Don’t ask consumers what they think about the future because they don’t know, said Herman Konings, consumer trend expert. However, he admitted that even he can’t say what will happen in the future.
“I can only give you ideas about how consumers may behave in the future, but these will be no more than guesstimates, a mix of a guess which is based on intuition and experience with estimates which arose as a result of research. So we not only look at what scientists say but we temper this with experience. Ask experts what they think about the future – don’t ask consumers,” he asserted.
Money, time drive behavior
Money and time are the two most important factors driving consumer behavior.
The pace is changing. He exemplified this by saying that in North America and Western Europe on Jan.1, 2000, only 30% of people over 18 years old had a mobile phone. At that time women, people over 50, and those in the middle and lower social classes had no intention of using a mobile phone. They were considered to be only for men, entrepreneurs and business people.
Three years later the market penetration had risen to 65% and today it is 93%. And the three groups who said that they would not use a mobile phone are now the most interested in using them. Indeed, in Western Europe one in five people now have two mobile phones. The booming market in consumer technology is the most important growth market in the western world since the beginning of the 21st century.
The second, and equally important growth market, is that of escaping consumer technology. Bed and breakfast destinations are the most important growth market in the tourist industry, with more and more people wanting to holiday in a rural environment, a move back to nature.
In 2007 more printed books were sold in the western world than in any year previously, with the highest sales among cookery and dietary books purchased the same consumer.
Think in terms of generations
Don’t think of consumers in terms of their ages; think of them in terms of generations. “We all are children of a generation more than we are children of our parents,” he asserted.
The Baby Boomers, born between 1955 and 1964, are now 40 to 50 years old. There were 56 million Boomers in the European Union (EU)-15 in 2006. These he defined as being money affluent but time challenged, as many would have to continue working longer than previous generations.
The Generation Gap follows the Baby Boomers, born between 1965 and 1980. Now between 25 and 39 years old, he described them as being money and time challenged. In 2006, there were 80 million of Generation Gap members in the EU-15.
People born before 1940, now over 65 years old, are classified as Seniors. The 62.5 million Seniors are considered time affluent and although they have money, they don’t want to spend it. They are thrifty and want to leave their money to the next generation. The category currently between 50 and 65 years old, many of whom have retired, he classified as Mediors. In Belgium, France and Portugal, 30% of this group have already retired. The 71 million Mediors in the EU-15 in 2006 are considered both money and time affluent.
Important observations about the Mediors category include:
- There were 20% more people in this group in 2007 than in 1992.
- They have two to three times more invested assets compared with the 50-plus group of 1982.
- They were likely to spend unapologetically.
Marketing to this group means that, at the same time, you were also reaching a younger generation who seemed to be more easily influenced by their parents.
Retired Mediors have 45 hours a week extra free time as compared to when they were working. In the next seven to eight years in the western world this “pop culture” group will be the most important group in retirement.
Mediors have different attitude
Today, three-quarters of all retired people fall into the Seniors category. In the western world, by 2015, three-quarters of all retired persons will have been born during or after World War II. While the previous generation did not like to spend their savings, the Mediors group has been defined as the SKI generation, which means that they were likely to “spend their kids” inheritance. While the Seniors experienced scarcity and are careful with their spending, the Mediors and following generations, have never experienced financial hardship.
So the Mediors have a very different attitude to spending money. Starting from today they will become a dominant group who, during retirement, will spend money on holidays and cooking. Of particular note here is that the male Medior likes to cook.
The Mediors go on holiday three times as often as Seniors – six times a year rather than twice. They refurbish their houses every five years instead of every 10.
Life expectancy increased by two to three months every year so the Mediors live seven years longer than Seniors. This means that, more than ever, the Medior generation will be concerned about health care, particularly when they reach 80 or 90 years old. This would result in less money being left to the next generation.
The Generation Gap group has less money and less time to spend. They are particularly concerned about food and tell their parents that they should, “Look at the labels,” and be ethically concerned about food.
Concerned about wealth
While Seniors are concerned about health care, those in the Mediors group are more concerned about wealth care, both financially and mentally. They are more interested in culture, information and particularly cooking. They, like those in the Senior group, spend more time at home. So, cooking at home is more important particularly since they are more eager to invite friends to join them. Even those in the Generation Gap category are more likely to stay at home, because of the high cost of eating out.
The most important room in today’s home is the kitchen, and men have become the new users of the room. The kitchen has become open socially with friends coming directly into the room. Men tend to cook for guests but not for their own family. They also like to buy cookbooks.
Research in Belgium and the Netherlands revealed that for the Mediors, the bedroom is a beautifully-designed room with a lot of high-tech equipment, and is also a place to eat. So Mediors eat in their kitchens, dining rooms and also in their media-rich bedrooms.
More than ever, people are growing vegetables in their gardens and even more importantly, are concerned about where their food was produced. They try to purchase food that is produced within 100 miles of their homes. The middle class likes to have locally-grown produce and they are demanding that it be produced in an ecologically-friendly way.
The Generation Gap people buy more ready-to-eat meals – they don’t have the time to cook. But time has become more valuable today than 20 years ago and the elderly will be more interested in preparing their own meals.