What’s The New Consumer Thinking?

February 21, 2012

Steve Rowen

Not wanting to be the odd man out, as partners Nikki and Brian both focus on Google in their articles this week, I figured I’d keep the theme alive.

We recently partnered with up with Google to launch a research project that’s quite different than what we normally do. As you well know, RSR’s core strength has always been in deriving insight from the information retailers provide about what it most challenging and opportunistic to them. We take this data, view it through the lens of our collective retail expertise (which is somewhere north of 80 years of practitioner experience), and hopefully provide a topic-specific reports which not only help retailers benchmark their own efforts, but also help technologists understand and address retailers’ pains and demands better. We also like to think that our pragmatic suggestions give everyone involved in the extended retail industry a firm grasp on realistic objectives and tasks they can be undertaking today, not years from now.

But when it comes to the newly-created channel-less shopper (or omni-channel, channel-agnostic, or buy-anywhere-anyhow customer – whatever you’d prefer to call her), the truth is it’s a gray area for all of us. Every day consumers are finding new ways to shop. New ways to put retailers, the products they bring to market and their supply chains to the test in ways no-one could have predicted even a short time ago. This is not melodrama: if a new technology comes out this week that makes shopping easier or more cost effective for consumers in a logical way – if it excites or simplifies the customer’s life in any meaningful way – it could go viral within months and we’ll all be talking about the best ways to react at next year’s NRF Big Show. Facebook did. The iPad did. And Red Laser certainly did.

So in order for this new research project to have the same punch and insight as our traditional benchmarks, we’ll need to understand not just what retailers are doing, but what customers are doing. And that’s where Google comes in. Who better to help us discover how the new consumer shops?

One of our favorite things to remind audiences when we deliver speeches about the retail industry is that we are ALL customers. We all have peculiarities about the ways we shop, and when we take a look inward at the different types of shoppers just in our own households, it helps put a context around how varied consumption patterns in the modern age really are. Twenty years ago, if you and I were both up watching television at 11:30 pm on a Tuesday, there’s a very good chance we were both watching the same Johnny Carson show; the chance we’re both watching the same type of entertainment via the same delivery service at 11:30 anymore is almost null and void. The same concept applies to shopping: even if you and I buy the exact same products, there’s very little chance we bought from the same retailer, went through the same pre-purchase research, or even took delivery via the same channel. What Google is going to help us achieve is whole scale view of these peculiarities in aggregate: the consumer side of the equation won’t rely on anecdotal experiences from our own shopping lives, but instead, on hardened data about consumers from a survey of consumers.

This new 360 degree view report won’t be ready for a while, but we’re very excited that our partners at Google are going to help us tap into the aggregate mind of the modern consumer. Of course, we’re also conducting a survey of retailers’ behaviors to tie into the full report, and we’d be delighted if you’d take a few minutes to offer your insights as a retailer. Together, combined with the survey of consumer behavior that our partners are conducting, we anticipate generating a comprehensive report that is of great value to you and your organization’s efforts to a) understand what the new consumer wants and b) how you can best meet these new needs.

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