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Disruption name of game

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Savvy businesses will need to keep evolving

The world as we know it is changing rapidly, and as generation Z and millennial culture continues to disrupt, technology is fuelling this change.

Today’s consumers aged between 20 and 35 have a fundamental different value system to the generation X or baby boomer generation that came before, says Ken Hughes, a renowned consumer and shopping behaviour expert.

“They value different things. They want to live their lives differently, they want to work differently. They demand freedom in how and where they buy.”

Hughes, speaking at the at the 22nd South African Council of Shopping Centres annual congress in Durban this week, says the Uber, Airbnb and Snapchat generation has grown up in a world of “instant, frictionless and seamless”.

They live in a world of one-click – a world where they are rightfully placed at the centre of everything. Knowing who they are and what they want at every point of the customer journey is critical.

“Anthropologically these are interesting times. Tinder teaches us we can find a partner with one swipe. Bored already? Simple, swipe again. Amazon’s Alexa teaches us we can have whatever we want just by shouting across our kitchen.

“If modern brands and businesses want to stay relevant, they need to understand these new value systems. It’s not just about the product or the retail experience – it’s about the people using them. Digital natives make up well more than 50% of the modern day consumer population already. If you fail to understand what they want, the game is over.”

But he says talk about retail being dead is “complete nonsense”. Traditional retail models are less relevant but retail remains as exciting as ever, if not more so.

“Today we have many more ways to reach a consumer, more ways to engage and excite them, through digital or in-store. Experiential retail has become a key value driver, and for a society that now self-identifies through experiences, retailers seek to engage beyond simple product transactions.”

The retail landscape will continue to change, and the winners will be those businesses and brands that realise their asset is not the physical store but the consumers themselves.

“Build a business around the consumer, what they value and how they want to buy, and you will always survive and thrive. You know what they say – if you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance a whole lot less.”

Hughes says points retailers need to consider include:

  • The millennial and gen Z shopper blueprint has changed, impacting on their fundamental behaviours, needs and requirements as shoppers. Businesses need to tilt their axis toward the new value systems of the future consumer.
  • This generation is less interested in buying “things” and far more interested in “experiences”. Every business should ask itself how it can use its brand to deliver the kind of life experiences this generation expects, and add real value within the new emerging “sharing economy”.
  • The P2P (peer-to-peer) networks have overtaken the brands’ own voice in terms of relevance. Businesses need to build conversations with their target market by being part of this P2P conversation, not an outsider.

Amanda Stops, chief executive of the SA Council of Shopping Centres, says these and other insights will “prove invaluable to the key players in the country’s retail and shopping industry”.

“The opportunity to hear the insights from Hughes, world-renowned consumer and behaviour expert, is a rare one, and so all are encouraged to take this opportunity and not miss out on the value he adds.

“His insights could make us change the way we approach retail in South Africa.”

The event is sponsored by Broll Property Group.

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