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Busy Consumer Behavior: How Being Time-Starved Changes the Way We Shop

Busy Consumer Behavior: How Being Time-Starved Changes the Way We Shop

If convenience and low-friction sales are the name of the game in retail, then time-starved shoppers are the likely cause behind it. People are busier than ever, and it’s causing shifts in shopper behavior that your company should be addressing. We’ll give you an overview of the time-starved shopper, a glimpse at how it’s impacting shopping behaviors, and tips to help ensure you’re top of mind and meeting their pain points quickly.

About the Time-Starved Shopper

The shift toward time starvation isn’t new, and there’s a myriad of causes behind it. Women entering into the workforce and pushing for career equality hasn’t necessarily lessened their responsibilities at home, and even when the duty of childcare is shared, that leads to men becoming busier and more time-starved themselves. Over-connectivity means there’s more to do, more to share, more devices to do it with, and more decisions to make on a regular basis. But these are generalities; what does the time-starved shopper actually look like?

Some surveys peg it on Gen X, or about age 30 to 50, across incomes but perhaps most predominantly at about $50,000 annually. Gen X is the most likely to need to care for children and aging parents while juggling a job and a social life. But that’s hardly the complete picture. Consider the fact that Millennials, the biggest population in the U.S. right now, have a higher amount of disposable income than previous generations but significantly less wealth. How does that happen? The simple answer is a lot of hard work, but all that work comes at a cost. Some 70% of Millennials work 20 or so hours outside of the office every week, and 60% say their bosses expect them to be available in their off-work hours, usually by mobile email. In fact, Millennials are twice as likely than Boomers to get company emails on their mobile device, and perhaps that’s why 63% of Boomers have said they would never check an email during dinner.

It’s not just Millennials that are overworked, either. Nearly a quarter of all U.S. adults receive company emails on their mobile device, which leads to 36% of them checking work email from the dinner table, 23% do so very often, and nearly 20% of U.S. employees will wake up in the night just to check their work email. Receiving emails isn’t the worst part: stressing over whether or not there will be after-hours emails is taking a serious toll on U.S. adults. That means that even if they have free time, it doesn’t feel free at all.

Time-Starved Shopping Behavior

The time crunch and associated social shifts certainly have an impact on how busy people are shopping. Convenience is a big concern for these shoppers, and they’re more likely to make a bunch of smaller stops throughout the week when it fits into their schedule than one long shopping trip. Don’t necessarily expect women to be the ones spending the most time when they shop either; men spend three hours shopping, versus women spending two and a half, and men are twice as likely to visit more stores than women do. This undoubtedly helps with the robust convenience store market share, which represents 25% more stores than supercenters, supermarkets, superettes, dollar stores, and drug stores combined. Shoppers at a convenience store spend only 3 to 4 minutes making a transaction, including the time it takes them to get out of the car. Convenience is unquestionably the reason behind Amazon’s recent push in the grocery industry: the Amazon Go grocery store will remove the need to stop and check out, while physical Amazon Fresh stores will combine convenience stores with click-and-collect grocery ordering.

There’s also an impact on eating habits. Parents may be big spenders ($2.4 trillion spending power), but when they’re busy and overworked, they turn to frozen dinners to keep their families fed. Nearly 60% buy frozen dinners to save time, and just under half actually enjoy the meals, with a third citing the benefits of kids being able to make dinner for themselves. Other pre-packaged foods that make dinner easy are also a big hit among parents, which undoubtedly supports the growth of the meal kits industry, especially those provided by grocers. Fortunately, when it comes to frozen dinners at least, brands have stepped up their game in terms of flavor and nutrition, allowing parents to serve tasty, affordable meals that still meet their desire for a healthy diet.

Frictionless services are also a plus. Millennials are big fans of subscription services, most of which provide curated products automatically delivered to their door. Even streaming OTT services like Netflix and Hulu build entertainment recommendations, and Netflix proved to be the death of Blockbuster because it was easily and readily available with solid service right in a person’s home. Niche subscriptions are capable of meeting shopper needs affordably; Dollar Shave Club, for instance, saves shoppers the need to regularly head to the store for a staple product.

Interestingly, time starvation has also impacted the way people consume content. Shoppers access an average of 12 sources of content through 6 different devices, and 80% of them are doing so on 3 separate devices at the same time. What’s more, over a third of Millennials care more about entertainment than accuracy, while at the same time, 60% of shoppers question the authenticity of content (especially news bias and photo manipulation). Shoppers don’t waste time on bad design either. They’ll leave your app or site quickly, or even change which device they’re using, just because the content or layout is unattractive (73%), the images either won’t load (85%) or take too long to load (83%), or if the content is simply deemed too long (68%).

Don’t assume that the need for convenience automatically leads people to shop online. Certainly, mobile shopping is on the rise thanks to the desire to save time, but so are click-and-collect orders. Immediate satisfaction shouldn’t be underestimated, and neither should the power of shopping in-store. Some 85% of shoppers still prefer to shop in-store, and a third of them do so because they don’t want to have to wait for items to ship.

Tips to Reach the Busy Shopper

It should be clear by now that you have little time in which to capture shopper attention, and very little time to keep it in order to influence decisions. This is why smartphones have risen as a key aspect of consumer research and purchase decision process, which in turn led to Google’s micro-moments concept. We’ve collected these best practices to help you engage a time-starved audience.

  • Speak to your target audience — Don’t waste your time or theirs by talking to the wrong audience segment in the wrong way. By understanding your actual target audience, you can develop creative using the right message, colors, and other design elements to make the biggest impact in the shortest period of time.
  • Go omnichannel, stay mobile — Shoppers are using a lot of devices and stay on the go, and you need to be where they are if you want your brand to be the one they think of. Craft as many touchpoints as possible within your budget to reach shoppers throughout their day and during their decision process.
  • Leverage marketing tactics to stay front of mind — Omnichannel marketing will help improve the frequency with which you reach your audience, but with so much input and marketing noise, it might be hard to stand out, be remembered, and stay front of mind. Consider changing things up a little, like the food industry is doing with front-facing nutrition labels.
  • Develop loyalty — It will take more time to convert a new shopper than it will to maintain the loyalty of a current shopper, who in fact will likely influence others to buy your products if you keep them happy. Loyalty rewards should offer more value than simply money off purchases; improve convenience and frictionless interactions (e.g., Starbucks mobile ordering).
  • Customer service is critical — The fastest way to lose shoppers is bad service, and they’re more likely to take the time to stop and share their disappointment or complaint with others. Amazing customer service is a beacon that proves to be a value-add.
  • Extend business hours — Understand your target audience’s core shopping hours, ensuring that your store is open and that customer service is available during that time. It will help you get an edge up over competitors, especially online ones.
  • Delivery and click-and-collect options — When convenience is paramount, providing the options that allow shoppers to customize their experience can be key, especially when it comes to how they receive their purchase. If you offer delivery, have after-hours or weekend options. If you have click-and-collect, make the process as seamless as possible.
  • Show, don’t tell, and get to the point — Provide dependable content that’s easy to consume and delivers pertinent details quickly. If shoppers want more, they’ll explore the full content, but they may just want the quick fix and move on. Video is also extremely useful and often preferred over reading.

Remember, the best way to ensure you reach your shoppers is going to be staying in touch with their needs and pain points. Regularly do market research and surveys to keep your marketing and sales teams up to date.

Shopper behavior will continue to evolve, so it would be a mistake to make assumptions rather than take the time to understand their developing needs. The busy shopper is starved for time, and both convenience and experience are paramount no matter the industry of your business. The tips we’ve provided make a great starting point for addressing the needs of your time-starved shoppers.