The Just-in-Time Consumer (Wall Street Journal)
With the U.S. economy showing only slight signs of moving out of the doldrums, many consumer products companies selling in the U.S. are still reeling and wondering when good times will return. Unfortunately, once the economy is back on track some marketers may be in for a surprise. The problem is the length of the slowed-down economy, along with continued high unemployment rates, is leading consumers to modify their buying behavior.
Over the last few years, a large number of consumers have changed how they make buying decisions. These changes include altering the types of products they purchase, focusing more effort on finding smart bargains and reducing the quantity of product they purchase at one time.
For many consumers, these changes will not be long-term. These consumers are likely to return to their pre-recession spending patterns once the economy improves. But, more and more consumers are seeing their change in purchasing habits is resulting in benefits they did not previously realize. For these consumers the new behaviors they have adopted may stay for awhile even after the economy strengthens. Many are discovering that the behavioral adjustments they were forced to accept have changed their thinking when shopping and they now feel their new buying behavior is the right thing to do.
As this story discusses, the implications of consumers maintaining their new purchasing habits may be significant for a host of companies along the supply chain. Some companies have already accepted that consumers are changing and they are responding by adjusting their marketing strategy. Marketers are looking at all marketing decisions, particularly product design and in-store promotion, to see how they can appeal to consumers who are more conservative with their shopping dollars.
The Great Depression replaced a spendthrift culture with a generation of frugal savers. The recent recession, too, has left in its wake a deeply changed shopper: the just-in-time consumer.
In what other ways is the economic climate forcing consumers to change? How will these changes affect the marketing strategy of retailers and product manufacturers?
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