Business Week magazine recently described how consumer behaviour has changed in the US since the economic downturn. Of course the downturn affected many more places than just the US, with the UK experiencing a prolonged downturn too.
The article focuses on the experience of pharmacy brand Walgreens, but it got me thinking about this recent period and how much consumers have changed during this time.
The global crisis really started in 2007 and reached a peak in 2008. This is just five years ago, but some really significant changes have swept across the way people shop and share information since then.
Social networks are now common. Networks such as YouTube and Facebook were already around back then, but only used by the early adopters – those aware of new technology trends and ready to try things early. Many common tools used by retailers today, like Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter, just didn’t exist.
This also means that the concept of social media customer support did not exist back then. The idea that a complaining customer could easily broadcast their views to millions of people instantly – none of this was a consideration back then.
The first iPhone was launched in 2007. Can you remember what smart phones were like before the iPhone? Mobile web browsing was clunky and awkward. Because of this, many people didn’t even have contracts that would support the use of mobile data. Since the iPhone launch – and the development of Android – it’s now common to have mobile access to the Internet at all times.
So the shopper of 2013 is very different to the shopper of 2006. They have immediate access to information such as price comparisons, reviews, and can gather the opinion of friends before making a purchase.
The economic slowdown may have changed shoppers, it may have changed our attitude to credit and purchasing things before we can pay, but I think the easy access to information has been more significant in changing the general behaviour of shoppers.
All this in the past five years; what will the next half a decade bring?
Photo by Polycart licensed under Creative Commons