19 June 2024

How to win over the ‘zero consumer’

In 2023, McKinsey wrote about the rise of the ‘zero consumer’. These omnichannel shoppers scrimp in some categories and splurge in others; exhibit low loyalty to brands, products, and retailers; and prioritise values, including sustainability, when making purchasing decisions. In this blog post, we look at how brands and retailers can incorporate the ‘zero consumer’ into their strategies.

To understand how to win over the zero consumer, we have to look at their characteristics, including their shopping habits, preferences, and drivers.

Zero boundaries

Retailers and brands that have invested in creating an integrated omnichannel approach can give themselves a pat on the back because the first characteristic of a zero consumer, according to McKinsey, is their desire for integrated, consistent shopping experiences across all touchpoints, physical and digital. According to the consultancy, 60%–70% of consumers are shopping in an omnichannel way, with social media described as ‘the new window shopping’.

While many brands view technology as the answer to omnichannel, this approach can sometimes amount to running before one is able to walk. Developing a strong, consistent brand message is often a better place to start. From a design perspective, this means creating a strong design architecture and using storytelling effectively. Skilfully executed photography and videography can convey a wealth of meaning, communicating the unique personality of a brand, showcasing a product’s quality, and triggering emotional engagement. As long as messages are consistent, they can be tailored carefully for each channel to delight the zero consumer at every turn.

Zero loyalty

“Nothing is more noble, nothing more venerable, than loyalty,” wrote Cicero, the Roman philosopher, who would be terribly disappointed by the zero consumer’s lack of it. During the COVID-19 pandemic, when supply chain issues meant shoppers’ preferred items were out of stock, consumers began trying new products and buying from new brands – and the trend didn’t bounce back once things stabilised either. As McKinsey explains: “Whereas consumers were simply looking for availability during the pandemic, they’re now looking for value, quality, variety, and, increasingly, purpose.”

So, what can be done to strategically enhance the brand experience in a way that increases consumer loyalty? Some of this comes back, once again, to the omnichannel experience and devising a convenient and enjoyable shopping experience where the consumer can peruse, pick, and pay without hinderance. Online, this translates to creating a simple, enjoyable experience with features that add clear value, such as personalised product suggestions. According to Accenture, 91% of consumers say they are more likely to shop with brands that provide offers and recommendations that are relevant to them, so personalisation really does pay.

Zero mid-tier

The zero consumer oscillates between scrimping and splurging, looking for value in some categories but splashing out in others. This is good news for retailers with strong value and premium brands, including supermarket own brands, which continue to perform well. With the zero consumer perusing their virtual or physical aisles, supermarkets in particular should ensure they have an appealing ‘essentials’ range with a well-defined visual identity, as well as an attractive premium offering that differentiates its products well and clearly highlights their quality and desirability. As you can imagine, packaging plays a significant role here, signalling these attributes not only through on-pack messaging, but also through other cues such as pack architecture, photography, and design. Even the type of material or substrate used can speak volumes. Introducing a wide range of products, such as health-conscious or plant-based choices, can further drive differentiation and appeal to consumers when they’re in the mood to indulge.

Net zero

Zero consumers, according to McKinsey, also prioritise “value and values—in particular, they care  about health, sustainability, provenance, and transparency”. Again, each of these things can be articulated effectively on pack through callouts, carefully crafted messaging, and considered design. Some brands are ensuring shoppers have access to all the information they need by adding QR codes to their packaging, allowing consumers to be transported to an informative landing page where there is space to expand on this type of messaging. Sustainability signals like carbon labelling, used by brands like Oatly, are useful tools, while biodegradable or recycled/recyclable materials and reusable containers are increasingly valued by eco-conscious shoppers.

The ascendancy of the zero consumer presents both challenges and opportunities for brands and retailers but, as this blog post shows, there are ways to win them over. By understanding and embracing the multifaceted nature of the zero consumer – who scrimps and splurges, demands purpose in their purchases, and values both convenience and sustainability – brands can both engage and retain them.

For more strategic insights from Equator, visit our blog. To learn more about how we can help you bring your creative vision to life, get in touch.

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