We live in a fast-paced and ever-evolving commercial and business environment. Advances in technology can have a particularly marked effect on the way people shop and consume, but technology is not the only driving force. Social changes can also drive consumer trends, although even these larger societal changes now tend to be linked with technology. The fact that we are all now more connected than ever before can accelerate the pace of changes. It is more important than ever for business owners to understand market trends.
Consumers can now switch their buying habits with the tap of a touchscreen and, without paying attention to their tastes and behaviours, business owners risk their products and services becoming obsolete.
These are some of the main trends you can expect to see among Canadian consumers in 2017…
A market for millennials
Businesses need to learn how to operate in a market dominated by the millennial generation. Also known as Generation Y and the Digital Generation, this is the cohort that followed Generation X and comprises young people born between the 80s and the turn of the century.
This demographic possess a number of key attributes. They are extremely connected and digitally literate. They are also a group of thrifty and resourceful shoppers who are heavily influenced by price but can be somewhat fickle when it comes to brand loyalty. This means that retailers and other businesses must concentrate on combining value for money with a streamlined customer experience.
Kyle Tomlin, Senior Director of Education and Events at the Retail Council of Canada, said: “A growing trend within Canadian retail in 2017 is the continued focus on, and improvement of, 'The Last Mile'. The best retailers will provide the widest choice, fastest service, and most convenience within their fulfilment models. Whether it’s click and collect, click and deliver, ultra-fast premium delivery, reserve in store, or brick and mortar check-out, retailers who offer the highest level of cross-channel convenience will continue to gain market share.”
A high percentage of Canadian consumers are also reluctant to commit themselves, and often opt to rent, borrow or share when they have the option, rather than purchase an item outright. This affects the market for major purchases such as housing and cars, with many choosing to rent their homes and join car share schemes. There has also been a growth in peer-to-peer sharing on smaller items and resources like tool libraries.
Where purchases are made, many Canadian consumers prefer payment plans over outright payments.
2016 was a watershed year as mobile browsing overtook desktop browsing for the first time worldwide. Canada, like many other parts of the world, is now mobile-obsessed. Many Canadians check their phone as soon as they get up in the morning and before they go to bed at night. They also use their smartphones to help them make decisions when it comes to where and how they spend their money.
Researching purchases online before making a decision in-store is now a common consumer habit, but there are other variations. Shoppers are also increasingly using their mobile devices to compare products and prices available elsewhere as they browse items in-store, while some prefer to check products out ‘in the flesh’ before finally making a purchase online.
The modern business must offer the consumer choices, and this means not only offering online information and the option to buy online but also optimising websites for mobile or offering mobile apps. Many consumers will conduct their research or make purchases through a variety of online devices, and a strong multi-platform approach can help cover all angles.
Personalization and customization
Many consumers are now demanding products that appeal specifically to them, and products they can customize themselves. This doesn’t necessarily apply across the board, but some businesses could benefit from offering flexible, tailor-made solutions to appeal to their audience.
Services such as cloud accounting, cybersecurity and other digital solutions and packages are often tailored to clients’ individual needs, but consumer items such as clothing and even foods are increasingly being personalized.
Societies across the world are rapidly becoming more health-conscious and Canada is no exception. Studies show that millennials, in particular, are leading the way in making healthy diets and lifestyle choices a priority, but health-conscious baby boomers are also contributing to the trend. A Nielsen report concluded that younger consumers are the most eager to take the initiative on behalf of their own wellbeing, and are often willing to pay premium prices if necessary to achieve their goals.
Today’s consumers are also more informed about health matters and are able to research products more easily. This means that business owners need to take care of their customers, offering products and services that are not detrimental to their health. There is a similar attitude toward environmental issues and many consumers will choose the provider they consider more environmentally-friendly where there is a choice.
Employers should also take a health-first approach when it comes to their staff. This not only leads to happier, more engaged employees, it can also cut down on days lost to ill-health and stress.