See consumers in their full life*

*Paraphrased from a recent report by Accenture, we look at the ways shoppers and consumers have changed in just a few years and how companies and retailers can remain relevant for them.

Consumer and shopper habits remained the same or similar for decades previously. They changed only when there was a major disruption in the market that warranted it or when consumption power moved from one generation to another. This was usually a once in a lifetime occurrence.

A few lifetimes in one

These days, we pack the experiences of a few different lifetimes into one. We wrote about this previously.

According to the article by Accenture, ‘The world today is radically different from the world of two years ago … or even two months ago. A non-stop barrage of external life forces—health, economic, social, environmental, political and beyond—is affecting day-to-day decisions in unavoidable ways.’

We, at salesBeat, argue, this has been the case for a few years now. Ever since social media came into being. Social media has proved to be the both the delight and bane of a brand’s existence. In the initial days of social media, brands were excited by the potential for them to target consumer and shopper groups.

Social media influencing sales & consumer behaviour

While the articles by Accenture, Forbes and by McKinsey, don’t specifically call this out, social media has been influencing what consumers buy and when for sometime now. This has been making it difficult for both brands and retailers to anticipate demand and stocking requirements.

Another layer of complexity that brands did not take into account with social media is what happens when consumers post their negative experiences with the brand on social media. Or when certain (in)actions cast the brand in a poor light in the court of public sentiment. ‘Cancel culture’ has taken over the world of FMCG & retail too as we saw during the early days of the Ukraine/Russia conflict.

In a time and age when everything makes its way online sometime or another, companies need to anticipate not just how their ads perform, but how the brand itself is perceived by consumers.

Changing priorities for consumers

While sustainability was top of mind for most Gen Z & Millennial consumers & shoppers previously, today, with rising inflation sustainability has taken a back seat. Where personalisation and authenticity were important factors in shopper decisions, again, these are playing second fiddle(s) to value for money today.

According to the Accenture report referenced, ‘People are giving themselves permission to be inconsistent. As they evaluate a growing list of things that matter to them, consumers realize they can’t expect perfect choices in every circumstance. As they make decisions, paradoxes become inevitable. And those inconsistencies are being seen as strengths, not weaknesses.’

Market & geopolitical realities

In the last 3 years, not only has social media been a constant in how it has influenced behaviour, but so have covid, unseasonal weather (climate change) and conflicts, in the form or ‘war’ or trade conflicts.

These have completely changed (and continue to change) the way we live, work and shop. However, companies, both retail and brand are still playing catch up driving uncertainties from a supply perspective.

See consumers as a whole

Accenture suggests 3 ways a company can catch up and keep pace:

  • See customers in their full life
  • Solve for shifting scenarios
  • Simplify for relevance

The paper by Accenture resonated with us as we developed salesBeat keeping in mind the consumer and their life. salesBeat isn’t only about how consumers shop or how shoppers behave, but also about how they react to the changes in their life and how this in turn impacts their choices. Also, as Salesbeat tracks the drivers of consumer behaviour and does not assume that the environment remains static, shifting scenarios are accounted for through them.

More companies need to start seeing their consumers as people whose decisions change with the circumstances around them. Currently their personas are developed based on socio economic and demographic factors that can change with changes in the economic environment around them. After all, shoppers who previously used to frequent ‘premium’ supermarket chains are now trading down to cheaper alternatives, including frequenting discounters more often.

For more detail or to read the Accenture paper in full, follow this link. If you’d like to learn more about salesBeat, visit our website or mail me on veena@salesbeat.co

What should the sector expect over 2021 with lockdowns easing?

This blog is about how lockdown easing is expected to impact sales in different sectors.

Over 2020, we saw significant increase in food & beverage sales and cleaning products.

Sales in the make up and hair care sectors was lacklustre.

This was driven by lockdowns causing consumers to stay at home. As they were not able to go out to a restaurant, they shopped at grocery stores for different foods and beverages. Due to the very same driver, sales of make-up and hair care brands decreased significantly.

Increased sales of cleaning products in 2020 was driven by an increased consciousness of hygiene due to the pandemic.

As we look at 2021, with successful vaccination campaigns and with lockdowns easing, we expect make up and hair care sales to increase in anticipation of and due to social activity. As restaurants, bars and cafes opening up, we expect grocery sales of food & beverages to decline slightly. But the sector is expected to retain a major share of the gains from last year as people cautiously venture out as lockdowns ease.

The one sector we expect will retain the increased sales from 2020 is the cleaning products sector. As people go out and enjoy the return to normal, to keep safe, we expect consumers to buy and use more cleaning products than they used to pre-covid.

If you’d like to learn more and understand how individual categories may be impacted by the easing of lockdowns, email me on veena@salesbeat.co

Breakfast cereal revival – a pandemic boost?

2o20 has been a very interesting year for breakfast cereals.

The breakfast cereal aisle is the one aisle I skip when I do my weekly grocery shopping. Not because I don’t eat breakfast, but because this segment had too much and too little choice all at the same time. That may sound contradictory.

The choice this aisle offered was purely contained to flavour. You had the usual suspects – vanilla, strawberry & chocolate and then other flavours like coconut, banana & berry. Consumers had too much choice (a minimum of 60 options at the average large format supermarket) and the paradox of choice struck.

People started eating less cereal for breakfast. They were also eating more breakfast bars and picking up breakfast to go from cafes. This was a double whammy for the industry as consumers wanted healthier choices as well – less added (natural or otherwise) sugar in their cereals, more fibre, more proteins etc – which the industry was not prepared for and this impacted breakfast cereal perception & consumption and resultantly, sales. According to a Forbes article in Aug 2019, the average US consumer has eaten 14 fewer bowls of cereal over the last 28 years and according to an article by Kerry in October 2019, US retail sales of cereal was expected to decline by 6% between 2017 & 2022.

In February 2020, before the pandemic brought the world to its knees, CNBC ran an article on the breakfast cereal sector and General Mills’ plan to revitalise this category in the US, the current largest breakfast cereal market . The article started off with a summary of key takeaways and the first was:

‘U.S. cereal sales have gone stale in recent years as consumer tastes change.’

Sales volume was in decline for the at-home breakfast cereal sector when the pandemic hit. But then, people started working from home, children started schooling from home and breakfast at home became a regular routine. With professionals still working (albeit from home; so, no time for a hot breakfast!), cafes still under lockdowns and takeaway breakfast joints competing for who has the longest queue, breakfast cereals saved the day for all the moms, dads and working professionals out there.

So the pandemic saved the breakfast cereal industry. It was almost as if the pandemic compelled this industry to listen to what their consumers were asking for (clue: no more flavour variations!) This last year saw an almost unprecedented pace of innovation in this sector. Instead of offering a plethora of yet more flavours, brands instead focussed on creating options along the ‘health spectrum’ spanning from indulgent to healthy.

While the new normal may see a drop in at home cereal consumption compared to that in 2020/early ’21, with kids going back to school, the drop may not be as steep as working from home is here to stay… and breakfast cereal also makes a great snack!

So what prompted this blog today? Weetabix just announced indulgent variants of their fibre rich cereal with Chocolate Melts Duo.