Shopper Think

Culture, mindset play into customers' buying decisions

Published in CSP Daily News

By  Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Content Development Coordinator

Tina Wells

SCOTSDALE, Ariz. -- The art of retail evolves as much as what will motivate consumers to walk into stores and open their wallets.

It's the nuances of product offer, positioning, promotion and "experience," said experts convening with retailers at the annual CSP Shopper Insights & Engagement Forum in Scottsdale, Ariz. About 80 retailers, suppliers and speakers attended, with studies and perspectives touching on everything from Spanish-speaking customers to creating retail messages.

"Marketing to consumers comes down to understanding different mindsets … and not necessarily the age or demographics," said Tina Wells, CEO, Buzz Marketing Group, Voorhees, N.J. "It has become really complicated for a c-store to figure out how to market to a demographic. They really have to think out of the box and think about how to reach [their customers]."

For instance, a retailer may be considering ways to market to a younger demographic. Within that age group may be specific sub-groups. One may be young adults, age 20 to 25, many of whom have returned to live at their parent's home. In that case, the mother of the household may become the one who decides what to buy and where to shop for that young adult.

Forum speakers revealed more aspects of the mindset puzzle:

  • Acculturated Hispanics were more likely to respond like typical customers, while Spanish-only speaking customers responded to specific, cultural cues such as Spanish products and Spanish-speaking employees.
  • Creating a customer "experience" is still a strong motivational tool for shoppers and is central to communicating brand meaning.

Retailers are always trying to understand how shoppers behave in certain spaces and want to manipulate their stores to promote certain kinds of behavior, said Michael Powell, cultural anthropologist for Shook Kelley, which has offices in Los Angeles and Charlotte, N.C.

"[Primarily, it's improving sales and creating better experiences for shoppers—those that have had good experience tend to come back more often," Powell said. "How you create a better experience is a key part of the puzzle. What does the store mean? What does brand mean? What do your products mean to people?

Examining the U.S. Hispanic population in the context of retailing strategies ought to be a priority, according to David Portalatin, director of industry analysis, NPD Group, Houston. As an already large and growing population nationally, these customers tend to shop more often, spend more and have a higher-purchase incidence across all categories, he said.

The subtleties within this population are also compelling. Portalatin said acculturation--examined in terms of language dominance--reveals interesting traits. The more English dominant the customer, the more likely he or she will fall into the typical averages of spending and consumption behavior. The more Spanish-speaking, the higher the value for a c-store retailer.

"They're more likely to depend on the store as their daily support system for a broad variety of categories; They have a higher basket size …" Portalatin said. "Retailers learning how to best serve that population will have a return on investment."

Ultimately, the issue becomes taking consumer insight and turning it into meaningful action, said Powell of Shook Kelley. He said the industry has to ask hard questions: "How does a retail space work? What's going on? How do we make it more relevant and meaningful to the customer and how do we create better experiences?"

By Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Content Development Coordinator
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