection. Games, on the other hand, are valued for their authenticity and openness. While the dominant reason to play them is to relieve boredom (60 per cent), the next most important reason is to have fun with people they know (38 per cent), coming ahead of skill progression, competition and even game immersion. Female online gamers, in particular, are much more likely to say they play online because they feel like they can be their real selves and can do so without needing to worry about being judged.
Retailers and customers don’t see eye to eye on returns or in-store experiences
Retailers are not meeting customer expectations, and in many cases are missing on the fundamentals, according to a new 15,800 respondent global consumer study by Oracle Retail. Case in point, the two sides dramatically disagree on how easy it is to return purchases. While 57 per cent of the 210 retailers surveyed noted that returning products is ‘very easy,’ the same share of consumers disagree and rate the return process as a ‘complete hassle’ or at least could be easier.
Shoppers and retailers are also split on what constitutes their most important in-store experiences. More than half (56 per cent) of consumers rate convenience, such as having their size in stock, as the top priority, while only 34 per cent of retailers noted it as such. Consumers also rank discovery, as in space to experiment and try new products (36 per cent) and expert advice (22 per cent) as important when shopping in-store. This was much higher than retailers who indicated these attributes at merely 18 and six per cent, respectively.
When asked how retailers are preparing to deliver against ever-changing consumer shopping needs, “faster shipping” reigned supreme. Consumers not only agreed but were open to different ways their order could arrive as long as the delivery is fast and cheap. Ninety-two per cent of consumers said they would like/love “free one-day delivery by whatever means is most expedient – drone, driverless car, messenger, etc.” This represents a significant increase in positive sentiment toward new delivery models as compared to previous research.
The one caveat – it had better get there when expected. The price for late deliveries according to 13 per cent of consumers is they would never order from that retailer again.
“Consumer expectations are perpetually in flux, with each positive experience setting a new bar for success in retail,” said Mike Webster, senior vice president and general manager, Oracle Retail. “No matter if they’re enjoying the convenience of ridesharing, browsing through a seamless in-app experience or walking into a brick-and-mortar storefront, customers expect the same calibre of service in all interactions, upping the stakes for retailers as they compete with rival brands and new business models.”
Seamless, Convenient Shopping with a Tech Twist
Today’s shoppers don’t view online and in-store as discrete channels and expect the same level of ‘perceived convenience’ no matter where they shop. In fact, 51 per cent of consumers associate convenience with a great shopping journey, regardless of channel. In North America, convenience has been raised to new levels, with 57 per cent of respondents in the region valuing convenience above all else, compared to 50 per cent in Europe.
Consumers are definitely open to new technologies to help improve the convenience of their shopping experiences. More than half (54 per cent) of respondents love the idea of ‘online technology that allows you to view a digital version of yourself to try on products (e.g. sunglasses, clothes), and in United Arab Emirates (UAE), the appetite for this is even higher at 67 per cent. UAE similarly leads the EMEA region in interest in VR technologies, with 68 per cent saying they would embrace VR to ‘browse a virtual closet online and pick out items like you would in a store’ compared to 53 per cent of global respondents. A further 41 per cent of global respondents would be interested in ‘online subscription fashion services that automatically send you items in your style and you return the ones you don’t like,’ with North America and EMEA trailing other regions at 29 and 31 per cent, respectively.
Delivery on Demand
Consumers are increasingly open to whatever gets orders to their door the fastest, with more than 90 per cent seeking free one-day delivery by whatever means is fastest, including drone, driverless car or a messenger. This is more than double (43 per cent) the number of consumers who felt these delivery mechanisms would be “awesome” when asked just last year.
Consumers equally value choice, with the majority (86 per cent) agreeing that retailers should offer the ability to choose the most convenient delivery option at the time of ordering. While 87 per cent of retailers recognize choice is important to consumers, the need is not yet being met, with 47 per cent of consumers reporting that the delivery option they want is ‘sometimes, rarely or never’ available.
Online-only retailers are winning on this front as 61 per cent of consumers feel that “the delivery option they want is always available” compared to 52 per cent for traditional retailers and 46 per cent for direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands. When asked if “items always arrive when they say they will,” 52 per cent of respondents say this is the case with online-only retailers, compared to 49 per cent for traditional and DTC brands. Although online-only retailers are currently in pole position, traditional retailers and DTC brands aren’t far behind, signifying progress and opportunity.
Rewards for Loyalty
Creating personalised experiences is no longer just about dynamic content or ‘special offers.’ Consumers are seeking preferential treatment based on their relationship with the brand. Roughly half (48 per cent) say that offers or discounts which are better than what anyone else can get based on their loyalty to that retailer are ‘absolutely essential.’ Loyalty also relies on transparency to succeed: roughly half (52 per cent) of consumers have greater trust in retailers who respond immediately in the event of an issue or recall, and 47 per cent are more likely to trust emerging brands with if they are ‘honest and authentic.’
While honesty from retailers is highly valued, consumers say it can be hard to come by – just one in five (21 per cent) Generation Z and Millennials consumers completely trust what retailers tell them. When issues arise with products they’ve purchased, 66 per cent of consumers expect to be notified right away, and this rises to 72 per cent amongst Baby Boomer consumers.