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PALM DESERT, Calif. -- More than ever, the future of the always-changing retail landscape is in the hands of consumers. Factors, such as high gas prices, have forced people to alter their shopping habits, in turn forcing retailers to reshape the industry by thinking outside the box.
According to the experts at ACNielsen, this challenging retail situation is here to stay. At last week's Consumer 360 Conference, the No. 1 marketing information conference for the consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry, ACNielsen analyzed the past, present and future of U.S. retailing.
Todd Hale, senior vice president of ACNielsen's Consumer Insights, presented the following predictions about the face of retail in 2010:
• RFID will be widely applied to track in-store shopping patterns, stock merchandise and measure consumption. Self-checkout will be greatly simplified as "EZ-Pass"-style devices hit retailing.
• Wal-Mart sales will reach the half trillion dollar mark as the store becomes a leading source for immediate healthcare.
• Stores will offer valet parking.
• Metal detectors will greet shoppers at store entrances.
• Private label will reach a 20 percent dollar share.
• Grocers will go big, go value, go niche...or go away.
• High gas/heating costs will continue to reduce shoppers' disposable income and will cause channel evolution.
"Today's hectic lifestyles have changed the way people shop," said Hale. "What used to be a rather leisurely activity has turned into a rushed, stressful nuisance for some shoppers. Retailers that acknowledge this stay one step ahead of the game. These days, retailers are looking for ways to keep customers happy by selling them unique products, getting them in and out of stores quickly, smothering them with good service, and/or saving them money."
Hale encouraged retailers to keep their customers satisfied by altering business practices to focus on personalization, value and convenience. He shared the following "Survival Tips" designed to teach retailers to maximize their growth potential in the face of consumers' tightened purse strings:
• Benchmark and monitor shopper dynamics both by category and across the entire store.
• Think outside traditional channel categories by understanding pricing, assortment and promotion strategies.
• Leverage manufacturer expertise to stay ahead of consumer trends.
• Be quick to accept and quick to discontinue new products.
• Happy associates make good shopper engagements.
• Use e-mail to contact shoppers.
• Develop premium, exclusive brands: Private label doesn't always have to be a low-price alternative .
• Translate frequent shopper programs into loyalty programs.
"Many consumers are not only brand-loyal, but also store-loyal. If they feel a store goes out of its way to make their shopping experiences more pleasant and less stressful, consumers will show their appreciation with more frequent shopping trips and bigger sales totals" advised Hale.
ACNielsen, a VNU business, is the world's leading marketing information provider. VNU is also the parent company of Convenience Store News.