Keeping up with the new consumer today is the biggest challenge facing product marketers, retailers and every industry from restaurants to hospitality.
For example, the meteoric rise of online shopping and the demise of big box retailing has heralded a new era in consumerism as we know it in terms of how we shop and where we shop. In fact, with the advent of mobile and the changing shopping habits of Millennials, retail has changed so dramatically that merchants in every category are struggling with how to reinvent themselves and stay relevant. The demise of book and music chains, Radio Shack, and the impending downsizing or closing of many Sears stores and other chains is only the tip of the iceberg.
Staying relevant means adapting, merging, repurposing, reinventing and rebranding.
To remain relevant, Dominos Pizza has changed its name to just Dominos to create a new platform for new products. To adapt to the new reality in movie watching on multiple online screens, AMC, the country’s second-largest movie theater chain, has partnered with Dolby to create Dolby Cinema at AMC Prime, a premium movie-going experience with Dolby Atmos immersive sound, Dolby Vision laser digital projection, and AMC Prime power reclining seats tricked out with transducers that vibrate with the on-screen action. But that’s only the tip of reinvention occurring throughout commerce today.
Only around 20% of African-Americans currently straighten their hair, down from as high as 70% at one point. So to stay relevant, companies like L’Oreal—who boasts that 80% of its current offerings on the shelf are either new innovations or renovations—are coming to market with new products like SoftSheen-Carson’s new Dark and Lovely Au Naturale line.
LinkedIn, the No. 1 social network for professionals, bought online learning company Lynda.com to allow LinkedIn’s 350 million users to refer to Lynda.com’s library of training videos for skill-building and education.
Walgreen’s is closing 200 stores with the goal of putting the right stores in the right places to stay relevant.
And while industries like hospitality are reinventing themselves with a new generation of hotels to appeal to a new generation of guests—brands like Andaz by Hyatt, Dream by Wyndham, and Edition by Marriott—this reinvention is dwarfed by the industry of mass media today that seems to be in a war of survival because of the changing consumer’s mobility and an array of new technologies.
Even powerhouse Google is looking to remain relevant by reacting to the growing population of Hispanics who spend 90 minutes more viewing video on a digital device than the average American. Google clearly sees U.S. digital opportunities across many industries by sharing the growth in Spanish language search queries, reporting that 66% of digital Hispanics pay attention to online ads vs. 47% of general market consumers.
And speaking of the new face of America, TV networks are staying relevant to the demographic changes in the country by creating an avalanche of new programming: the first Asian-American-centered comedy “Fresh Off the Boat,”; more than a handful of series that star African-American leads like “Empire” and “Black-ish”; plus series based on telenovelas and a host of other shows in development that portray a variety of ethnicities. The broadcast and cable networks see “multicultural” programming now as mainstream…and it has drawn big audiences and happy advertisers.
The explosive health and fitness movement is forcing food and beverage brands to become more relevant.
The new emergence of organic foods and the consumers desire for healthier, hormone-free, pesticide free meats, produce and fish has certainly added fuel to the sales of Whole Foods and Fresh Market while bringing re-invention to conventional grocers around the country who are racing to add more organic, gluten-free, hormone-free products to their shelves and refrigerated counters to stay relevant.
Restaurants from McDonald’s to Applebee’s are also reviving their product offerings by following in the footsteps of more relevant brands like Chipotle and Panera who have not only captured more and more market share among consumers seeking healthier fare, but those now seeking fast casual instead of sit-down restaurants.
Giant beverage manufacturers like Coke and Pepsi are struggling to remain relevant in a world that is more educated about the perils of high fructose corn syrup—as are food manufacturers—as they try to reinvent themselves with new healthier beverages. Even their diet products are struggling to stay relevant in the wake of new studies touting the dangers of sugar-free drinks and the government’s insistence to remove the word “diet” from their labels.
Similarly, the cosmetics industry looks to reinvent themselves and regain consumer trust as the result of new FDA reports on the safety of parabens, which are commonly used as preservatives in cosmetics. Even candy and confection companies are striving to become more relevant. For example, Americans are chewing 30% less gum than they did a few years ago. So gum companies’ latest innovations include gum that disappears after a few chews, gum packets designed to fit into car cup holders, and gums that taste like desserts.
More consumer information. More product choices. More consumer control.
Today, the consumer is in control, online information is widespread, and in this new era of consumerism, coupled with the seismic shift of technology, the whole relationship between brands and consumers is changing.
Gone are the days of marketing to a family with 2.3 children and a house in the suburbs. Consumer tastes, lifestyles and preferences are all across the board, as are media habits, mealtimes with Millennials, and the overwhelming emergence of single parent households and singles. And with an infinite amount of products available online, along with hundreds of customer reviews on each one, consumers now have the power to know more, shop smarter and buy better than ever before. And that’s affecting the entire retail landscape for both online and brick ‘n mortar merchants. Even doctors are reinventing themselves with concierge practices in the wake of low paying health insurance and Medicare.
Shifts in ethnicity, employment and demographics demand a new marketing reality.
No only has the family nucleus changed over the past 20, 30 years, so has the population’s ethnicity and lifestyles—from the emergence of LBGT as a powerful niche market, to growing numbers of Boomers and Millennials—creating a societal shift that has shaken the very foundation of retailing, marketing, housing, and product development. To stay relevant, these companies must revisit their target audiences and reinvent their offerings.
Certainly, as women have risen among the ranks of the employed and have earned better degrees than many of their male counterparts, and in some cases, better salaries, they are impacting many industries, least of not which is home building.
Today women make up the majority of first-time homebuyers in the U.S. Even the auto industry is realizing that the biggest opportunities to make sales gains is with female and Millennial buyers who will account for 70% of car sales by 2025.
So when you consider that men are becoming bigger food shoppers and lead the luxury and apparel markets in terms of purchases; Baby Boomers are aging differently than their predecessors and have an increased focus on wellness and foods that promote better health; and Millennials prefer living in cities than in suburbs, retailers have to figure out how to proximate themselves and companies need to acclimate themselves to this new marketing reality.
Invention. Innovation. Motivation.
Airbnb, the lodging website that is just 6 years old, will put more people in more rooms this year than Hilton Hotels. And Airbnb’s founders had no experience in the accommodations industry. Which means one thing, innovation, invention and motivation will be the ingredients to success across all industries in the years ahead. Companies will have to try things that are riskier, unproven and unknown.
STUART DORNFIELD is an award-winning freelance Creative Director/Copywriter who has worked with more than 200 clients in b2c and b2b industries across digital and traditional channels.www.stuartdornfield.com