It's probably not so surprising that consumers around the world are more urban, greener, and a bit more worried than they were a year ago. But the big news, according to a sweeping new report just out from the Boston Consulting Group, is how clueless many marketers are about these changes, especially the ones here in the U.S.
Marketing Daily caught up with Michael J. Silverstein, senior partner at The Boston Consulting Group and a co-author of "Consumer Sentiment 2011: Navigating the New Consumer Realities," to find out more about what marketers are missing.
Q: Overall, you found that consumers are more apprehensive about the future than they were before the downturn. And in the U.S., 57% of respondents say they have been personally affected by the downturn -- up 8 percentage points from last year. Yet there are pockets of immunity. Why?
A: Age is part of it. Older consumers are more confident. Only 38% of those over the age of 55 say they are anxious about the future, compared with 52% overall. But there's also a very strong segmentation between the haves and the have-nots in the 50-plus market. There is a relatively small group of affluents who have figured it all out. They own their homes, are invested in safe, highly liquid investments, and live within a very balanced budget. They are careful with their money and practice trading down as much as they are trading up. So they're looking at the next 30 or 40 years with optimism. We found that between 20 and 25% have this high level of confidence.
But there is also a large group in the middle that is fearful. They have seen what has happened in the stock, real estate and job markets, and they feel pulverized.
And while all three groups have specific needs, very few companies are really speaking to them. That's astonishing, when you think that people over 50 spend just as much on groceries as those under 50.
Q: What about this shift toward an urban base?
A: Again, this is more pronounced in the U.S. among older consumers, as more people choose to stay put rather than choosing a retirement community. And these consumers are different; they don't go to bars or movies much, but they do cook dinner at home. They know a lot about wine. They have increasingly large amounts of time to learn about things, and are passionate about hobbies. They have much more exposure to the world and have highly specified global tastes. They're more discerning, and much more likely to experiment. For marketers, this urban opportunity is happening right before their eyes.
Q:You found marketers are most off base when it comes to women. How so?
A: Well, women dominate the consumer landscape. What remains shocking, though, is that in financial services, healthcare and consumer durables, women of every range fundamentally reject the current suppliers. They say, 'They don't listen to me, they don't understand my needs, they hand me a bunch of gobbledy-gook.' In these three categories, especially, there is a lot of untapped opportunity.
And it's especially so for women over 55, who are still going to outlive their husbands. They used to say the meek inherit the earth, but it's really females [who will].
(The BCG study is based on responses from 24,000 people in 21 countries around the world.)